Not everyone has an affinity for long train journeys. To begin with there’s the issue of with whom chance will bestow you as a companion; with anyone there’s the awkward wiggle out when you have a window seat and these trains are the stuff of talkers’ dreams – you’d be surprised how much life history you can get through during 4 hours. Yet, I absolutely relish the free time. There’s something very relaxing and romantic about watching the outside world go by whilst you remain free from it, tucked away in your cosy carriage. Apart from during long flights, when else do you have seven hours to play with, no distractions (and no obligations because you’re still traveling and therefore obviously busy) and – if you’re on the right train – wonderful views?
That’s why, as I traveled back to St. Andrews for my last semester ever, nostalgia hit. As with most things, we only begin fully to appreciate them when their end is in sight. So it was only then that I began to see past the necessity and utility of the trip and simply enjoy it for its misty seascape affording self…and to despair. This time next year when I’m employed in a full-time, vastly engaging, extremely important, high-pressure job, will I get the chance to hop on a 7 hour train and simply while the time away? Even worse, as a fully functioning adult will I ever get that much free time again full stop?! That’s why – panic over – I’ve compiled a list of some of Europe’s best train journeys. Whether you’re an alarmed final year student like me who needs to start booking in your holidays to ensure some guaranteed window watching hours, or simply fancy a different kind of trip this spring break, here’s a list of some of the most scenic European trains. So you can hop on, sit back and watch the awe-inspiring scenery drift past before your eyes…
Chur, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy
Possibly the most famous European train journey- part of this journey is even classified as a UNESCO world heritage route – the Bernina Express is fully equipped with panoramic windows to ensure you can’t miss the breathtaking views of Swiss glaciers and iconic bridges like the Landwasser valley viaduct. Clinging to the sheer Alpine cliffs, this track is an engineering feat and surely one of best ways see the last of the winter snow capping the peaks.
Myrdal to Flaam, Norway
Not for the faint-hearted, this Nordic train climbs at a gradient of 5.5% for 80% of the journey. However, similarly to the Bernina, its steep cliffs provide awesome views across ravines, and an additional feature that the Bernina lacks, waterfalls. After descending the mountains, the train passes through rolling hills complete with red Norwegian cottages and pointy Stave churches before arriving at the destination of the fjord of Aurlandsfjord.
Paris to Nice
If you’d prefer a slightly warmer clime, this high-speed train will take you to the azure waves of the Riveria, with an aperitif in hand, in what seems like no time at all. That’s thanks to the vineyards, viaducts and Provencal fields of lavender distractions along the way.
Moscow to Vladivostok
If you’re a hard-core train enthusiast then the longest single train journey you can make awaits you on the Trans-Siberian. This one isn’t technically in Europe and because of daylight hours it would probably be best to wait until a little later in the year, but seeing as this is about long train journeys, I couldn’t leave it out. The others may have the heights, but they soon pale in comparison to the vastness visible on the Trans-Siberian. On view is also an immense waterscape, as the train has a 180km stretch alongside Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake.
London/ York to Leuchars
London- 6 h
As I couldn’t leave out the inspiration behind these trips, if you’re jetting off to more exotic places for spring break or busy with more taxing tasks you can always get your train fix a little closer to home by taking the train from London, or if you’d rather skip a few fields and townscapes and get straight to the spectacular scenes – from York onwards. Past Durham’s hill-perched Cathedral, the train also winds along the unspoiled Northumbrian coast – so close that at points making you feel as though the train were floating above the sea. If that doesn’t seem enticing enough, there’s also the tiny, uninhabited islands that you can spot underneath the Forth Bridge as you cross the immense Forth estuary and of course, (as I’m sure you’re well aware), the views up to Edinburgh’s medieval and new towns as the train pulls right into the valley of Edinburgh.
Glasgow to Mallaig
If you’re a seasoned East Coast traveler, then there’s always the West Highland Line for a change. This leaves from Glasgow and passes several lochs and the famous Harry Potter (Glenfinnan) bridge before arriving in Mallaig – your gateway to the Isle of Skye and other isles for a short Scottish expedition…well you might as well try to fit in a Scottish trip, you’ve got to make the most of it before reality calls and it’s too late!
Images sourced from Pinterest