CROSSING EUROPE BY TRAIN IN 3 DAYS.

Three capital cities! In three days no less!! MADRID! PARIS! BERLIN!

Thanks for clicking through to read about this great journey, about an express trip across three major European capital cities.

That’s actually a little bit of click bait. This journey is EPIC, but it actually includes FOUR cities!

WHY?
After 20 years in Manchester, I’m done with winter. The one winter in Berlin was enough. I now stay in Málaga in winter, and in summer I live in Berlin!

So, in spring I return to Berlin. You can follow the planning and preparation for this journey, and then the subsequent travel via #SpringMigration22 on Twitter.

I left Málaga on 4th April, and arrived in Berlin on the 7th. To some this sounds like a long time? “Why don’t you just fly, Ian?” – I can hear 90% of people saying. “The train is slow!!!” And well, I’ve been subtle in the past.

However, I must say I find the ability to ignore the climate emergency to be one of humanity’s greatest successes. Global warming/weirding has been a known thing for 20 years. Or more. And it’s only recently that I decided ‘hoping for change’ wasn’t enough. We NEED to be the change we want to see.

I’m not rich, but I’m willing to invest in this way of travelling to avoid winter, and travel on a more sustainable low-carbon mode of transport. I won’t be spending on heating in Málaga, after all! I hope to inspire people to try this way of travelling, and write about the issues. If you want to do that on this site, then I can help 🙂

So. DAY 1. Leaving Málaga… :/

Málaga to Barcelona

Distance – 923km (417 km + 506 km)
Train 1 – Renfe AVE 10:28 Málaga -> 13:09 Madrid (417km)
Train 2 – Renfe AVE 14:25 Madrid -> 17:21 Barcelona (506 km)

Cost – 65.50 Euros via Renfe.com. I searched Málaga to Madrid, rather than individual trains to achieve the fare. Generally, OuiGo is cheaper from Madrid to Barcelona.
Carbon

I left Málaga having experienced a mild winter once again. Though I must admit there was dreadful weather in March, which included much-needed reservoir-filling rain, and also some crazy sky dust from Algeria, Morocco and the Sahara known as “clima” in Spain.

On the fun side, it was like being in a dystopian sci-fi film. On the downside, if we don’t figure out how to solve the climate emergency Southern Europe faces much more drought potential, and many more sand storms. We can also plant more native trees to help solve this problem in Málaga, Algeria and Morocco, and travel by low-carbon means.

CAPITAL CITY 1: MADRID.

We had time to visit the tropical gardens for lunch here. Kinda nice really, as it was a little cold today. A 5-minute walk from the platforms, you easily have time to find lunch and eat it when you have an hour or more between trains – no problemo!

3rd City Of The Day: BARCELONA.

Here I stopped over-night. And with an early departure I was very keen to stay near the station – I’m really NOT a morning person. I found a quiet AirBnB and would stay again there. I’m in for 20 minutes, before I get the metro to Barceloneta, a touristy area I missed on my way south. But I got sunset on the rooftop of the history museum – with truffles, as tapas was crazy expensive. Not surprising given the amazing views, tbh. Then I got a proper tapas meal in my favourite Barceloneta tapas bar, and a drink in another bar, before walking back through the Gothic Quarter to my AirBnB.

You could easily stay longer in Barcelona. It has much going on. But this is an express journey, with some fun on the way home to Berlin ASAP.

DAY 2: BARCELONA TO PARIS

Barcelona To Paris

Trains – 1.
Barcelona Sants to Paris Gare De Lyon
A high speed double-decker train from SNCF, but operated by Renfe in a joint agreement, which basically meant TGV quality, but Spanish food in the cafe. It’s reported this collaboration will end in December 2022. Hopefully this allows an increase of the service frequency.
Cost – 117 Euros. (Varies from 138 Euros on the day of travel, to 69 Euros in 2 months)
Distance – 831 km
Carbon

The morning was basically waking up, fleeing my AirBnB to the nearest coffee place, and jumping on a bus to Barcelona Sants about 10 minutes away before finding the security queue for the train (allow at least 20 minutes for this) and jumping on. I noted I could have had an extra 10 minutes in bed as we pulled out of the station with a minor delay 😉

I’d got a regular seat. I hadn’t upgraded to first despite the length of the journey, as it cost quite a bit already. Regretted this immediately in our 2×2 seat setup where I hogged the table with laptop, whilst 2 definitely still drunk tall Dutch guys tried to wrap themselves in, talking loudly.

WORK ON A TRAIN?
YEAH. You can. Just. However, there was no internet on the Spanish side. Clearly the joint partnership could have put a little more effort into that. As soon as we crossed into France, this problem was solved. Also I felt more than a little guilty for being the only person who could use the tiny side table, with my laptop on it!

