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Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers Paperback – 8 Jun 2016
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About the Author
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries are Berlin-based travel writers and the editors of hidden europe magazine. Their work for media across Europe highlights the variety of European life and landscapes. New for the 14th edition in summer 2016
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Travelling by train from the UK into Europe is so much nicer and much more civilised than flying. Train travel in europe can also be surprisingly cheap (compared to the UK). It is also a great way to meet people and see a country whilst sat in comfort (seats are typically bigger than UK train seats).
This book is very, very helpful.
The challenge with guidebooks nowadays is to find a niche that isn’t covered by the internet. It is no longer necessary to list dozens of places to stay and eat at every place you might visit, nor to pack the pages with stuff easily found online such as museum opening times and city maps. Instead we have a succinct volume that is packed with honest and well-informed advice – and so pleasantly written and logically laid out that you could read it cover to cover even if you don’t leave your armchair or venture no further than your daily commute between East Croydon and Victoria.
We are treated to fifty routes through European countries, some within the bounds of a single country, others crossing international borders, and using the index map inside the front and back covers you could soon amalgamate routes and design your own trans-Europe adventure, from London to Zakopane, for instance, or from Warsaw to Porto. Each has a simple map, journey times and cross-references to the European Rail Timetable. Thus on a journey from Hamburg to Stockholm, you are given a breakdown of the journey times and frequencies of each stage, and pointed to the possibility of getting a direct train all the way. But you probably won’t want to rush it, and the authors have picked out some recommended stopovers such as Lübeck, where they’ve picked out three places to stay and summed up what’s special about the place without stifling the style with a surfeit of unnecessary info for its own sake. In Copenhagen, they’ve summarised what you need to know for arrival and getting around – city transport tickets and how you buy them and if you need to validate them can be an endless source of confusion for international travellers, so that’s very useful advice. They then suggest a diversion by a local train to Helsingør before heading into southern Sweden. Once in Stockholm they set out options to travel further, by overnight train into Lapland – another route featured later in the book – or by ship to such places as Turku in Finland or Riga in Latvia, stopping at the Åland Islands on the way
The book opens, as you’d expect, with a chapter on practicalities, but even here you get the feeling the authors have gone out of the way to be thoughtful – weighing up the pros and cons of first-class and second-class travel, steering you through the maze that is railway ticket pricing and enthusiastically sidestepping into the story of the rise of Loco2, which has become the preferred partner for ticket sales for readers of this book. Then follows the book’s only excursion into full-colour photos – not just pretty views, but informatively captioned pictures that give you an idea of what featured places are like.
All in all, a book to inspire you to savour the rhythmic motion of train travel, to watch Europe moving through the window and bring your curiosity to a new place.
There is some real poetry in this book. But it also brims with facts. If you are unsure how to buy a train ticket from London to Venice, this book shows you how. It shows just how easy it is nowadays to make long hops across Europe by train. And it's also quite persuasive - a clarion call to us all to restore sanity to travel by swapping planes for trains.
The two authors have a strong track record. So they bring great authority to Europe by Rail. But this is not a ponderous or overbearing authority. It's all immense fun. So the appeal of the book is that you get a sense of the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the authors for the places along each journey. It is almost as if they are discovering places for the first time. Words flow off the page as the countryside slips past your train. This book brings journeys alive.
If you cannot decide whether to take a weekend break in Antwerp or Marseille, if you are hovering between choosing Sweden or Spain for your summer hols, this book will help you decide. And it shows how to get to these places easily by train, where to stop off, what to see along the way - and much more. Great for those exploring Europe with a Eurail or Interail pass of course. But good, too, for those of us who just make one or two trips each year.
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