Since beginning of this week I'm in Paris, France. Not for a holiday, but that doesn't matter. I still intend to enjoy it as much as possible :).
I was traveling by train all the way from Vienna, which took me about 12 hours (including a stopover in Frankfurt, Germany). Some might say that this is too long for a train ride and prefer to fly. I love train rides. According to my grandma I already enjoyed my first big train ride without parents at the age of 3 (we moved houses between two towns in Austria). My granny feared that I would start to cry because I would miss my close family, but instead I happily looked outside the window, pointed at sheep and giggled.
|IC (Intercity) train of the German railway company DB at Frankfurt train station|
Many happy train rides in my early childhood followed, and my grandparents were many times part of it. My grandpa -- although already retired at the time -- had once worked for the ÖBB, the Austrian railway company. Thus my grandparents traveled a lot by train, and took us kids along. Very often we visited Bregenz, the capital of Vorarlberg, went on a boat trip on the Bodensee and left a poem on my dads windshield (my grandma and me always made up some rhymes on the way).
I had a great time back then. And I still have. I can travel in trains for hours without getting bored. I just look outside the window, watch the landscape, the people at the stations and so on. I love to see the changes in all these things rather than getting in a plane on one side and getting off at a completely different place. The part in between is just missing, don't you think?
|Crowds at Frankfurt (my stopover)|
My longest train rides were from Vienna to Macedonia (more than 26 hours) and from near Barcelona to Vienna (almost 24 hours). Compared to that, the train ride to Paris is peanuts. I love that Europe has such a well-established railway system and that it is so comfortable and fast to travel by train.
|Few bicycles at Frankfurt main station|
Ok, there are also many things that should be improved. Letting the regional problems aside, the transeuropean connections have the problem that one cannot buy one ticket online (or, for that matter, even find out how much a ticket would cost), but has to go to the train station. When I went to Barcelona last year, the ÖBB travel agent itself offered me a flight rather then a train ticket (how sad!). Another problem is the the basically non-existent international bicycle transport. These days bicycles are not allowed on high-speed trains, and I could not even send a bicycle (as a paket) by train. Ok, in Paris there is the bike share system Velib', but such systems don't exist everywhere. On the other hand, one can easily carry a bike on a plane, and transport a bloody car on a train. When are these railway companies ever going to implement existent European rail passengers' rights?
"The railway companies are obliged to enable passengers to bring their bicycles onto any train, if they are easy to handle, if it does not adversely affect the specific rail service, and if the rolling-stock so permits."
What I liked about the French railway system SNCF so far? The retro conductors (they even still wear these fancy hats!). And that the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) are pretty goddamn fast.