EATING?
YES, the eating experience was VERY good. Though the food wasn’t the highlight, and was actually confusing. Despite the internet being SNCF’s, and pointing at their own catering website, the menu was actually Renfe’s. Which I only found by joining the queue with the view in the buffet car. BUT….oh what a view….eating lunch, looking out onto snow capped mountains from the upper deck of a TGV whilst going 300km/h….beans on toast could well have been the best meal of my life!

PARIS.

We arrived, not in Texas, but the original Paris! It was grey, indicating that the northern European Spring had been delayed. However, we were here. In rush hour. And I started sneezing, so some effect of Spring was here. A pit-stop in a pharmacy to get about 8 tablets of not-very-effective French antihistamine and I was off on the metro for a few stops to where my friend lived.

Then to the Seine, and with the ever present Eiffel towering above I boarded a tourist ferry with 200 Dutch school children. I was very tired, but wrapped up warm I enjoyed the boat trip around the main island of Paris.

So, I thought, let’s go and have a crepe with Eiffel. There were plenty of obvious options, but it was not so obvious that the full side-street cafes had my desired food, so I ended up at a food van under the tower.

Out again away from the tourism, I met my friend in a Corsican bar with great beer, a pizza-like food, and the guy who influenced the founding of Once Upon A Train. He’d actually been all the way to Japan by rail. I was soo tired, but it was really nice to meet Anna too.

I woke under a homage to Manchester’s music scene, and it was time to continue my journey, tired but happy.

This was a considerably longer visit than my previous one aged 8 or so, where our family spent an eternity in a traffic jam to get into the centre before having to leave after a few minutes (my memory says) to go on to the south.

I will return to Paris, but the goal here was to have fun, whilst getting to Berlin ASAP. And I’d maximised the tourism, and also had a drink/food where the locals go. Excellent.

Day 3: Paris To Berlin.

Paris To Berlin

Trains – 2
DB ICE 13:08 Paris Gare de l’Est to 16:17 Mannheim Hbf (450 km)
DB ICE 16:32 Mannheim Hbf to Berlin Hbf (482 km)
Distance – 932km (450km + 482km)
Cost – €69.90 (including 4 euro seat reservation fee, and 3 euro service fee for Omio)
Carbon

Unluckily I have this habit of finding the right road, and walking along it with determination in exactly the wrong direction. This is what I had done the day before, and found Gare Du Nord, which is very close to Gare de l’Est. I really wish I could have stopped for one of the amazing-smelling curries – something unexpected in Paris. But I had been lazy, and was just about on time for my Frankfurt-bound train.

I did love how shortly after departure I was thinking a coffee would be good, and then a ‘waiter’ appeared with one. Brilliant.

I changed at Mannheim for the Berlin train. A simple change, which was literally walking to the other side of the platform. I had 25 minutes or so, so I guess I wouldn’t have had time to meet with Frankfurt friends as I had on the southbound trip and bag another known city.

The scenery was flat, and unremarkable. I chatted with a French lady opposite me, who was struggling with the mask thing. I felt happy enough wearing mine, but could understand the frustration. Generally it feels like Covid precautions are reducing, and for me, I will probably continue when it is optional, but for those struggling with masks, I am sure the end cannot come soon enough.

As we entered Germany, our high speed train became a plod-along-train. I’m not sure what this old medieval part of Germany can do, but it really needs to do something to speed up the infrastructure. Having a high speed train running at nearly half speed seems quite a waste!

Luckily for me, I got hit in the face by a bag as we were getting off the Paris train. Not the usual sort of luck! But one that happens on travels. And the person who accidentally did this turned out to be one of the chattiest people I’ve met on trains ever. Fantastic.

Approaching Berlin in the dark, the train announcer played some music to wish us on our way. Unusual, and great. I wished that there was a carriage like this all the way on the train. It would have greatly reduced the slight panic of me phoning to confirm the hotel arrival time, and them telling me they’d cancelled the reservation, “but not to worry, as there would be no charge.” The jokers. Booking dot com was no help, and I turned up tired to a friend’s and fell asleep.

So, 3 Cities In 3 Days Is Possible….By Train?

Málaga to Berlin. 3 days. Very possible. You can have fun on the way. A bit of an adventure. You can see new places, and familiar places. You can make new friends. And see more familiar faces.

You can of course do a few different variations on this, although currently stopping in Barcelona feels mandatory because of the train times. But going north you could go across to Lyon or Avignon, then pick up the Frankfurt train.

In the future, I hope that there is a night train that covers part of this route. Maybe Berlin to Paris or Lyon by day train, or all the way to Barcelona by night train, then onwards to Málaga on the high-speed. Let’s see. There are announcements about new services coming out all the time now, proving that whilst there are still issues with the train, it can be a viable way to travel and save significant amounts of carbon over flying.

