Route No. 29: “Night train to Narvik”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is two small extracts from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 29: “Night train to Narvik” which begins in Stockholm, passing through Boden and ending in Narvik with an optional bus onwards to the Lofoten Islands.

Whoever thought of building a railway over the mountains to Norway? It is an extraordinary route. The train takes over six hours from Boden to Narvik (ERT 765) – and with every mile that passes, the scenery gets better and better. Six hours of some of the most beguilingly beautiful landscape in Europe. Placid to begin with, to be sure, with more rocks and forest, but by now the birch trees have thinned out.

There is a lyrical quality to these northern landscapes, ever more so as the railway skirts the shoulders of mountains and creeps up narrow valleys where the hillsides tilt ever sharper. For over 50 kilometres the train runs along the south shore of Torneträsk, a magnificent glacial lake which is frozen for more than half the year. Black dots on the ice mark the spots where fishermen have carved holes in the ice and cast their rods in the hope of catching tonight’s supper.

Route No. 41: “Northern Italian Cities”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 41: “Northern Italian Cities” which begins in Genoa, passing through Milan and ending in Venice.

This route takes in several glorious north Italian cities from Genoa in the west to Venice in the east – a veritable feast of art and architecture, along the way swapping the Mediterranean for the Adriatic. With such illustrious art and culture hot spots as Milan, Verona, Vicenza and Padua along the way, this route is, at one level, quintessential Italy. If you really are a city lover, then Route 41 is for you.

Milan (Milano) – (suggested stopover).
Italy’s second largest city is the country’s economic powerhouse as well as its commercial, banking, fashion and design centre. Milan is less aesthetically appealing than Florence or Rome. But Italy’s most cosmopolitan city boasts Romanesque churches, grand galleries, a superb museum of Northern Italian art (the Brera) and one of the boldest cathedrals in Christendom.

Milan’s signature building is the Duomo. This extravagant Gothic cathedral, overflowing with belfries, statues and pinnacles, has stairs leading to rooftop views.

Route No. 14: “From Flanders to the Rhine”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 14: “From Flanders to the Rhine” which begins in Lille, passing through Brussels and Liège, ending in Cologne. The Thalys and Deutsche Bahn trains from Brussels to Cologne all follow the same route. They dash across the flatlands of Brabant to reach Liège (Luik in Dutch and Lüttich in German), an industrial city that sprawls along the west bank of the River Meuse.

In Liège, all trains stop at Guillemins railway station, a stunning piece of design by Santiago Calatrava. The building is best appreciated from the road outside rather than from the platforms, but on a sunny day the play of light and shade on the platforms is quite seductive. Part of the station is shown on the front cover of this book. The station is a reminder that Liège is a city which has always had strong railway connections

A new high-speed line from Liège to Aachen opened in 2009, thus marking the end of a slow dawdle through the hill country of eastern Belgium to reach the Germany border. Nowadays, the fast trains dive through tunnels and miss the best of the scenery. Of course, you can if you wish still follow the old line via Verviers to Aachen. There are hourly trains on this route, all requiring a change of train at Welkenraedt (ERT 400 & 438).

Route No. 9: “Historic Spain”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 9: “Historic Spain” which begins in Barcelona, passing through Valencia and Seville and ending in Cadiz.

Spain’s high-speed rail network was inaugurated in 1992 with the opening of a fast link from Madrid to Seville. Since then, the network served by super-fast trains (known as Alta Velocidad Española or AVE services) has been progressively extended. With a little planning you can enjoy a Catalan breakfast in Barcelona, stop off for a leisurely lunch in Madrid and still be in Málaga in time for tapas. Route 10 in this book describes that fast route south from Catalonia to Andalucía.

Not everyone favours such speed, and Route 9 is a real slow travel experience. When the early Scottish traveller Henry David Inglis headed south from Madrid to Andalucía in 1830, he bemoaned the fact that the regular stage carriage took merely a week – too fast, he felt, to really do justice to the landscapes along the way. The old roads to Andalucía all converge on a single natural defile that strikes a huge gash through the mountains. The Sierra Morena may not tower to great heights, but the rugged demeanour of these mountains creates a formidable barrier to travellers bound for the south.

Route No. 5: “The Harz Mountains”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 5: “The Harz Mountains” which begins in Hannover, passing through the Harz mountains and ending in Magdeburg

Every day, thousands of travellers speed across northern Germany on the main rail routes from Cologne or the Ruhr region towards Berlin. The previous route in this volume describes one such journey. It covers a lot of ground at speed, but it’s hardly a great rail adventure.

Yet so often in Europe, even just a modest diversion from the main line can transform a prosaic run into something very special, and nowhere is that better illustrated than in journeys across northern Germany. You can cut off to the south of the main railways which link Hannover with Berlin to discover the glorious landscapes of the Harz Mountains, a region which boasts Europe’s finest network of narrow-gauge steam railways. Even if you are not a train buff, the scenery alone justifies an excursion into the Harz region. Moreover, the Harz steam trains always go down a treat with children and families.

