Booking train tickets across Europe is notoriously complicated but with this trusty guide – Europe by Rail – it’s a breeze, with advice on best deals, suggested overnight stays and how to travel from the UK. There is even advice on ‘how to use this book’, perfect for people like me.
Planes, planes and more planes
I’ve always been a flyer, ever since I was a little girl. My family regularly flew all over the Far East where we were based and back and forward to our homeland, England. I’d not been on a long train journey for leisure until recently; a bad experience on the sleeper to Edinburgh put me off. But planes, I used to love them. Until about five years ago; then things started to unravel. Terrorism reared its ugly head and a queue at airport security was no longer an occasional occurrence. I got bored with duty-free, which is no longer duty-free anyway. There are only so many perfumes and Toblerones one person can need in a lifetime. And with shrinking margins and cost-cutting, in-flight meals have gone from yum to meh. As I was also taking more regular short haul European flights as opposed to my usual long haul (bye bye silver card), I stated to find the whole business of flying irksome and tedious. In tandem with this, I went on not one but three train journeys for work last year. And, here’s the best bit – I really enjoyed them.
Train vs plane
Train travel is not perfect; you do have to lug your case around. With most suitcases having wheels, it’s not a big issue. And if you travel light, even better. Oh, the joy of not having to remember whether you have liquids packed. It’s not always cheap – but when you compare costs, think of the overnight hotel stay the silly-o-clock flight entails, the money spent trapped in the airport in the three hours before you fly and the stress and anxiety it all entails. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit with the last one, but at least on the train, your holiday starts the minute you sit in your seat. And the best prices can be obtained if you follow the advice in the book.
This long-winded introduction is to give you the back story on me and train journeys. And as you can see, I’m a convert. So, when I was asked to review a book written by the travel writer Nicky Gardner (and co-author Susanne Kries), I readily agreed.
Best bits about the book
This fifteenth edition* is not just a guide to European train journeys (50 of them) but it’s a cornucopia of useful information about rail travel in general. Even if you don’t intend to travel by rail regularly, there is plenty of in-depth writing to whet your appetite from your armchair. They’ve also pushed east, with new routes in Russia, Greece and Bulgaria and more coverage of the Balkans and Baltic areas. I particularly like the ‘side tracks’ features, highlighted in pink, offering more information or history about the area or topic in question. These alone are worth the cost of the book, which is chicken feed – less than the price of a London cocktail.
The authors are obviously passionate about travelling by train and this sings throughout the pleasing narrative. Clearly laid out and crammed with important detail, like Little Jack Horner, you can put in your thumb and pull out a plum every time.
*Note: 16th edition was reprinted in 2020.
Disclosure: I was given this book for review purposes. The opinions are my own and given freely.