Want to read more about other variations of this route?

Fast, cheap trains from Barcelona to Madrid.

How? Well, with ToTravelto.com you can travel from Barcelona by fast 300km/h train, and travel comfortably with a range of operators, to Madrid.

Not only are the trains fast, the journey is quicker than flying city centre to city centre – often at 2.75 hours, sometimes at 2.5 hours!!! QUICK!

The number of operators is also changing fast. For a long time, Renfe had this high-speed route to themselves. And 3 million people a year chose to fly instead! Now there is competition, and it’s not just Renfe competing with themselves through their low-cost operator Avlo. The French state railway (SNCF) has entered the route, with their double-decker TGVs, operating as OUIGO. It’s a fun brand. But that’s not the last. Later this year, Iryo will enter Spain too, with fantastic new high-speed comfortable trains travelling all over Spain.

Tell Us About The Carbon Emissions?

Okay, when you fly, there’s more carbon dioxide emitted than when you travel by train! That bit you knew. But like me, have ignored sometimes. Why? Well, over certain distances it can be considered just too much to travel by train. But I can tell you, that over time, your perception changes. It could even become a challenge

Calculating the exact carbon emitted can be complex. However, flying consumes more than 6x as much CO2 as travelling by train – some estimate it to be as much as 20x!

On the Barcelona to Madrid high-speed train route, the carbon emitted is calculated to be between 16kg and 20kg. We include this on ToTravelTo.com to help you choose the operator according to your own priorities – lookout for the CO2 column.

Can We Offset The Low-Carbon Travel?

YES! We’re looking at various existing schemes, and also at the possibility of planting trees around the popular tourist destination of Málaga.

Like you, we’re learning more each week. But it would seem that under some situations a tree can absorb 20kg a year of CO2. Convienient for that Barcelona to Madrid fast train route!

What About The Future Of To Travel To?

We’ll cover more high-speed train routes as 2022 progresses on ToTravelTo.com. We’ll prioritise high-speed rail routes that compete well with flying, and try to accommodate different travel niches such as long weekends away in Madrid and Barcelona, before expanding to include other train routes with competition in both Spain and the rest of Europe.

The climate emergency does require us to change our habits, and how we do things. It doesn’t require us to stop having fun altogether. By picking low-carbon travel, and considering offsetting the last bit of carbon, you can start to make a difference to the planet. Of course, there are also many other things we can change.

The first version of to travel to.



So, what are you waiting for? Check out ToTravelTo.com for travel between Barcelona and Madrid today.

What is the cheapest price you can find between the two cities? Leave it in the comments below.

Berlin Escape: To The Polish Coast.

Ian escaped Berlin this summer by train and coach. As Covid was in the process of easing off, it was time to get out of the city. Something that many of us were thinking was wayyy overdue. Let’s remember summer, as the leaves are falling outside.

If you would also like to share your summer train escape stories, please do get in touch.

Berlin is located in the east of Germany, so actually not at all far from the Polish border. And then it’s another hop to the coast. Poland is slightly cheaper than Germany, and it also gives a different experience. JIN DOBRY! (Dzień dobry!)

Berlin To Szczecin

Train information, like usual, could be slightly better. We took a train direct from Szczenin to Berlin Gesundbrunnen last September. But can we find it now? Well, no. Not easily. Yet, there it was on the Szczecin platform when we arrived. At some point in time, you just hit go on these smaller journies. Even those with the passion, may not find the optimal route.

Szczecin is a small industrious city, on the edge of a lagoon. It’s probably got lots of great things, but we have become obsessed with a brewery bar that is conviently located 5 minutes from the train station. It has great food, lovely beer, and a stylishly done pre-war theme. Really worth checking out in between your transport connections.

Time To Relax On The Coast

Incidentally, Gryfice may have the solution to rolling stock problems in Europe 😉

Rewal is a little further east than our previous coastal visit of Miedzyzdroje. It’s a typical seaside town, with ice cream, gofre, and pizza aplenty. Arcade sounds and seagull squawks mix with the sounds of happy children.

However, the most amazing thing is simply the beach.

It goes in either direction from Rewal, for as long as you want. Often with a forest behind, and sometimes with high quality cycling paths too. It’s possible that it may have gone for the full 750kms of Polish coast-line, but this long weekend break was not going to be long enough to confirm that.

First stop; Niechorze. It had a large light house, and of course, more beach. A slightly larger town than Rewal, and a few more shops. Walking back along the squeaky sand, you will eventually encounter a small beach bar. Stay. Until sunset 🙂 Then, continue your walk in the dark.

Next up Pustkowo. Again, more beach, and beach bar, as well as an amazing sunset. Spotting a theme? Do try out the long zapiekanka (Polish pizzas) at Sabat beach bar – it seems a few of the restaurants compete over the size. Either XXL or 60cms is splashed about on the menus. Very tasty.

