Alicia's England and Europe Train Adventure

Staff member: Alicia // Trip date: Nov 2012

ENGLAND

We arrived at Manchester Airport almost 24hours after departing Melbourne and although a rail service from the airport to the city centre is available, our accommodation was not in the city centre and we would still have needed to catch a taxi. After such a long flight I thought it would be easier to have a transfer pre arranged and arrive directly at our accommodation.
Our first day in Manchester began with nothing planned. Fortunately it was a nice start to the day so time for some fresh air and we walked to the city centre(Piccadilly Gardens), passing Manchester University along the way. A short time in the tourist office and we were off, ready to purchase a ticket for the tram network where we would stop by Old Trafford Cricket oval and further down the road the home of Manchester United Football Club. On our return to city centre the heavens opened and that's how they would stay for the next few hours. Thankfully we had some indoor activities planned including a stop at John Ryland's library, Manchester Cathedral and the newly built National Football Museum.

The next day we were travelling to London. Across the inner city of Manchester a free bus service operates with 2 of the 3 routes stopping at Manchester Piccadilly train station. We caught one of these services near Piccadilly Gardens and within 10minutes were at the station. The station was easy to access and once inside the ticket office, ticket machines were close by. Departure screens were located in the centre of the departure hall and clearly explain all upcoming departures to cities/towns across the UK. I knew services to London departed frequently, so once my Britrail Pass had been validated I checked the departure screen (services listed in alphabetical order) for the next service which fortunately was only in 10minutes. All the platforms were easily identifiable and if I'd had more time and felt like it I could have bought food/snacks from shops inside the station.

The service to London is operated by Virgin trains one of 20 railway companies operating across the UK. We boarded the train and sat in seats listed as available, seat reservations are not compulsory on UK services. Our luggage we stored at the front of the carriage and above our seat was a shelf available for smaller cases, backpacks etc. Shortly after departure an attendant walked through the train checking tickets and not long after 1st class passengers were offered tea/coffee and then water/juice. Enjoying the English countryside passing by we were then offered freshly cooked bacon or sausage rolls. Travelling in 1st Class we were also offered complimentary newspapers and had access to free WIFI.

In just over two hours we arrived at London Euston station on time and were ready to start enjoying all that one of my favourite cities has to offer. From previous visits to London I already had two London Oyster cards (plastic smart card to use on bus, tube, tram, DLR & London Overground services), before going anywhere I needed to top them up with credit. This was easily completed at one of the many machines available on the concourse or alternatively at the tourist office if you're not confident using the machine. Any value added to the Oyster card is available to start using immediately. Euston tube station is serviced by the Northern & Victoria lines and our accommodation was near Gloucester Rd (Piccadilly Line) tube station. We touched on our Oyster card upon entering the station, depending on the time of day you first touch on and how many zones you travel through will depend on the maximum value deducted from your card when you touch off and exit the station. Approximately 30mins later after having navigated escalators and a few stairs with luggage we were grateful for a lift to take us to ground level and exit at Gloucester Rd. Thankfully at this time of day tube wasn't overly busy as the tube is not designed for tourists with heavy cases.

Over the next three days my mum and I would explore London. Having both visited before we didn't need to rush and see the usual "must see" attractions. Instead we revisited some favourites including Regent's Park & Harrods and took time to visit others for the first time including Liberty's Department store and The Borough Market. London is so easy to get around; using the tube and buses you can get anywhere. Upon arrival ensure you collect a recent Tube map & a comprehensive bus map both available from tube stations, mainline stations and tourist centres.

On one particular day we caught the tube to Regent's Park, bus from outside Madame Tussauds to Regent Street, walked to Covent Garden via Piccadilly Circus & Leicester Square where we then caught a bus to the Borough Market in time and ready for lunch (lucky we were spoilt for choice). Our final destination this day was Richmond a town in south west central London. Although this sounded far, a comprehensive rail network meant it wasn't as far as it seemed. The nearest mainline station was London Bridge, from here (using a day off our Britrail Pass) we travelled with railway company Southeastern to London Waterloo station. Upon arrival we stood (with many others) looking at the departure screens trying to find the next best service to Richmond. Unlike Manchester Piccadilly station services were not in alphabetical order and instead listed by departure time. Entering the gate we showed our pass and the attendant let us through, our train travel to Richmond was with another railway company, Southwest Trains. We boarded the train and sat in any available seat.
The remainder of our afternoon was spent checking out the High Street shops & enjoying the afternoon sun whilst walking along the Thames River. The faster option would have been to catch the tube (District Line) back to our apartment, however given it was a nice day and we'd already seen so much it only seemed fair that we continue our day exploring the city more. Using my bus map I found a bus route that would take us to Putney where we would then be able to connect to another bus that would stop outside our apartment. We didn't have to wait long (most major bus routes operate every 10mins or so during the day) before our double decker bus arrived, on the top level we got a front row seat and we enjoyed the 30min ride to Putney passing some smaller suburbs and lots of English housing, perhaps not on everyone's list of priorities it was enjoyable seeing how some of London's residents live. In Putney I recognised the main street from the 2012 Olympic Men's and Women's road race and once we'd found the correct bus stop it wasn't long before our bus arrived.

EUROSTAR

When you're having fun time passes quickly, my time in London was over and my days in Paris were about to begin. The Eurostar service departed from London St Pancras station, on my ticket it stated to check in minimum 30minutes prior to departure. I was not going to be late. Using our Oyster cards for the last time we caught the tube, thankfully I had allowed plenty of time. The first train to arrive was very busy as was the second making it impossible to board with large suitcases. The third train came and was far less busy eventually we arrived roughly around 11am for a 12.25pm service.
The Eurostar terminal of London St Pancras station is very well signed, it took us roughly 10-15minutes to walk off the train and find our way to the shops outside the check in area. Plenty of people were travelling this day and before checking in we browsed a few shops taking a few moments to admire the station. Our service was open for check-in and despite all the people there wasn't a queue to scan our tickets or have our luggage scanned. Our passports were checked shortly after (again no queue) and we then had about 30minutes to wait in the lounge area. Inside the departure lounge were comfortable seats, where passengers have access to free WIFI (plenty of electric sockets available), a newsagent, cafe & bar are also available.

Approximately 30mins prior to departure an announcement was made advising what platform our train was departing from. We made our way quickly to the platform and carriage to ensure our luggage was stored in racks at the entrance of the carriage. On the platform Eurostar staff were available to guide passengers to their carriage number. Upon entering the train Eurostar staff checked our tickets again ensuring we were in the correct carriage. We had to lift our luggage onto the luggage racks so to make your trip more enjoyable ensure you travel light.

This was to be our first train of many across Europe over the next four weeks, and although not a major issue I thought it would be nice for my mother and I to sit together. I politely asked the passenger seated next to her if we could swap, the passenger agreed and this made no difference to the staff on board. We travelled in Standard Premier Class our seats had a lot of room and included a comfortable curved head rest. Approximately 30 minutes into our journey a cold light meal was served at our seat, this was also around the time an announcement was made advising we were about to enter the Channel Tunnel. My experience on the Eurostar was comfortable, peaceful and very enjoyable. My arrival into Paris was on time and upon exiting the train staff assisted with the removal of my suitcase off the train.

FRANCE

My previous visits to Paris had always been very brief with not enough time to explore museums and attractions. Given I had only two days I knew I wouldn't have time to waste standing in queues if it could be avoided . It was for this reason I purchased The Paris Pass. Included was: 2 day Paris Museum Pass, 2 day Paris Visite Metro travelcard, 2 day Paris Attraction Pass & voucher for Hop On Hop Off bus tour (Les Cars Rouges). I used the Museum Pass first when visiting The Louvre, although it was early in the morning the queues were already 500m long and that was only for the security check! I showed my pass and entered via a different line and wasted no time waiting. Upon entering the queues to purchase tickets were again long and people were everywhere, I could not believe how many people there were. I was so glad we had this pass and did not have to waste time queuing, we quickly found a map and were off to explore.

By the end of our second day we had made the most of our Paris Pass, visiting Notre Dame (climbing all 422 steps), Musee D'Orsay, enjoying The Paris story, Hop On Hop Off bus tour and shopping at Galleries Lafayette department store & Fragonard Parfumeur where we received discounts and free gifts with purchases upon presentation of our Paris Pass. Our metro card got us everywhere we needed to go and using the guide book included with the Paris Pass I always knew exactly what metro stop was best. Unlike London where you use a smart card, the Paris Visite metro card is a small paper card you insert into a machine. The Paris Visite card is valid for travel on the metro, RER, buses, trams and the Montmarte Funicular. Metro lines are colour coded and given line numbers. Each line is shown as having two station names, these are the two stations at either end of the line which you use to understand the direction you need to travel in.

THALYS

Departing Paris was the start of a big day of train travel. My ultimate destination was Copenhagen, however direct services do not operate from Paris, but I could travel on an overnight train departing Amsterdam. This option suited us well and although I'd visited Amsterdam before my mother hadn't so, it worked well to leave Paris mid morning and arrive early in the afternoon before departing in the evening to Copenhagen. Our Thalys service departed Paris Gare de Nord station a short walk from our accommodation; we arrived in plenty of time and joined the many other passengers beneath the huge departure screen waiting for the platform number for our service to be displayed. The station doesn't have many retail shops, however plenty of food/drink shops are available if you wish to purchase food to take on board.

Approximately 15-20minutes prior to departure we were advised of our platform number and preceded with many others to the train. Entering the train Thalys staff checked for reservations and if applicable asks for your Eurail Pass. I'd completed the travel calendar on my Eurail Pass earlier in the day, it is important to ensure this is filled out every day before boarding. You cannot wait until the train attendant asks for tickets. Travelling 1st class on the Thalys train was really comfortable & enjoyable. Approximately 20minutes into the journey staff served a snack (rolls with 3 different fillings to choose from) and tea/coffee. As the train was not sold out we were offered seconds also. Not long after departing Bruxelles lunch was served, either vegetarian or fish. I enjoyed the vegetarian option, it was to be one of the biggest meals I would consume on a train.

Arriving in Rotterdam an announcement was made advising passengers we would be delayed at least 30minutes because the driver was ill and we needed to wait for a replacement. This inconvenienced some passengers who had onward connections from Amsterdam Central to Amsterdam Schiphol. However, Thalys staff were very helpful and explained to passengers they could board a service at Rotterdam connecting them to Amsterdam Schiphol and avoid being delayed for their flights. Eventually we arrived at Amsterdam Central approximately 45minutes late. I followed the signs and found the storage lockers at the other end of the station. The instructions were written in English and we were able to store two cases in one locker, cost € 7.75. Outside the station was a tourist office. We found a good map and decided to walk around, but we could have hired bikes or taken a canal cruise instead to explore the city.

DENMARK - CITYNIGHT LINE

My trip was about to get very exciting. So far in my trip I'd visited cities I'd visited before, but this evening I was about to experience an overnight train and wake up the next morning in Copenhagen. After walking around Amsterdam for roughly 3hours we purchased food before retrieving our luggage and found our way back to the departure screen hall. On the small departure screen the service was listed departing at 1901 as per our reservation but going to Berlin. I was somewhat confused. I trusted my instinct and proceeded to the platform, thankfully DB Bahn staff were available and I could ask questions. It turned out the train I was travelling on consisted of carriages travelling to Copenhagen, Prague, Berlin & Warsaw. In Berlin the train splits to the various destinations, so it's really important you ensure you're in the correct carriage when boarding. On the platform was signage explaining where you should stand on the platform for the corresponding coach number printed on your reservation. In the end it was all very straightforward but was a little stressful if you weren't aware of procedure.

The City Night Line train includes a number of accommodations I'd chosen to travel in the Deluxe Twin sleeper, our cabin was small with two bunk beds, a small ensuite bathroom and enough room for two suitcases. It was tight for space but comfortable. Bottled water was provided as were coat hangers, not long after departure the attendant passed through to check our reservations and Eurail Pass. Before boarding I had entered the following days date on my pass, as this service was departing after 7pm and arriving after 4am the following day. The attendant also asked what we would like as our welcome drink, sparkling white or red wine. We also discussed what time we wanted breakfast served the next morning and if we would like tea/coffee at breakfast. The rest of the evening was ours to enjoy, our beds were comfortable and very warm. Having an ensuite bathroom in our cabin made for a comfortable journey. For passengers in a twin sleeper with no ensuite, toilettes and showers were available at the end of the carriage.

I'd pre purchased the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus tour before departing Australia, during October the bus operates on a revised schedule with only Tour A operating with four departures during the day each with a duration of 60 minutes. I handed over the exchange voucher and was given a ticket valid for 24hours. In one hour we saw a lot and by starting early in the day we were able to get off during the first departure and reboard later on another service. We decided to stop at Amalienborg Royal Palace home of Prince Fredrik & Princess Mary, they were not home but it was still nice to visit the royal palace and we timed it well to watch the changing of the guard procession. Other highlights of the tour included Nyhavn (17th century waterfront), The Little Mermaid & Rosenborg Castle, overall the tour provided a good orientation of Copenhagen and gave a good insight into the history of Denmark.

GERMANY - ICE TRAIN

After two days in Copenhagen it was time to say goodbye and get ready for our next adventure, 10 days in Switzerland. First though I needed to travel across Germany and this day was going to be similar to a few days earlier where I would stop during the day(at Hamburg) and travel overnight arriving in Zurich the following day. The German ICE train arrived on time and again at the platform in Copenhagen signage indicated where the 1st class carriages would be. The day was a Saturday and the train was busy, although reservations were not compulsory I had purchased reservations well in advance as I didn't want to risk not being able to board. The highlight of this train was leaving Denmark, having crossed bodies of water on long bridges earlier in the morning, the last body of water to cross before entering Germany requires travel on a ferry. The train along with cars & campervans drives on to the ferry and all passengers must exit the train. The ferry ride to Germany is approximately 45 minutes, during this time your luggage remains on the train (train is locked) and passengers sit upstairs inside or out. Once in Germany everybody returns to their seat on the train and the journey continues, the staff had changed so our tickets were checked again. The DB Bahn staff were friendly and helpful, approximately 1 hour till arrival the staff came through train offering cakes & afternoon refreshments. Arrival into Hamburg was announced as were all arrivals during the day, you always had plenty of time to prepare your exit from the train.

In Hamburg we met with a family friend, I located the luggage storage facilities easily and for € 4 our luggage was stored whilst we explored another European city. Time passed quickly and before long we were back at the station retrieving our luggage and finding the platform for our next overnight train. Unlike Amsterdam, this overnight train had the majority of its carriages travelling to Zurich so when looking at the departure board it was very easy to find. On the platform were signs displaying all the trains departing from the platform, I found it very easy to understand where we needed to stand to ensure we promptly boarded the train. I was expecting an overnight train with a similar configuration to the City Night Line service a few days earlier, instead the train arrived it was a double decker train and once inside our cabin we were still tight for space but this time also had a small table & chairs, this would make eating breakfast the following morning most enjoyable as we watched the sunrise travelling between Basel and Zurich.

SWITZERLAND

Third week in and I was so excited to be arriving in Switzerland, the land of chocolate and cheese, mountains and lakes awaited along with so many trains at the end I will have lost count! It would begin later that day with a visit to Schaffhausen to visit the Rhine Falls. I used my Eurail Timetable booklet to check schedules but could also have easily read the schedules at Zurich station. The journey took an hour each way on Inter Regional (IR) services, trains were clean & comfortable, perfect for us to rest after a long and exciting day.

We had a Swiss Pass to use during our stay in Switzerland, I'd planned out my days I'd need for train travel between cities and allowed for days to use in cities where I could use on the public transport systems in each city and gain entry to museums where possible. My first day in Zurich we shopped along Bahnhofstrasse (directly across road outside southern exit of train station), admired Fraumünster a Benedictine abbey built in 853 and Grossmünster cathedral completed in 1220 as Romanesque church before ending the afternoon enjoying a ferry ride across Zürichsee. By using a day off our Swiss Pass this covered our travel on the ferry and travel on the tram network across the city.

Across the road from Zurich train station (northern exit) is the Swiss Museum, the building looks like a castle but has never been. Entry is free when using a day off your Swiss Pass, the museum details all of Switzerland's history, the main highlight for me was learning about the people who contributed to the railways construction and development of Swiss cities. Zurich train station has everything a tourist would need, even a 24hour pharmacy! There's a variety of shops and on the day we travelled to St Moritz via Chur, we bought lunch at the station to enjoy on the train. Departing Zurich as we entered the first tunnel little did I know that when I returned 10 days later I would well and truly have lost count of the number of tunnels travelled through only to be presented at the other end with picturesque valleys, mountains and lakes.

The afternoon travelling to St Moritz was simply beautiful, aware of a short connection time in Chur I was prepared to wait an hour for the next connecting service. The efficiency of the Swiss Rail network meant I had nothing to be worried about. Shortly before arriving in Chur an announcement was made advising passengers of connecting services and the platform they're departing from. My connecting service to St Moritz departed from the opposite platform, train staff were also around to assist passengers and in hindsight we had plenty of time. The service from Chur is operated by the Rhaetian Railways, this same Regional Express service operates on the same track as the Glacier Express. The autumnal leaves complimented with a fresh cover of snow felt like we were travelling in a winter wonderland. Don't forget to have your camera ready after Tiefencastel and before Filisur for a picture of the Landwasser viaduct.

GLACIER EXPRESS

My Swiss adventure continued the following day on the famous Glacier Express to Zermatt. We arrived approximately 30minutes prior to departure, it was early but we were one of the first to board and were able to store our luggage easily, coat hangers were available to hang jackets also. Shortly after departure our tickets were checked, travelling with a Swiss Pass I only needed to show our passes and seat reservation. Fellow passengers were travelling with a Eurail Pass, they had their reservation but not the compulsory supplement required by Eurail Pass passengers to cover the private railway between Disentis - Zermatt. This caused quite a disruption for other passengers in the carriage as the matter was resolved, eventually with the passengers purchasing the supplement on board. The journey between St Moritz - Zermatt took almost 8 hours, travelling to Chur I was in a forward facing seat, however departing Chur the train exited the station on a different track and I was now travelling backwards. The scenery constantly changed beginning with the Rhine Gorge, before travelling to the peak on the Oberalppass, then the slow descent to Andermatt before travelling approximately 15minutes in the Furka Tunnel (built to avoid the inconvenience caused by avalanches) and arriving in the Rhone Valley stopping again in Brig. An hour later we would arrive in Zermatt, home of the mighty Matterhorn.

Most of my time in Zermatt was spent enjoying activities based around the Matterhorn and was particularly looking forward to experiencing the Gornergrat Railway. This is a private railway, however passengers in possession of a valid Swiss Pass receive a 50% discount off their ticket purchase. The station is directly across the road from Zermatt station that I arrived at the previous day or at the end of the main street. Travel time to the top is approximately 30minutes and the Matterhorn is in view most of the way. We enjoyed about 2 hours at the top, mostly enjoying the views and appreciating how nature has carved out the scenery. Back in the village the Matterhorn Museum was open; upon presentation of our Swiss Pass we got free entry. It's only a small museum but is a great place to visit and learn about the people of Zermatt and how the village has become what it is today.

JUNGFRAU

A few days later we arrived in Interlaken, the weather was perfect to enjoy the outdoors and I could not wait to experience the Jungfrau Railways. My accommodation was closer to Interlaken West station and although trains depart from Interlaken Ost for the Jungfrau I didn't feel inconvenienced. From Interlaken West it was a two minute train journey or 5 minute bus ride to Interlaken Ost station. From Interlaken passengers can travel via Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald (Bernese Oberland Railway) ensure you're seated in the preferred carriage as the train splits at Winderswill. We chose to travel via Lauterbrunnen as we wanted to also visit the Trummelbach Falls (the only waterfalls in Europe still accessible inside a mountain) located about 10minutes away by bus. Returning to Lauterbrunnen the bus connected with next train travelling to Kleine Scheidegg (Wengernalp Railway) where you then change to Jungfrau Railway. On all these trains you sit where seats are available, regardless of your seat the view is incredible. There are three stops on the last train journey to the top - Eigergletscher, Eigernordwand and Eismeer. Between Klein Scheidegg - Eigerletscher you're looking down on the valley's below, after Eigerletscher you're inside a tunnel crossing through mountains Eiger and Mönch only stopping at Eigerwand and Eismeer stations each for 5 minutes for a quick photo stop. Have your camera ready for some of the most amazing scenery, I'm still not sure what is best, the scenery or comprehending how just over 100 years ago the railway was built and today you can travel inside a mountain? The final stop Jungfraujoch is the highest railway station in Europe. Allow enough time to enjoy the activities available including Snow Fun (seasonal), Ice Palace, Alpine Sensation & Sphinx vantage terrace.

GOLDEN PASS

From Interlaken it was time to visit Lucerne travelling on the Golden Pass Line. We'd woken to another sunny day and fortunately our train was not due to depart till 3pm. This gave us enough time to store our luggage at Interlaken Ost and make the short walk to Harder Kulm, where passengers in possession of a Swiss Pass get 50% discount off their ticket price. The view is stunning at the top, the new Two Lakes Bridge complete with its glass floor is the perfect way to view mountains Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau as well as Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Later in the afternoon our Golden Pass train departed on time and was full, a clear sunny day made for a relaxing afternoon travelling the Swiss countryside and many times throughout the journey the view was postcard perfect. One panoramic carriage was available and was more crowded than the 1st class non panoramic carriage. I was really glad I'd made reservations prior to travel, throughout the journey many passengers boarded and walked the carriage looking for available seats only to end up standing doorways.

WILHELM TELL

Our last days in Switzerland were enjoyed at beautiful Lucerne, I'd made my reservations for the Wilhelm Tell Express well in advance. On the day we arrived in plenty of time to show our reservation at the ticket office (at the front of the station) to receive our gift and meal voucher. I was really glad to have a reservation, there was so many people queuing to board it was chaos. Once on board I located the tables with "Wilhelm Tell" reservation signs, made ourselves comfortable and sat back to enjoy the ride. Upon arrival at Flüelen an announcement was made advising connecting services, we were catching the train to Bellinzona and had a 20minute wait. Our seats were reserved for the connecting train to Bellinzona in a panoramic carriage of an Inter City service. This same train later operated on our return journey to Lucerne. For this we didn't have a reservation and sat in any available seat. It was a long day on trains, but the scenery was stunning and had the mountains been capped with snow and the waterfalls flowing it would have been even prettier. The section of train track between Erstfield and Göschenen you could be forgiven for getting dizzy as you travel in and out of tunnels as you ascend or descend the mountain. The following day I visited the Swiss Transport Museum, I felt after all my travel on trains, buses and ferries it seemed appropriate to learn the history. This museum is incredible, with a valid Swiss Pass the ticket price is discounted by 50% and is well worth it. In the train exhibition alone some of the original trains to operate on the Swiss Railways are displayed (including an original Jungfrau train) and the interactive display dedicated to the Gothard Railway is very interesting also.

AUSTRIA - RAIL JET

After ten days it was time to say farewell to Switzerland and head off to Salzburg travelling on the Rail Jet that travels at speeds up to 200km/h however on our day it did not exceed 160km/h. The operating railway company OBB pride themselves with this train offering good service and facilities on board. I would definitely recommend this train over the others that travel the same route. During my journey between Zurich - Salzburg screens throughout the carriage updated passengers as to the expected arrival time at each stop and provided a map showing the train's current location. At each passengers seat was information regarding all the scheduled stops with information pertaining to connecting services. A comprehensive menu was also available, passengers could order and have food brought to their seat or dine in the restaurant car at a larger table. This train does not require a reservation and passengers in 1st class receive a small snack soon after departure. The train also has business class, if you're in 1st class and wish to upgrade you can for an additional fee paid for onboard the train.

For our day in Salzburg I'd pre booked The Sound of Music Tour and so glad I did in advance as the tour was sold out on the day with a second coach required. Having booked in advance I arranged to be collected from my hotel. As per my travel documents we were ready at 0910 and the driver collected us at 0910. Departing on time we visited many sights in the movie and at the same time had a good tour of Salzburg including a drive to the Lakes District where we stopped for lunch at Mondsee. I'd recommend this tour to anyone visiting Salzburg for the first time, it's a great tour that allows you to appreciate and enjoy all Salzburg has to offer.

ITALY

It was time to begin travel to my last country departing Salzburg via Innsbruck for Bologna. We travelled on the Rail Jet again to Innsbruck, shortly before arrival we were advised of connecting services via the screens within the carriage. We had a 25minute connection in Innsbruck so time wasn't too much of an issue, we were advised the service was departing platform 3 so you can imagine my delight when we arrived and got off the Rail Jet only to discover we were already on platform 3. The connecting service to Bologna arrived on time and it was a very different train to what I'd been travelling on. The Euro City train was older and instead of rows of seats it had compartments that in 1st class consisted of three seats either side, with room for luggage to be stored only above your head. Boarding the train was chaotic, many people were boarding this train and most weren't sure where they were going. In our compartment four passengers were already seated and had taken up most of the luggage space. After some discussion a fellow passenger agreed to move her case so I could store mine above, however there was no room for our second case so we had to keep it between us. It was a long five hours, the scenery through the Brenner region could have been beautiful, but unfortunately was hidden by cloud.

A couple of days later it was time to bid farewell to Bologna and travel to Rome, our final city. The station at Bologna had a few shops but nothing like I'd seen previously. The departure screen was very easy to read and inside the departure hall were Trenitalia information desks should you require any assistance. Our train was listed to depart platform 6, however I did notice some trains be announced for one platform only to change at the last minute to another. A lot of trains were also listed as being delayed, this was the first time in four weeks of travelling that I noticed so many trains listed as being late. I was relieved my train to Rome was free of any hassle.

The train had come from Venice was already partly full, travelling in 1st class we were offered tea/coffee/juice/water with a sweet or salty snack. Travelling to Rome was to take 1 ½ hours we bought lunch on board from the snack bar and sat comfortably watching the Italian scenery pass by. Arriving into Florence I had been travelling in a forward facing seat only to discover when we departed I would be backwards facing. It wasn't a problem but was a good example of why you cannot request forward facing seats. Rome Termini station was very busy, given this station serves mostly Italy only, I couldn't believe how many people were coming and going. Over the coming days it would not matter what time of day, the station was always busy.

I'd purchased the Rome Pass prior to my arrival in Rome, in the days prior to arrival I'd opened it and planned out what archaeological sites I wanted to visit. Included with the pass is a public transport ticket valid to use on Metro Lines A & B and bus services. Before I'd even visited my first attraction I was glad to already be in possession of a public transport card, the lines at every machine were 15 or so people deep and although the machines could be read in English it was easier to already have the correct documentation. Arriving at the Colosseum it seemed like every tourist in Rome was here. People were everywhere; the line was so long for people purchasing tickets on the day I couldn't see where the end was. Having the Rome Pass enabled us to avoid a queue with over an hour wait (at least), instead I stood in a line for less than five minutes and enjoyed a sunny morning exploring the Colosseum.

The plan for the following day was to enjoy a day trip to Florence, reservations for the Frecciabianco and Frecciarosa trains must be purchased prior to boarding. I queued the day before at the Trenitalia ticket office for half an hour, lucky we weren't in a rush to be anywhere. Reservations cost € 10 per person per train and we couldn't get 1st class for both trains, it was a long time to wait considering it took less than 5 minutes to make the transaction. We weren't sure if or when we would visit Florence so I didn't purchase prior to departing Australia, however I would definitely recommend to anyone to purchase in advance if only to save time when you're on holidays.

RAIL PASSES / SIGHTSEEING I USED During my holiday I travelled with Britrail, Eurail & Swiss Passes all were very easy to use and represented excellent value. I'd carefully planned my holiday in advance and ensured I had enough days. For my Swiss Pass I included days to use on public transport systems in various cities and found this to be very convenient by not having to worry about having the correct public transport ticket. Purchasing various sightseeing options prior to travel again saved time on the day and also didn't make a dent on our holiday spending money.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I enjoyed every train I travelled on, all were different but had one thing in common, convenience. Unlike airports the train stations were centrally located and were equipped with facilities to suit everyone expectations. Travelling by train I saved a lot of time not having to endure security checks, by the time I arrived at my final destination I was relaxed and ready to start exploring my next city. I would recommend train travel to anyone visiting Europe.

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