|Colorful Eurail trains|
Travel lust is something which is difficult to explain and those who have been bitten by the bug know that there is no better way to set the mind free and test the limits of the physical endurance and mental resolve, than travel. I have been inspired by the tales of Jules Verne of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ fame, and Lewis Carroll who penned ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that sets the imagination on journeys into the unknown and see the ultimate beauty of the creation of god in the world around us.
I had just returned from a ten day journey in the interiors of Kerala in Jan 2014 and my mind was already working now on the next project to explore Europe in June! One may wonder why plan so early. I had read in various journals and books that the best time to see Europe is the month of June when the crowds of holidaymakers and school children all over Europe and US have still not invaded the continent in hoards.
Also, while scanning through the various sites on internet for the best and most economical ways to travel, I homed on the two options Eurolines bus that travel crisscross over the European continent another being Eurail. The economics was favoring the Eurolines where I could buy a pass for 15 days and visit any place of my choice on the Schengen list of countries starting in one direction and keep proceeding to the next as long as I did not retrace my route till the final destination.
|Berlin TV Tower by night|
Eurail was a bit more expensive but a faster way of travel especially on certain routes with an added comfort of stretching legs and getting more room while travel compared to sitting in the close confines of the bus seat which could be painful if one has to travel for longer durations and also on overnight travel.
There are other ways to get around by the cheaper airlines like Ryan Air which offer fares as low as One pound plus taxes if booked well in advance over certain sectors. One can also ‘rent a cab’ but it comes with a rider and of course the stress of driving especially on long routes.
While I was exploring the options I came across an irresistible offer of seeing Europe by Eurail in first class by paying almost a second class fare when booked as a party for example two or more people traveling together or as a family. Not only was the fare attractive it offered three extra days of travel for free on booking a 21 day tour. After evaluating all the options this appeared to be the best one!
Next step was to find a destination from where to commence the journey. I looked at various deals in the airlines and the cheap air tickets. While, hunting I came across a deal from Oman Air to Zurich which would reach from Delhi on the same day with a brief stopover at Muscat. The best part was that the airlines provides excellent service and is not exactly a budget airline compared to certain routes that offer cheap tickets with a long layover or flights operating at very inconvenient time. Nothing could be worse than spending a long night at an airport just to take another flight which is almost eight hours away! Zurich is an ideal place to start the journey as it is well connected with all over Europe and is a charming city. I had fond memories of earlier trips through the city so the decision was easier!
|La Boqueria market, at La Ramblas,Barcelona|
What followed next was a whirlwind trip across the continent starting with Zurich from 2nd June, exploring the lovely cities of Lyon, Barcelona, Marseilles, Genoa, Padova , Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, and Berlin. For next 20 days we took almost 40 main route trains on SBB( Switzeland), TGV ,Renfe, TrenItalia, OBB, CD, S Bahn to cover the distances with almost 3/5 interchanges on every alternate day and traversing over 5000km.Unparalleled natural beauty of French and Italian Rivera, ever smiling people, impromptu concerts, Flamenco dances, modern ballets, carnivals, awaited us. Unforgettable climb atop Berlin TV Tower, nostalgic touch of the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate, visit to Traboules(secret passages used during French Revolution), in Marseilles, street food at Les Ramblas in Barcelona, stunning views of the city from Notre Dame church in Lyon, Parc Gueil in Barcelona, narrow channels of Venice, old city of Genoa, Marseilles and Prague, amazing churches in every city with inlay work and frescoes, kept us hooked!
|At the Rialto Bridge- Venice|
|Loving locals at Carnival in Vienna|
The meadows, rivulets and ever changing scenery kept us engrossed on trains, making it difficult to close the eyes!
|Banks of River Rhone Lyon|
Friendly people came forward to our rescue when we got lost in the maze of railway stations and street crossings, as once we discovered that Google maps was not very accurate when walking to some places and our legs had to undertake much greater stress than anticipated. There were long journeys, endless experiences that could probably be summed in a book, escapades, dropping dead each night, eating exotic foods, brushing shoulders with locals in trams, and buses and even getting hugged by strangers that would go down the memory lane. A glimpse of the grandeur of cities of Cannes, Monte Carlo station that looked more like a discotheque, snow covered peaks in Innsbruck and Salzburg, Sun kissed beaches of Mediterranean in Marseilles and Genoa were a treat! There were hair raising moments too when a policeman accosted me at Keleti station at Budapest, thinking I was a drug peddler! Overall it was an experience, worthy of sleepless nights and straying like vagabonds during the day!