If it gets too windy, then consider hiring some bikes. We did this from Rewal, and headed down towards where the lagoon meets the sea, fully protected from the sea by a very large forest. Happily the wind was greatly reduced when we returned to Pustkowo and a swim was possibly, in the warm Ostsee (aka Baltic; synonymous for freezing!). It also surprises me how little salt there is in the Ostsee. The church at Trzesacz has mostly fallen into the sea, but it looks great at night as you walk past on the beach, with a billion stars, and for us lightning striking the Swedish coast 220kms away.

If We Must Go Home Lets Take Something Back

On the way back to Berlin we were determined to both go a more direct route, and revisit the gastro pub in Szczecin. We took a small private coach. Had a lunch break, and carried onto Angermünde by the cross-border VBB train (RB66) before picking up the regional (RE3) Berlin train to Gesundbrunnen. A quicker journey, and with a long lunch break, where we decided to take some piecuchy (pastry parcels) back with us 🙂

So, yes, you could do this route quicker by car. And depending on the time you leave, you may also get to explore/see some other places apart from your destination on the way. But it is very possible with a mix of coach and train to get to the Polish seaside and have an enjoyable break, and journey. Driving can be a hassle, and sleeping / reading is not so easy.

Travel Resources

Polish Buses: https://www.e-podroznik.pl
VBB – Brandenburg & Cross-border trains – RB66: https://www.vbb.de

Beach Bar – Sabat: https://www.facebook.com/sabatrestauracje
Browar Stara Komenda – https://goo.gl/maps/LJ9ycSx6njfGvAQw9

Ready To Board?

We’re ready to roll…

At 196Destinations.com we’re exploring what makes it fun to travel by train, and why people still often choose the plane! If you want to get involved then please contact us.

With the Climate Emergency declared in many places, how can people still choose air?

Well actually, often the train costs more, possibly due to the lack of competition. But more operators are coming into the European market. More night trains are being announced regularly, and not just by the state operators. OBB and Nightjet are doing really well at expanding their night train network – partnering with SBB etc. RegioJet are increasing their services to Croatia. Snalltaget are now operating from Stockholm to Berlin. EuroNightTrain and Moonlight Express are coming soon.

The potential is high. It is starting to feel that there can be less flying, and people can still be connected all over Europe. Train travel is low-carbon travel. With claims ranging from 6x less carbon, to 20x less carbon compared with flying.

But there’s still challenges. On price. On service. On quality. And on just providing what the travel consumer wants. Making changing connections easy. Helping people travel long distances by train.

The budget airlines, such as Vueling, Ryanair, and EasyJet have had 20 years to perfect their booking systems. However, there’s still no unified cross EU booking system for trains! Crazy.

We need to compete with airlines!

Whilst there are portals that give the aeroplane as an option across the EU, we don’t believe that is the right approach.

Trains, coaches, and overland is the way to go in the medium- to long-term.

Especially after people have had their first post-Covid travels.

Are you ready to ‘get on board’ ?

Which hats sound like they may fit you? More than one is fine.

We’d like to overlap with our first people in Berlin or Málaga. But remote will become more possible in time – especially for mob programming developers.

We are very early-stage, and the below roles are unpaid. Think ongoing hackday for now. And at this stage, we are looking for the people that can help figure out how to make this work and be monetisable, whilst encouraging people to travel by train through us. You need a problem solving, startup mindset! Contact us to get involved.

Head Of Country Community Managers -Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Croatia. What makes people travel in your area? Let us know how you engage people.

Product Managers – a sense of experimentation, data junkies, travel business knowledge, and love of overland travel. What travel experiments did you want to try?

Social Media Managers for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. You want to grow a community of travellers. What platform do you love? How have you engaged people already?

User Experience Experts. An awareness of what works (in travel) already. And a desire to find ways to overcome challenges to get the consumer what they want.

API Integration Experts. The data is out there Mulder. Maybe you work with Node, Go, Python.

Developers in Ruby On Rails. Any level!

(Come on. What other platform did you expect 😉 ) You need to be collaborative in nature. Pair programming or mob programming will be the normal. TDD with rspec is how you think. Part-time is just fine.

General Enquiry: We would love to hear from you if you just want to get involved.

LET’S GO. LET’S MAKE TRAIN TRAVEL AS EASY AS ALTERNATIVES.

Contact us and let us know what you would like to do 🙂

Cheers, Ian and team.

Berlin to Split By Train

Matthew and family decided to take the train this summer from Berlin to Prague, and on to Split. That’s quite some distance. Here, he guides us through the experience in an enjoyable manner. Over to you, Matthew!

Berlin-Prague

We are up at the crack of dawn for our family adventure, taking the 07:00 EuroCity through Dresden, and along the Elbe Valley through the rocky outcrops of the national park shared by Saxony and Bohemia. We sit on the left for the river view, and tuck into bacon and eggs in the excellent Czech restaurant car. At Prague Central station, there are left luggage lockers (cheap and easy to find on the lower level, though you need Czech currency handy) and we set off to make the most of our afternoon in the City of a Hundred Spires.

Prague- Split

This RegioJet is a seasonal special with couchette cars (and a few seating compartments) heading through the heart of central Europe, with portions for the two Croatian Adriatic resorts of Rijeka and Split. Passengers are mainly students, backpackers and young families, and the lived-in compartments with open windows give it an old-fashioned Inter-rail feel, mixed with the more modern buzz of low-cost beach holidays, the thrill of passing through 4 countries’ capitals, and breathtaking scenery.

Our carriage on this trip has certainly seen better days, but the staff are extremely friendly and helpful with workarounds when a socket is faulty. The Czech language dominates, but English and German are widely spoken. I don’t test the staff’s Hungarian, but passengers certainly board in Budapest too!

In the morning, the train splits for Rijeka at Ogulin (or if you’re travelling to Rijeka, splits for Split). The final stretch through the mountains is the highlight of the journey, until the whole train squeals with excitement at our first glimpses of the sea.

Split

The maze of Diocletian’s Palace fools even my GPS. When only 20 metres remain to our apartment in the heart of the Old Town, there are streets in 4 directions, and it whirls giddily like a top, clueless as to the direction we’re walking in.

“I think you are looking for me!” exclaims a friendly gentleman in a baseball cap, who turns out to be the owner. He takes us down a side-alley off a side-alley off an alley, and through two iron gates. He shows us around, and then takes me aside. “I have a funny drink for you!” he winks. The fridge is stocked with Croatian orangeade – brand name Pipi.

A mixture of the genuinely Roman, rebuilt Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, modern and lived-in, with some Game of Thrones memorabilia thrown in, Split has enormous charm, its alleys full of sun-seeking Northern Europeans and cats. The Riva, the seafront promenade packed with eateries, has an affluent Mediterranean charm, and it is hard to believe that less than 30 years ago this was a scene of desolation at the heart of a civil war, the hotels full of Bosnian refugees from the hills just inland. (I was shouted out of an otherwise friendly Bureau de Change for daring to try and exchange Serbian dinars- “Dollars, yes! Euro, yes! No Africa! No Makedonia!”)

Bačvice, the town beach, is pleasingly situated next to the end of the railway line. The restaurants are cheap and cheerful, staffed by English-speaking students doing summer jobs. Nataša, a pale waitress with numerous piercings, is genuinely ecstatic that we are reading “actual books”. After taking our order, she stops to comment, “Can I just say- that’s amazing!” I wonder if maybe she is a literature student, an aspiring writer. When she comes back with a tray to collect our empties, I clearly choose the wrong moment to ask her if she herself reads.

“Do I read?” she stutters, miscalculating her balancing act and sending a Bitter Lemon bottle on a downward trajectory that ends in a smash, a spray of shards, and a massive round of applause from the other staff, which soon ripples out to the tables of diners. “Yes,” she says wistfully, returning with a dustpan and brush. “Yes, I do read.” 

We make several day trips from Split: Marjan hillside park is a beautiful walk up steps from the Old Town, passing cave dwellings once inhabited by Christian hermits, to reach leafy Kašjuni beach. We take the local train north in a thunderstorm to Kaštela, with its mansions and towers built to protect the nobility from the Ottomans in the 15th and 16th centuries, including Kaštel Gomilica, another filming location for Game of Thrones (Braavos). It’s a short ferry trip to the beautiful island of Šolta, the site of many battles including in the recent civil war, and now thriving as an independent municipality with helpful tourist office (though when we get to the traditional restaurant up the hill in Grohote which they describe as “mwah mwah mwah!”, a lady says “All my family has gone to Split today. There is no food,” so we have to walk back down again).

We have an even more leisurely last day than planned, due to delays up the line. We check out and leave our luggage, for a last visit to the beach and plate of seafood pasta. The incoming train from Prague is nearly 4 hours late, so our departure will be delayed by at least 2 hours, until the early evening. This is a common occurrence with low-cost airlines of course, but the difference here is that the station platform is 5 minutes walk from the beach, and well-equipped with cheap refreshments. Also, when we finally board, we will have the kind of full-length beds and privacy you can only get in First Class on a long-haul flight!

When the train finally arrives, huge black bin-bags are planted in front of the doors, and Czech children help the elderly local cleaners plonk the filled ones into the supermarket trolleys they use to scoot along the platform- not being Croat speakers, their helpers use a combination of English and beaming grins to communicate. Not for the first time, I am thrilled to be admitted into a hybrid Bohemian-Balkan travel experience.

They don’t just clean the compartments, they hoist shut the windows and pull the curtains, as if the travelling bedrooms will be left to cool for hours. We shuffle on board, and all the compartments are unlocked except ours, which is nearest the door, meaning we completely block the corridor until the guard comes to unlock. She reclaims her own suitcase, which for some reason is under our bed. She slithers around the overweight passengers and over-sized luggage, somehow extricating herself and her luggage like a pink-shirted Regiojet Spiderwoman.

The scenery at sunset is breathtaking, as we creep away from the sea, and the shadows lengthen over the fortifications of Kaštela and the grimy scrapyards of the harbour. We recline, and munch. Above Knin, near the Bosnian (and therefore EU external) border, the moon lights up a ragged wasteland as a skinny grey wolf-cub scuttles along a rusty branch line. According to the map, it leads to Bihać, notorious in the 1990s as the site of a 3-year siege. Hopefully free movement will return to this region one day, and those trains will run again.

The teenagers watch US comedies on the laptop on the upper bunks. I half-register the shunting at Ogulin and Zagreb, and sleep until Gyékényes, where the Croatian and Hungarian Border Forces carry out their pre-dawn inspections. All lavatories (and even the washrooms with sinks) are locked out of service to avoid stowaways. “Német, Német,” mutters the Hungarian guard conspiratorially to his comrades as he takes down our every detail. (We are possibly the only passengers on the train with German paperwork.) He is assiduous in his duties, but uses his visor-mounted torch to cast only a cursory glance at the snorers above.

We read and sleep, and enjoy the hotel-on-wheels pyjama-party that criss-crosses Central Europe, up Lake Balaton to Budapest, sneaking in past Győr to take the suburbs of Bratislava by surprise on the back road, a clanking old freight route. We lean out of the window and take in the scents of dawn, and the sights of a retreating Hungary and gently encroaching Slovakia. We trundle through villages, almost nosing into back gardens, tilting over rivers and through waving cornfields- and then suddenly there is a crumbling concrete monstrosity: a border inspection post. But the train doesn’t need to stop at this now peaceful weed-strewn border, or the next, or the next; and we can cuddle up in our bunks and reminisce.

“I can’t believe this holiday’s nearly over,” says a voice. 

And “I still want that 40-cent apple crumble from the buffet.”

——————————-

Berlin-Prague (EuroCity)

https://www.cd.cz/en/eshop/

Seats booked through České dráhy (Czech Railways), and exact composition of the train checked on Vagon Web. We got a compartment in 2nd class (which we shared for half the journey with another couple). There is 1 socket per compartment and basic wifi. Czech restaurant car serves full meals.

2nd class single €24 adult, €12 child, including seat reservations.

Journey time: 4 hours. Services every 2 hours daily.

Prague-Split (RegioJet)

https://www.regiojet.com/croatia

Free water and coffee, two sockets per compartment and basic wifi. There is no dining car, but a bistro in the Split portion serves hot drinks (including the excellent free espresso) plus slices of cake for 40 cents apiece. There’s also an at-seat menu of cold food and drinks, plus the option of pre-booking sushi and wraps online.

Private couchette compartment one-way €125 (sleeps up to 4 people, with plenty of luggage room).

Journey time: officially 21 hours, but frequently delayed. Less stressful to book a (maybe en-suite?) stop-over on arrival rather than a connecting train. RegioJet operate numerous connecting buses to other resorts using through ticketing. In 2021, the first year of operation, services are nightly in July and August, thrice-weekly in June and September. There are plans to extend the season for 2022.

The Future Of International Train Travel?

The night train from Stockholm to Berlin has arrived.


A lady on the platform started to wave and get excited as the Snälltåget red train engine pulled onto Gleis 3, on-time at 08:52 this morning. She was there to greet her friends.

Simultaneously a FlixTrain appeared on the opposite platform.

Today was a different visit to Berlin’s hbf. A building with fantastic architecture, but often considered confusing number and orientation of platforms. Today, I didn’t get lost. Today was different as a much anticipated service had it’s inaugural service between Sweden and Germany. Excitement was in the air.

Gathered in the middle of the train on the platform, was an assortment of journalists, campaigners, and others passionate about the increase in the number of train services in the EU. And me.

This was the first night train from Stockholm to Berlin. And it had arrived. On time.

This night train is ready for service.

Berlin’s central station is not far from the Government district, and I dare say you could make a 9am meeting there with this train service with international governing bodies. Or you could spend the day seeing the many sights of Berlin, before heading onwards to Prague or Amsterdam?

I’m not a morning person, so had hoped to chat gently with a few people, but I was not as organised as many others. Chatted with Jon, Pro Bahn, and the guy from Back On Track EU who’d been on the train, as well as Thomas from Snälltåget, whilst many journalists interviewed various people.

