The first stage of the European Train Odyssey is nearly complete, as I trundle through bucolic Polish countryside at a decent click on Deutsche Bahn’s Eurocity EC43 service from Berlin towards Warsaw.
Don’t worry – that will probably be the last time I make a note of the actual train numbers...
By the time I arrive in Warsaw, I’ll have covered just over a thousand miles on four separate trains in about 17 hours, spread over two days with an overnight stop in a Berlin hotel in the middle.
I could have made the same journey by plane in about three hours for pretty much the same cost, but as I’ve just given myself the rest of the summer off, I can afford the additional time required to travel around Europe in a very different way.
Ever since Greta Thunberg struck her way into the public consciousness to join David Attenborough as advocates of taking a much more personal and direct approach to climate change and plastic pollution, things have started to change.
This year’s Glastonbury Festival banned single use plastic bottles and Attenborough came to thank us all for that, preventing a million more bits of useless plastic from being added to the shameful pile.
Thunberg’s laser-guided urgency on climate change has led to similar levels of public reaction in response to her inspiring school strike campaign, with one in five of her fellow Swedes joining the flygskam movement and traveling by train instead.
With train travel generating about 80% less CO2 than plane travel, it’s an option that has great merit, providing that your circumstances allow for it.
So far, my experiences as a European Train Vagabond have been entirely positive, with only one 30 minute delay and a series of stress-free boardings.
The Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels was classy, smooth and bang on time, a journey enlivened by a surprisingly detailed conversation with Malcolm and Donna about the psychological status of refugee children and a new concept called “domain of positionality” which might help ease their transition into new societies.
You heard it here first.
They’re going to be in Zagreb in a couple of weeks too, so I’m bound to bump into them there.
The second stage took me from Brussels to Cologne on a rather futuristic Deutsche Bahn train, with a helpful half hour left spare until the next stage to Berlin departed, allowing me an opportunity to gaze in wonder at the conveniently positioned Cathedral for a little while.
The time here was accompanied by some muscular vest-wearing Americans trying to earn some cash by performing underwhelming acrobatics.
I kind of felt sorry for them, as their collection hat looked rather empty.
No Euros, sorry dude.
Although my last train of the day proved itself capable of speeds close to 250km per hour at times, a delay at an outer Berlin suburb added about 30 minutes to the journey and it was just before 10pm when I could finally unpeel myself from my seat and check in at my Berlin hotel.
This place had sold itself on proximity to the station and a “rooftop terrace” from where one could enjoy great views of Berlin.
Anticipating a cool bar and maybe a late meal, the reality was slightly below expectations.
Never mind, a dispensing machine Mars Bar was sufficient at this point.
The next morning offered a better Berlin perspective from the “rooftop terrace” before I hopped on the fourth stage of the journey, a single train to take me from Germany’s capital to Poland’s, Warsaw.
Six hours later, I’m nearly there.
The actual holiday commences there.
Or did it start yesterday?
Trains taken: 5
Distance traveled – 1050 miles
Unexpected Sociological Debates Had: 1
Song Of The Day:
Star Slinger Choose Yourself