Traveling by train is a different and unique way of seeing the countryside that almost seems a part of an era long past. Back in the early part of the century train travel was the most common way of seeing the country, but in our era of cars and airplanes not as many people ride the train as once did. If you are one of the lucky ones that does ride the train, you’ll appreciate the scenic beauty of the nation.
Imagine chugging along at 60 miles per hour in a comfortable coach car with padded seats, a cold drink in your hand and a soft pillow below your head. Imagine watching the cows in the fields as you pass by, and requesting another mint julep from the waiter as he comes on by. You will know that all the while, you’ll travel in comfort until the next stop, and then have plenty of time to visit. In the US Amtrak provides train service to most major cities. Using Amtrak allows a passenger to travel in comfort. In the US you can go from New York to California, from sea to shining sea, and all points in between, traveling in comfort. Adding cities and regions to your “been there, done that” list, like Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, New Orleans, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angels, Sacramento, Seattle, and San Francisco.
When visiting European locations, the train system is even more extensive. A favorite vacation method in Europe is purchase of a Eurorail pass, or Britrail if traveling in the UK. A Eurorail pass gives you unlimited travel on trains throughout all of Europe, and many college age kids fill up a backpack with a few clothes and canned goods, buy a Eurorail pass and hit the track. Imagine taking a train trip to Paris, spending the day visiting the Eiffel tower and other tourist attractions, and then when evening comes jumping the train and sleeping, only to depart when you arrive at a destination. With luck and the right train, you will have arrived in the South of France, perhaps Nice, or St. Tropez or San Rafael. Jump off the train, carry your backpack to the beach, claim a spot of sand and jump in the water of the Mediterranean Sea to cool off. You are on the legendary French Riviera where people pay thousands of dollars a week for vacation spots, but you’ve got a little piece of sand to sleep on for free, and a train to jump on when you get ready. Try swimming in the ocean or windsurfing and be sure to wear your sun tan lotion.
When done, hop the train again with your Eurorail pass and hit Amsterdam, the most famous city in Holland. Eat some of the famous Dutch croquettes and French fries served with mayonnaise, and take a walking tour of the city. You’ll pass the famous Anne Frank house, and the Heineken brewery. Take a tour of each while you are there, and then try the famous museums, like the Reiksmuseum, and the Vincent Van Gogh. After a few days in Amsterdam, then hit the train again and head to Germany, if possible down to the southern part, in Bavaria. Visit beautiful Munich. See the Olympic Village and if you are fortunate enough to have come at the right time of the year, visit a famous Bavarian beer fest. The most famous is Octoberfest, but there are many small fests held at different times of the year. Try one and see why so many people enjoy Germany. Take the train south to Augsburg and visit a city named after the Roman emperor Augustus, with narrow brick paved streets and friendly people. Go a little further south to Garmish Partenkirchen and visit the ski slopes in the winter, or go backpacking and hiking in the summer. Germany offers something for everyone.
Traveling by train offers a vacation experience, whether in America or Europe, that no other method of transport can match. You have all the comfort of home in your train car, wonderful meals served when you wish in the dining car, great friendly people to visit with, other cultures to get to know, and best of all, someone else does the driving. Try train travel for the best vacation ever.