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A Figgis (London, UK)

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To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Railway
To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Railway
Price: £4.72

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars underwhelmed, 11 Dec. 2013
As the previous reviewer says, this is "not the definitive story of the Trans-Siberian".

The book reads like a summary of previous books about the railway, rather than something new, and as a result I began to feel I should abandon it and instead read the books which the bibliography and endnotes say it is based on.

It feels very much like a book by a journalist, rather than a historian. It suffers from generalisations not backed up by anything more substantial than having appeared in previous books, and is sorely lacking in hard numbers; it is quite possible that they don't exist, but it I began to wonder whether the author's apparent desire to distance himself from "trainspotters" has made him reluctant to look into things in depth.

At times I found the text a bit plodding, or even repetitive; some editing might have helped, although I've read far worse.

On the plus side, the maps are better than is common in this kind of book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 19, 2014 4:22 AM BST

Tales from the Fast Trains: Europe at 186 mph
Tales from the Fast Trains: Europe at 186 mph
by Tom Chesshyre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What I did at the weekend, 27 July 2011
Reading "Tales from the Fast Trains" makes me understand what a teacher must feel like when faced with a heap of essays each headed "What I did on my holiday" - but at least that would have a picture at the end.

In each chapter the author goes somewhere by train, gets a taxi to an upper-end hotel, has an uninteresting conversation with his girlfriend (either in person or by phone) then gets some grub, often from room service. The next day he wanders round the town and drinks white wine in a bar (even in Belgium, with all those wonderful local beers on offer). The author seems keen on hotel catering, and despite some quotes from tour guides or guide books less emerges about local character or features of interest than one could probably get from Wikipedia or a tourist brochure.

The book does perhaps highlight the very ordinariness of hopping on a 186 mph train and crossing under the Channel. While there is no shortage of increasingly contrived books on "how I unicycled up Everest wearing custard filled wellies" or "how I went somewhere and [my agent ensured that] I met all these crazzzzy people", TFTFT simply lacks anything very interesting to say; it is just someone giving a blow-by-blow account of his holidays wandering round foreign towns seemingly without having much planned in advance, and saying what anyone else would to their mate/girlfriend. TFTFT might have worked better as a series of shorter articles in a newspaper travel section - the author apparently works for The Times, so perhaps it was?

It makes no pretensions to be a "railway" book, and while each trip uses Eurostar some of the other trains used are not really high speed. I've got most of the way through it, and so far there is little discussion of the practicalities of international rail travel such as ticketing or journey planning. Few people will be surprised to learn that if you a foreigner getting a taxi from a station or hotel to an unknown location it can work out expensive, or that there are dodgy areas around some big city stations.

Perhaps the book might inspire someone who is still worried that a weekend away by Eurostar might be "too difficult", but I'd suggest they look up the Man in Seat 61, and then just go and see for themselves. As long as when they get back they don't expect me to care what their girlfriend said when they phoned her from their hotel.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 8, 2013 6:11 PM BST

Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England
Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England
by Stuart Maconie
Edition: Paperback

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bland, 13 Sept. 2009
I went somewhere. There was some stuff there. Then I went somewhere else. There was some stuff there too. It has been on the telly, and I spoke to a shopkeeper who knew it has been on the telly. Then I went somewhere else. <Repeat until reader gives up in favour of something more interesting>

Poland (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
Poland (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
by Tom Parkinson
Edition: Paperback

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, but there are better, 23 April 2006
Travel guide purchasing often comes down to a choice between Lonely Planet and Rough Guide, and the case of Poland, Lonely Planet is in second place.

On a week long visit to Poland in April 2006, carrying a copy of the Lonely Planet guide and accompanied by a friend who had the equivalent Rough Guide, we found the Rough Guide to be the superior volume.

Lonely Planet has the basic information on eating, drinking and sleeping, and there is little to choose between the two popular guides for those, but for history, culture and background information we found the Rough Guide to be far better. As well as being more readable, the Rough Guide also seemed to include more of the smaller but no less interesting towns where we ended up spending an hour or two between trains. A good few English- speaking visitors are likely to be in search of the steam trains of Wolsztyn, a town which doesn't get a mention in the Lonely Planet.

If there are two of you, take both books, but if you are just taking one book, then the Rough Guide is the one to go for.

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