Often described as Europe’s last wilderness, Sweden’s remote and sparsely populated far north is a land of striking beauty – and in summer it’s easy to visit without a car or plane. The slow trains of the Inlandsbanan, or Inland Line, take you through a landscape of forests, heathland, lakes and rivers. On the way, reindeer and elk cross the tracks. Ahead of you, over a thousand miles of wild nature and endlessness. Welcome to life in the slow lane.
Our favourite train routes from around the world
As you stand on the banks of the Rhine and look out over this mighty river, many words come to mind. Enchanting, formidable, majestic. It’s hard to imagine that at its source you can step right over it in a single stride. Intrigued, I recently travelled to Lake Toma, Switzerland, by bike and train to see for myself the Rhine at its humble source.
From Europe’s longest bar to a wholesome beer spa, via some life-saving beer tunnels: we travelled with an Interrail Pass from Rotterdam to Pilsen visiting some of Europe’s best breweries, bars, beer gardens and cellars. We immersed ourselves in history… and eventually in beer too.
The highlands, the sea, the whisky, Harry Potter… there are many reasons to travel to Scotland and there’s no better way to cross the rugged highlands than by train. The West Highland Line is considered one of the most beautiful stretches in the world and the train even takes you to places that are inaccessible by car.
Across Europe, thousands of miles of railway have been abandoned over the years and left to rust. But in one German town, an old line that once transported Prussian troops and military equipment and later shuttled children to and from school has been brought back to life. Today, you can enjoy a ride along the disused railway on a draisine— or rail bike.
The tiny red and white trains of the narrow-gauge Pinzgaubahn make their way slowly through Austria’s Pinzgau Valley for 53 km. Villages and picturesque churches dot the landscape as you head towards one of the highlights at either end of the line – the Zeller See and the famous Krimml Waterfalls, the highest in central Europe.
There’s no better way to discover a country than from the gently rocking first-class carriage of a train winding its way through deep gorges and mountain passes. Croatian Railways may not rival the glamour of the Orient Express and the gentle rocking may not always be quite so gentle, but the landscape you pass through is all the more impressive.
May 8, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the surrender of the Wehrmacht in Berlin, which brought the Second World War to an end in Europe. As the last remaining witnesses to these dark pages of history pass away, many places of reflection and commemoration are only gaining in significance.
In these strange times of self-isolation and social distancing we find ourselves in, it’s hard not to feel a little disconnected from the world going on around us. A world which, for now at least, we’re forbidden from venturing out into.
But being stuck in our homes does not mean we have to press pause on our sense of adventure. Travelling is about far more than just transporting yourself from A to B. It’s about discovery and learning and letting your inquisitive side take over. And thankfully you can do all of this now from the comfort of your own home. So grab your phone or tablet or even stream it on your TV and join me on a stroll through some of Europe’s greatest museums, just without the queues and admission fees.