Trains are an immersive, expeditionary form of transport; less exhausting than flying, straining than driving, nausea-inducing than sailing. With their low emissions and ease of accessibility, trains have been gaining traction in parallel to the increasing threat of climate change. But while growing in demand, it will take time for reliable train travel to be taken into effect across the continent.
Nonetheless, the lingering effects of post-coronavirus could initiate a significant push towards popularising train travel. Public transport use is limited now, but once lockdown measures are lifted we will be forced to reconsider what mode of transport is the most convenient from the safety of our homes. It is easier to socially distance on a train than an air-locked plane, for instance, and with train travel there is a lesser threat of traffic. Could this mean an increase in Interrail passes and decrease in round-the-world airfares? Only time will tell, but for now here are some prime locations to visit via rail.
“Out of a fairytale” is definitely a way to describe Mostar, a sleepy city located in the south of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Stari Most is the focus point of the city, a restored medieval arched bridge built over the turquoise river Neretva. Mostar has a variety of multicultural influences, having developed as an Ottoman frontier town, which is apparent through the varied architecture featuring pre-Ottoman, Eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and Western European details. Mostar’s off-grid location makes it harder to reach by train compared to more central cities, but it is accessible from places in closer proximity such as Sarajevo and Dubrovnik.
If the rolling hills of ‘The Sound of Music’ were anything to go by, the von Trapp’s origin and birthplace of Mozart is a sight not to be missed. Set in the lush Alpines of Austria, Salzburg is a soothing escapism boasting restful views, clattering horse-drawn carriages and cobbled streets. The city is reachable by direct train from Vienna and the track cuts seamlessly through the scenic Austrian countryside – it’s hard to resist gaping for the duration of the journey.
An hour’s train ride from the capital Ljubljana, Lake Bled is an idyllic lake set in the mountainous Julian Alps of northern Slovenia. Whether visiting for a day or three, this location is both accessible and off-grid. Walk around the lake’s perimeter, swim in the aquamarine water or row out to the central island, admiring Slovenia’s raw beauty.
The name Budapest derives from the combination of the two sectors: Buda and Pest. The two are split by the River Danube, adjoined by the Chain Bridge. The old Buda offers a panoramic hilltop view of the city, while Pest is a cosmopolitan buzz of bars and restaurants. Affordable, historical and cultural with the added bonus of a great night life involving clubs and wreck bars, the city’s dyad of old and new offers something for everyone. Go for the relaxing Szechenyi baths, upbeat Sziget music festival (held each August on the Danube’s central island) – or a combination of both. Budapest’s central location enables direct train links to and from other European cities such as Vienna, Bratislava and Bucharest, making it both an easily reachable destination and effective stop-over point.
The birthplace of pizza, Naples is the essence of Italian history and culture. Whether you indulge in the infamous cuisine, witness the ruins of Pompeii, observe colossal Mount Vesuvius or travel via ferry to one of the adjacent islands, there is so much to do in this vibrant city. While situated in the south of Italy, direct trains run frequently from Florence and Rome, interconnecting Naples with both neighbouring locations and cities far and wide.
Situated on Lake Constance and in close proximity to the picturesque Black Forest region, Konstanz is a preserved city surrounded by nature in southern Germany. Only an hour’s train ride from Zurich, it is in easy reach of much of central Europe, with other locations in Germany closely linked through the country’s consistent train system.
The following hypothetical journey examples involve minimal changes and scenic views. Each stop is within manageable distance from other locations and routes, allowing you to stop and alter your journey as you wish.
Berlin – Krakow – Budapest – Vienna – Salzburg – Munich – Zurich – Bonn - Berlin
Milan – Verona – Bologna – Florence – Rome – Naples – Rome – Pisa – Genoa – Turin - Milan