Sleeper was a revelation, from Amsterdam to Vienna
I recently took the sleeper train between Amsterdam and Vienna. On the way I had a compartment to myself until early morning when I was woken up by a couple with a 10 month old baby, who wanted to know if I would have rooms for them to have their own compartment. The caretaker said that was not possible, but I offered the top bunk so that the father could easily get out of the room and take care of the baby. The rest of the trip required her to go out into the hallway to walk with the child. It’s sleeper train fun – you don’t know who you’ll meet! I shared with a research engineer on the way home. Oh, and Vienna was amazing too.
Subway at a ski jump, Oslo
On a trip to Oslo in December, we took the T1 metro from the city center to Holmenkollen on the northwestern outskirts. While the goal was to visit the famous ski jump, which offers panoramic views of Oslo, the trip itself was a real treat. Sleepy, snow-covered houses provided a picturesque northern backdrop as we climbed the hills, creating the feeling of a Christmas wonderland. Locals carrying skis joined the metro as we drove away from the city, heading for a weekend on the slopes. After the crowded tourist sites in the center, this subway ride felt like a trip through our very own winter wonderland.
From Belgrade to Bar, from Serbia to Montenegro
Last summer we traveled on Tito’s line from Serbia to the Adriatic coast of Montenegro. Begun in the 1950s, the line was not completed until the late 1970s due to the challenges of building on rugged, mountainous terrain. You can board the train in Belgrade or Bar and travel either way during the day or in a sleeper. We recommend traveling by day so you can appreciate the breathtaking scenery as the line winds its way along the sides of the mountains and through the river gorges. The 12-hour journey costs around €20 one-way in second class; it is not necessary to book in advance. The train is comfortable but you might want to do like the locals and bring plenty of drinks and snacks.
From Zurich to Sicily
We started our rail journey from Zurich, spending the night in the picturesque town of Sargans, an hour away by train. The next day we took a local train to Chur where we changed to the incomparable Bernina express for a spectacular four-hour journey over the Swiss Alps, reaching 2,250 meters at Ospizio Bernina station, near Lago White. We had lunch in Tirano, just across the Italian border, before using the local train to Lecco to reach Varenna on Lake Como, where we spent the night. Over the next few days we used trains to visit Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast. The last leg of the trip, to Catania in Sicily, was to load the train onto the ferry. I used the Man in Seat 61 website for their incredible knowledge and cost saving tips. It’s a fabulous trip.
Genoa to La Spezia, Italy
The railway line from Genoa to La Spezia in northern Italy passes through some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Europe, passing the colorful cliff-top villages of the Cinque Terre. Allow yourself time for a coffee in Genoa’s grand Piazza Principe station, then board the train and enjoy an hour and a half of breathtaking views of chalky slopes dotted with olive groves and alluring bays. of jewels, as the train meanders between the mountains and the shimmering Mediterranean. From €8.40 one way, book at trenitalia.it.
Milan to Bergamo, Italy
The train from Milan to Bergamo, a journey of just under an hour, offers a real taste of Italy. It’s not the most beautiful of roads, but it fascinates with the diversity of its landscapes. From the monolithic Milano Centrale to Monza, you’ll soon find yourself traversing farmland before crossing the magnificent 19th-century Ponte San Michele bridge over the Adda and, shortly after, a stop at Calusco d’Adda. As you approach Bergamo, small patches of land along the tracks are vegetable gardens full of vegetables, with not an inch of soil lost. The highlight of the trip is the jewel of the hill, the Città Alta of Bergamo, the old fortified core of the city, shimmering at sunset, which is then reached by a funicular that winds its way through the streets.
The slow trains of northwestern Spain
Highly recommend the Euskotren and Feve lines which run along the northern coast of Spain. From the French border at Hendaye it is possible to travel to Ferrol on slow services, stopping at brilliant spots. I stopped in San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander, Ribadesella, Oviedo, Praia das Catedrais and Ferrol. Travel is extremely cheap compared to the UK and does not need to be booked in advance. It is also easy to add Santiago de Compostela, Madrid or even Paris.
Stockholm to Narvik on the Sleeper
Refuel for a picnic lunch (dinner and breakfast) before taking the overnight train north. It will probably be full of friendly and incredibly fit people (mostly young people) heading out into the vast northern wilderness to hike. They all leave the train at Kiruna and Abisko – before it begins its ascent from the mountains to Norway and then to the sea. This part of the journey is beautiful. The track passes through tiny hill stations, then clings to the steep mountainside as the fjords appear. The route is included in the Interrail pass. Six of us got off at Narvik. A couchette costs around £90, sj.se/en.
Narrow-gauge mountain railway, Serbia
The Šargan Eight narrow-gauge railway in southwestern Serbia takes its name from its figure-eight track. Running between Mokra Gora and Šargan Vitasi, it climbs 300 meters in just 3 km and has five bridges and 22 tunnels. All five cars have polished wooden seats and there is commentary in Serbian and English and an oompah band-style muzak. There are several short stops where you can get off and watch the tracks below, trying to figure out where you’ve been and where you’re going! At Jatape, it’s time to warm up a coffee or an ice cream on the quay, depending on the weather.
Winning Tip: Trieste to Bled, Italy to Slovenia
We traveled from Trieste to Lake Bled in half a day, including a stopover in the border town of Gorizia. The trip gave us a lot of vacations for very little money. A midday modern express took us from Trieste, past sparkling waters and into the forest. We arrived in Gorizia after about 50 minutes. Then, after a stroll through the Slovenian part of town (called Nova Gorica), we boarded a blaring regional train after a quick refreshment on the platform in a student bar-style cafe. In the hills, this next train climbed for a few hours before dropping us off in the mountains at a beamed station: Bled Jezero. The lake shimmered below us even though it was a cloudy day. And there was still time to bathe before dinner.