I was encouraged by the excitement from the press. This surely meant that the Stockholm to Berlin night train service has a future?

For me, this has to be just the start. And with covid issues, it’s the persistence of the Transdev & Snälltåget team that has brought this together. It’s now running. Lots of announcements recently about potential new services, but this one is here!

There’s still covid times challenges – you cannot book an individual bed, but have to book the whole couchette. These are not insurmountable. And actually the price for a family of four works out well when competing with Lufthansa.

For now, it is too soon to predict when individual beds can be sold. There’s not really the appetite for sharing with strangers right now. We (196) had a brief experiment to see if there was people who would share, with the tallget community, but sadly there was not.

It’s an exciting point in the #EUYearOfRail – in many ways, with coivd starting to calm down, it feels like it is only just starting. Perhaps there’s scope for increasing the EUYearOfRail into 2022?

In the meantime, it’s great that companies are starting to roll-out services, and maybe this service will act as a catalyst to announcements for last September’s announced TEE 2.0 network?

A combination of fast trains, and night train services, feels like the future of 2 week tourist travel to those at 196Destinations. It feels like it has to be. But at the same time the industry needs to compete with RyanAir and EasyJet to do it.

And this isn’t just a question of price. It’s about providing destinations people want, and at the right departure and arrival timings in the day, as well style of accommodation and other facilities on board. Perhaps the industry will need to build new rolling stock to cater for new demand, and to encourage the modal shift from air to train to help with the climate emergency.

Time will tell. Lots of work to do. In the meantime, lets enjoy what travel we can do (safely), when it’s possible.

Questions:

M – “I hear this is quite expensive though?” Well, due to the covid situation at the moment, you have to book a whole couchette, but in theory you can get on the train for as little as 49 Euros one way.

Mo – “Does it go through the Oresund link via Copenhagen?” Hey, yes it does cross ‘The Bridge‘ 🙂

Snalltaget Night Train.

Book Berlin to Stockholm by train

18:54 – Depart – Berlin Gesundbrunen or Berlin Hbf (check!)
14:20 – Arrive – Stockholm (the day after)

Daily from June 28 until September 5 and Wednesdays and Saturdays 8 until October 2. Further variations on Sundays.

Book Stockholm to Berlin by train

16:20 – Depart – Stockholm
08:52 – Arrive – Berlin (the day after).

Daily from June 27 until September 5 and Wednesdays and Saturdays until September 29. Further variations on Sunday.

Book This Service

196Destinations.com wants to sell tickets and make it easier for people to book tickets on the top 30 flight routes, and long-distance night services. Join us on this adventure by following us on facebook, instagram, or twitter. Do message with queries, or if you would like to contribute. Lets help people fly a little less.

Madrid To Barcelona By FAST Train

A new 2.5 hour train service has started between Madrid and Barcelona, run by OUIGO.

Finally, there is a choice on the route with both RENFE and OUIGO operating it.

We think the extra cheap train service from Barcelona to Madrid will help save the planet a little bit more, given the route between the two cities is the most popular FLIGHT in the whole EU!! Crazy hey!!

The 1st train from Madrid To Barcelona by OUIGO leaves Madrid-Puerta de Atocha at 07:05. The last train departs Madrid-Puerta de Atocha at 21:00.

Do consider joining Matt’s Patreon to help promote train travel.

Hit play on this video from Matt at NonStopEuroTrip and see how comfortable the OUIGO trains are.

Competition is heating up with Avlo (Renfe) launching on 23rd June, and also ILSA next year.

Perhaps you want to travel next weekend?

Looking at prices generally it looks reasonable and competitive, but at just a week ahead, they are not the very cheapest of prices between 29 and 45 Euros. You could also could upgrade to OUIGO Plus for another 9 Euros, as Matt did in his video.

Looking further ahead then, can we get the 9 Euro price? Yes, but in September.

Looking a more realistic 5 or 6 weeks ahead here are the prices. Some bargains at 15 Euros! Muy bien! More typically 19, 25, and 29 Euros.

READY TO BOOK?

Head on over to OUIGO’s website, and see what great value train tickets you can find from Madrid to Barcelona.

Why not let us know which Madrid hotel and other accommodation options you like? Either on twitter, or you can leave a comment below.

Please like our page on Facebook for more updates.
Or send us your travel pictures to include on our Instagram.

Berlin to Stockholm by night train.

There is a new service operated by established Swedish train company, Snälltåget. A night train from Berlin to Stockholm.

The basic ticket has reasonable price (from 49 Euros). However, with the current environment, you have to book a whole compartment to sleep in – this would normally be suited to up to 6 people. It can make it a little too expensive.

The train leaves Berlin at 19:02, getting to Stockholm, early the afternoon on the day after. On board there is a restaurant we can get brunch before we arrive. Snälltåget uses green energy from water, wind and sun.

