A European train travel adventure

A train station for a guest post on Brads Backpack on european train travel by Lizet from A Wanderfood Life

Europe is the perfect continent for train travel. Most countries have an extensive rail network and are well-connected with their surrounding countries. Travelling cross-country is easy, with the possibility to buy cross-country tickets at once. I did my first big cross-country train travel trip through Europe, and I can’t recommend it enough. The changing scenes, the stunning views, the slow travel and the fact that you get to see so many places in just 1 trip. I just love it! Here’s my experience.

European train trip route

I’m from The Netherlands and my train trip was going to end in Budapest, Hungary. Quite the journey, although you’d be able to get there in about 30 hours if you do it in one go. I decided that’s no fun and I had places on the way that I wanted to see, so I booked myself a 14-day journey to get to Budapest. Passing the following stops:

  • Cologne, Germany
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Bad Gastein, Austria (a small town in the Austrian Alps, south of Salzburg),
  • Graz, Austria (purely to break the long journey)
  • And of course, the final destination, Budapest

It would be super easy to do this trip in a 2-week holiday, but I decided to take my time in the mountains. But it’s perfectly doable to get to Budapest in 11 days. So, add another day from London, and you’d have 2 days to explore Budapest.

From big cities to stunning nature

I made a train travel adventure through Southern Germany the year before, and that was basically this trip in a smaller version. It left me wanting more, so I soon started planning more train trips. I discovered how easy it is to go between big cities and stunning nature, with just a short trip. A train will get you to places that a flight will never even come near. Sure, you can fly to that big city and do daytrips, but it’s not the same. You have so much more freedom if you take the full trip by train.

Austria train window view for guest post on Brads Backpack on european train travel by Lizet from A Wanderfood Life

From the big city Cologne

Coming from The Netherlands, going through Germany again was inevitable. Luckily, this is such a great country, I don’t think I’ll be out of places to visit for a very long time. So, I decided to take a few days to explore the city of Cologne, which I skipped on my previous trip. Which is such an adorable city, with a great vibe. Did you know it houses the most popular tourist attraction in Germany? Yup, it beats anything Berlin has to offer. The Kölner Dom, the church, attracts an impressive 20.000 visitors on a daily basis! Worth a visit, don’t you think?

To a small town in the mountains

But from this big tourist hotspot, it was only a few more hours to get to the mountains of Austria. I took a train to Salzburg to explore this city for a bit before I headed into the mountains. It was a bit boring to be fair, but it was a nice stop in between. The benefits of trains is that if it’s not as great as you imagined, you can just move on to the next stop. Imagine flying to a city in a different country and hating it. And you literally just booked a week in that city. Would be a waste of vacation days and money. Trains will never let you down like that.

So after 2 days of mostly sunbathing, because I did get lucky with stunning weather, it was time to cross off a big bucketlist item for me. Hiking in the Austrian Alps! A certain virus messed up my plans a few years early, and it has been in the works ever since. You know how sometimes high expectations can lead to disappointment? Because you just build it up to something epic in your mind, it’s hardly ever going to be this amazing. