As travellers, writers, photographers, editors, publishers and friends, Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries have long been an inspiration to us. Their creativity, sense of adventure and curiosity about the world around them is reflected in everything they do, from the wonderful hidden europe magazine (to which we are occasional contributors) to their latest release, the 17th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide.
Europe by Rail has been in existence for over a quarter of a century, but with each new edition Nicky and Susanne have continued to refine what is not only the finest guidebook to rail travel across this continent of ours, but also one of the best guides to travel in Europe full stop. The majority of the book is devoted to routes, carefully chosen and evocatively described, journeys that can be travelled in full, used as inspiration for shaping your own railway adventures, or linked together to create some truly epic European trips.
The 17th edition includes classic routes such as London to Paris and on to the Mediterranean, famous journeys across the Alps and exploring the Rhine Valley, and has new routes to Adriatic Italy, the Swiss Alps, Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania. There are routes that take in the narrow gauge railway lines of the fairytale-filled Harz Mountains in central Germany, night trains to far beyond the Arctic Circle, and routes that combine the railway with voyages by ship.
That we are increasingly planning our own travels beyond Berlin by train has a lot to do with our friendship with Nicky and Susanne and the previous editions of Europe by Rail that have pride of place on our shelves. And yet there are so many routes we are yet to try, but which we read about in these pages and can almost already feel ourselves there, rattling along in a compartment or carriage, as the landscape unfolds beyond the window.
Of course, with our Winding Trail hats on, we are especially interested with how the train and the routes in Europe by Rail can help us access the best outdoor adventure destinations in Europe to minimise our use of the car or planes. And those looking to combine iconic rail journeys with hiking or other activities in the outdoors will not be disappointed. There are routes that take in Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains, and that will deliver you to the Highlands of Scotland and the far north of Norway. There are routes through the sandstone hills that straddle the German-Czech border and a journey that follows the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, allowing you a long walk in one direction while taking the train back in the other.
And then of course there is the Alps. Not only do the routes in Europe by Rail include some of the most famous and scenic mountain routes, including the UNESCO-listed Semmering railway, the Arlberg route, the classic Gotthard route and the Glacier Express, but they provide plenty of scope to pause your travels and head for the hills along the way.
In a time when we must all be thinking about how we travel and our impact on the world around us, Europe by Rail is a reminder that if we are willing to take our time, be flexible, and make the journey as much of the experience as the destination, there is a whole continent of adventures out there waiting for us. In the next few months we plan to take the night train to Graz (thanks to the advice of Nicky) and a journey through the day to the shore of Lake Geneva, the fast train to Munich to climb a mountain and a slow train north to jump in the Baltic, while using our excellent local transport to get us out from Berlin and into the lakes and forests of Brandenburg. Europe by Rail inspires us to not only dream of big adventures but think about how we travel closer to home.
If you ever meet us in the dining car or the corridor outside our sleeping compartment, there’s a good chance we’ll have a well-thumbed copy in the top of our rucksack, ready to help us plan the next trip. We’ll let you look at ours of course, but in case we don’t happen to meet, we highly recommend you get one of your own.
Europe by Rail on Bookshop.org.uk
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