Picturesque is small and unknown

Normandy vista

This is part two of the series “Ah bummer – Entertaining mistakes to avoid when train hiking in Europe

#3 Why the most advertised places are the ones you want to avoid for a truly unique experience.

When I first started travelling by train in Europe, I went to the most known places. Like Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Prague. You get it. I was just overwhelmed by the abundance of choice. Take a look at the small Interrail map that you get when you purchase your railpass. All those little dots with names next to them. Yes, they all have regional trains passing through them. So I chose to simplify by going to the places most people take a flight to. And was I disappointed. The time to travel by train to the cities mentioned doesn’t stack up against the possible fun you can have on location. Even moreso if you are so intent on making it there that you forget about all the smaller places that rush through with regional trains.
So after a couple of Interrail trips I began to focus on less planning and more feeling as I went. The one rule of thumb I have since then is to avoid the larger cities in Europe. Instead I choose to go to farflung places, often close to nature or known for some cultural or historical fact that has stuck with me from books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, or simply stories from my parents about where they used to go. Strangely it turns out not much inspiration comes from people I meet in daily life. Many simply follow the herd mentality and go where “the others” go.

#4 When slow, think bus.

In some countries the trains are just so very, very slow.
Some regional trains are so slow that it will take you half a day or more to travel a relatively short distance. Therefore I suggest that you always check out what possibilities you have to travel with Eurolines or other local bus services. Just because you have a railpass doesn’t mean that you have to use it everytime you want to go to a new place.
These days passenger bus lines in Europe sport wireless Internet, snacks and drinks. With that in mind and prices that usually range in tens or twenties of Euros you can probably take the cramped space for a couple of hours to get to that dream location you have in mind.

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