Europe by train: Relive the past, discover the future

High speed European trains are fast and convenient (Photo: Rail Europe)

EUROPE, July 12, 2014 — Many Americans think of renting a car when considering their transportation needs in Europe, but in recent decades, trains have become a strong alternative.

The master Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen wrote that “to travel is to live” and the famed novelist Somerset Maugham stated that “the good traveler has the gift of surprise.”

Arriving in Arosa, Switzerland  (Photo: Rail Europe)
Arriving in Arosa, Switzerland (Photo: Rail Europe)

They could not have been more accurate, for no matter how often you travel, every journey is unique — an opportunity that unwraps an array of adventures.

Trains recall a golden age when a pair of rails were a pathway to discovery; parallel lines converging in the distance, momentarily unified in a time and place that is a carousel of sights and sounds.

Sleek German ICE  (Photo: Rail Europe)
Sleek German ICE (Photo: Rail Europe)

Rails speak to us. They echo glimpses of the past as they whisper visions of the future. The nostalgic bygone era when giant steam locomotives chugged through the countryside with the clickety-clack of steel against steel, and the haunting sounds of lonesome whistles in the night, has given way to modern, streamlined machines that streak across the landscape. And yet trains somehow remain suspended in time, evoking feelings of romance and adventure.

Not only are the trains of today fast and efficient, they bring depth to the travel experience and their destinations that is difficult to find in other forms of travel.

Planes fly over countries. Trains pass through them.

Cars keep your eyes fixed to the highway. Trains allow you to relax and observe the ever-changing panoramas that pass by your window.

Conversation and scenery  (Photo: Rail Europe)
Conversation and scenery (Photo: Rail Europe)

Trains bring together a cross-section of cultures. They allow you to mix and to mingle with fellow travelers who share a similar wanderlust spirit, presenting the world in human terms by touching a crossroads of an international community.

In Europe, trains are especially appealing because they provide access to a wide array of people from differing cultures, languages and traditions within just a hundred miles or so.

Trains go everywhere any time  (Photo: Rail Europe_
Trains go everywhere any time (Photo: Rail Europe_

European trains take you through living postcards; a magical blend of great cities, quaint villages, castles in the sky, majestic waterfalls, seductive beaches, serene lakes and much more. It is a journey through history and discovery which lies around every bend.

The joys of rail travel indeed reflect a simpler day, yet, in a way, they are a poetic paradox. The mixture of modern, high-speed trains that are fast, efficient and comfortable blends gracefully with sensations created by each changing scene that here, somehow, time also stands still.

English countryside  (Photo: Rail Europe)
English countryside (Photo: Rail Europe)

Europe is a vast network of rails that links the heritage of each destination and makes them accessible. It is a precision operation designed to ease arrivals and departures by offering frequent service combined with many other techniques to assist passengers in getting where they want to go.

Diversity is the key to European trains. There are hundreds to choose from; fast trains, leisure trains, day trains, overnight trains and, even, luxury trains. It all translates to a customized method of travel catering to individual needs and lifestyles.
The range of options allows freedom and independence to establish one or two base cities and take day trips from there; to move to and from various locations with the flexibility of your personal whims.

Europe’s high-speed rail systems are among the best in the world. Today they travel so rapidly that they can transport travelers faster than a plane on most trips of three and a half hours or less.

A railroad track is an invitation to a treasure trove of new experiences and trains are serendipity in motion encompassing a montage of life and a collage of lifestyles.

TGV races through France  (Photo: Rail Europe)
TGV races through France (Photo: Rail Europe)

Trains have an aura about them that combines a limitless variety places to see and things to do that are harmoniously embrace the character of the continent. It is all part of the phenomenon that is the romance of the rails.

To board a train is an event; a happening. Once seated comfortably by a window, you are encapsulated in a modern time machine that glides over steel pathways to the next great chapter of your itinerary.

The famous Glacier Express  (Photo: Rail Europe)
The famous Glacier Express (Photo: Rail Europe)

European trains are an ever-changing procession of time and place; events leap off the pages of history, yet remain alive with the tempo of today. Here is an opportunity for access to a diversity of nationalities and perspectives that personify every journey to reach beyond guidebooks and bring your personal odyssey to life.

The “rail” way of travel is where a pair of parallel lines head into the distance with promises of an unparalleled experience. All it takes is a bit of planning, preparation and a little common sense to become a veteran explorer as you make tracks through Europe.

If Hans Christian Andersen and Somerset Maugham were alive today, surely their thoughts would agree that “to travel is to live with the gift of surprise.”

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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

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