Map of route from Berlin to Stockholm, via Hamberg, and Copenhagen.

We would have a (long) weekend in Stockholm, then return to Berlin.

Perhaps 196destinations can make it cheaper though, and connect a few people with flexible travel ideas.

Would you be willing to share with someone else to cut costs? Perhaps they have had a PCR test. Perhaps they have even had the vaccination?

Contact us if you are interested, or leave a comment below with roughly when you are wanting to travel.

196destinations founder Ian, is travelling the route in August or September, after getting his second vaccination in July. I welcome others with a negative corona test or vaccine on my trip. I would probably depart on a Thursday or Friday.

I would like to connect other people so that they can enjoy the night train experience.

Please comment below on when you would like to travel 🙂

Barcelona to Madrid By Train

A new 2.5 hour service has started between Barcelona and Mardid, run by OUIGO.

Finally, there is a choice on the route with both RENFE and OUIGO operating it.

Given the route between the two cities is the most popular FLIGHT in the whole EU, we think the extra cheap train service from Barcelona to Madrid will help save the planet a little bit more.

Work on the go, whilst travelling at high speed.

The 1st train from Barcelona to Madrid is at 0645. Last train at 2045.

Then coming back, the 1st train from Madrid to Barcelona is at 0705. And the last train at 2100.

Looking ahead 2-6 weeks we see plenty of 15, 19, and 25 Euro prices.

Great prices for June and July, 2021.


We are interested in talking to you about travelling. Perhaps we can help you with a transfer to the airport in Madrid, or accommodation in Madrid?

Soon we’ll have a review of the service, but for now please do feel free to leave a comment below, and make sure you enjoy both Barcelona and Madrid this Summer.

Ready to book? BOOK YOUR TRIP FROM BARCELONA TO MADRID NOW

Please like our page on Facebook for more updates.
Get involved in the conversation about the train service to Madrid Airport on Twitter.
Or send us your travel pictures to include on our Instagram.

Thanks for reading.

Amsterdam to Berlin

I was pretty happy to discover a direct train service from Amsterdam to Berlin, and at a reasonable price. Obviously it also operates in the other direction from Berlin to Amsterdam, four times a day.

It is fairly easy to arrive at Amsterdam Centraal station by tram, but if you’re coming from the Noord side then there’s a free ferry – it even takes bikes.

The 15th June saw the borders between Holland and Germany open. So, it was about time I completed my return to Berlin. Finally, I was on my way – this journey was originally to be completed pre-Corona, and from Málaga!

Leaving Amsterdam’s Central Station, you are quickly into countryside, with the expected number of canals, i.e. LOTS! There were a few towns we stopped at that looked like they’d be great places to live if you were commuting into Amsterdam. The train stopped at quite a few of them – confusingly, as there was a platform announcement saying it would not be stopping in Holland.

Onboard, the train attendant was very friendly and you could move from your reserved seat to an unreserved table. Upgrade! Though I wasn’t to realise there was free (working!) wifi until the last hour.

I recommend the NL International app. I used the Android version, and it helped me identify the platforms I needed at Amsterdam Centraal. If you are being met at Berlin Hbf (the central station), it shows the arrival platform for that as well. If you remember to set notifications for the train to ‘on’, it will also update you 10 minutes before the train’s departure time to show any delays. Ours was just slightly delayed leaving, but arrived on time.


I’d long been used to Berlin and Brandenburg being pretty much completely flat, but I was quite surprised to find nearly the whole of the route through Holland and northern Germany to also be as flat a (Dutch) pancake!!

Just one hill, in the distance, somewhere near Hanover. I suspect it was man-made, and built from the digging out of the canals in the area. There was also a small castle-like structure on the hill approaching Hanover.

I wasn’t sure exactly where the border crossing was, but the familiar hunting perch on the edge of a forest indicated we were now in Deutschland. Here the train’s Dutch engine was replaced with a Deutsch one.

Time for a coffee. I ended up chatting with the attendant – she seemed happy that I was spending my shrapnel and had the correct change. They had an actual restaurant carriage, but no more food until after Hanover.

Passed what turned out to be VW’s headquarters and museum.


As we arrived into Spandau, I realised that I could do some programming, as had free wifi. An in joke, it was obviously Ruby On Rails. On Rails!! Don’t worry, I’m laughing to myself – haha.

And so I arrived at Berlin Hbf. Finally. I was three months late, but here I am 🙂 WOOHOOOO! A smooth journey, direct from Amsterdam, and I could be happy that I used seven times less carbon than I would have flying that distance.


References

NL international
Deutch Bahn
NL International App

(June 2020) I paid 43.90 Euros, including the seat reservation fee for the journey, which was scheduled to be 6:52 hours long. 11:03 to 17:55