Route No. 46: “Through Poland to Ukraine”

Route of the Week general info - Route 46 - Through Poland to UkraineAs a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 46: “Through Poland to Ukraine” which begins in Berlin, passing through Warsaw and Kraków, ending in Lviv.

Between Berlin and Lviv, Route 46 takes in two particularly fine Polish cities, Poznań and Krakow – both with magnificent central squares. Not to mention the capital Warsaw too. Like every route in the book, this journey is not just about getting from A to B. It’s better to linger and take a few days exploring places along the way.
Poznań (suggested stopover): The capital of Wielkopolska is one of Poland’s most engaging and oldest cities. It was the seat of Poland’s first bishop in the 10th century. Its status as a great mercantile centre (it’s still an important centre for trade fairs) has contributed to the architectural heritage of its Old Town. The city’s focal point is Stary Rynek, a spacious square with gabled burghers’ houses and a spectacular multicoloured 16th-century Renaissance Town Hall, where at midday two mechanical goats emerge from above the clock to lock horns. Inside is the Chamber of the Renaissance with its beautifully painted, coffered ceiling (1555) and the Poznań Historical Museum (free Sat). As the train leaves Poznań, there is a tantalising glimpse (back to the right of the train) of that city’s remarkable Town Hall. Before long you are running through pleasant Mazovian countryside on the approach to Warsaw. There are glimpses of rural estates and manor houses, wistfully beautiful meadows and concrete apartment blocks – a very Polish mix.

Route No. 38: “Through Liguria to Tuscany”

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 38: “Through Liguria to Tuscany” which begins in Nice, passing through Monaco into Italy ending in Pisa.

There is some wonderful scenery on this short journey, though to see the best of it, you’ll really need to get off the train and linger. Genoa is an obvious choice for an overnight stop, but you may want to be more creative and choose one or two smaller communities to stay for a day or two. Smaller towns which are among our personal favourites are Menton, Sanremo, Albenga, Santa Margherita Ligure and Vernazza, though the last of these is so formidably busy in summer that we would not even think of stopping there other than in the depths of winter. Slowish regional trains run at least every couple of hours along every section of this route, so it’s perfectly possible to travel spontaneously and just buy tickets along the way. If you are in a rush, you can travel from Nice to Pisa in about six hours, with just a single change of train in Genoa.

Route No. 36: “Swiss lakes and mountains”

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 36: “Swiss lakes and mountains” which begins in Zurich, passing through Lucerne and Montreux, ending in Geneva.

This route nicely explores the Switzerland of the imagination – a place full of Alpine meadows, cow bells and snow-capped peaks. With some of Europe’s most efficient rail services running even into remote Alpine valleys, there is plenty of scope for really getting off the beaten track.

We start in Zurich, heading south for a brief but tantalising encounter with Lake Lucerne, before striking south-west into one of the most serenely beautiful parts of the Alps. You’ll see a lot of the Bernese Oberland on this route. Our favourite section is the steep drop down to Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. West from Montreux we cruise through the Lavaux Vineyards to reach Lausanne, before embarking on the final leg along the lakeshore to Geneva.

Route No. 19: “From Prussia to the Alps”

Route of the Week general info - Route 19 - From Prussia to the Alps

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 19: “From Prussia to the Alps” which begins in Berlin, passing through Leipzig and Munch, ending in Salzburg.

This long journey from Berlin to Bavaria and on across the Austrian border to Salzburg takes in some very fine German cities (including Leipzig, Weimar and Munich) and some decent countryside – of which the two highlights are the hill country of Thuringia in the middle of the route and the Chiemgau area of Upper Bavaria. The latter gives a grand finale to the journey on the approach to Salzburg.

It is just 150 kilometres from Munich to Salzburg, but what a journey! Sit on the right side of the train for fine views of the Alps as you approach Salzburg. Closer to the railway, and on both sides of the train, are the delicate landscapes of the Chiemgau. It is a stunning end to a journey which started on the banks of the River Spree in Berlin and ends by the Salzach near the Austrian-German border.

Route No. 2: “Burgundy and the Rhône Valley”

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 2: “Burgundy and the Rhône Valley” which begins in Paris, running through Dijon and Lyon before arriving in Marseille.

As you move south along the PLM line, the scenery on this route becomes ever more compelling, and the journey culminates in a magnificent ride south through the Rhône Valley to the Mediterranean. You can easily complete this journey in a single day. It requires just a single change of train at Lyon Part Dieu station. The trains upon which this journey relies are TER services: these are regional trains where there’s no need to pre-book and there are no supplements for holders of rail passes.

Marseille is an earthy Mediterranean city and hectically vibrant, with a great music scene and superb fish-based cuisine. The busiest port in France, it’s a melting pot of French and North African cultures. Marseille’s grubby, rough-and-ready character appeals to some, while others will want to move on swiftly – though watch this space, because big regeneration schemes are changing the city, especially in the northern dock areas. There’s a good métro and bus system, and three tram lines.