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. 16: “Touring the Rhine Valley”

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.

PHOTO: The Hohenzollern Bridge is used by all trains crossing the Rhine to enter Cologne from the east. Cologne's great cathedral, seen in this shot, is right by the main railway station. Photo by Dirk Ziegener posted on FreeImages.com

PHOTO: The Hohenzollern Bridge is used by all trains crossing the Rhine to enter Cologne from the east. Cologne’s great cathedral, seen in this shot, is right by the main railway station. Photo by Dirk Ziegener posted on FreeImages.com

This week we are looking at: Route No. 16: “Touring the Rhine Valley” which runs from south from Cologne in Germany through the Black Forest to Zurich, Switzerland.

This is one of Europe’s classic rail journeys, as the route south from Cologne hugs the River Rhine and then, once past Koblenz, follows the dramatic Rhine Gorge upstream. Moving over the imperceptible divide from northern into southern Germany, we leave the Rhine Valley and continue through the Black Forest in to Switzerland

Suggested Itinerary:
Our starting point is Cologne, which is nowadays just a short hop on regular high-speed trains from Amsterdam (ERT 28), Brussels and Paris (both ERT 20). Travellers from Britain can leave London on a morning departure on Eurostar and, with just one change of train in Brussels, be in Cologne to start Route 16 by early afternoon. There is no compulsory seat reservation on any of the trains in this route. Holders of InterRail and Eurail passes can thus follow the entire route without paying a cent in supplements. This is, therefore, a journey well suited to spontaneous travel. Cheap tickets, valid only on regional trains, are available for all but the final leg from Schaffhausen to Zurich.

Heidelberg is the obvious place for an overnight stop. If you decide to travel from Cologne to Heidelberg in a day, we especially recommend using one of the two morning Eurocity trains which run up the Rhine Valley from Cologne. These two trains (EC7 and EC9 respectively) are both formed of very comfortable Swiss carriages and each train has an excellent restaurant car. It is a two-and-a-half hour journey from Cologne to Mannheim, where you’ll need to change for a connecting train to Heidelberg, just a dozen minutes away.

If the weather is good and time no object, think of doing part of the journey by boat up the Rhine; the best place to do this is definitely between Boppard and Bingen (ERT 914a). Holders of Eurail and InterRail passes receive a 20% discount on the regular fares on all shipping services shown in ERT 914a.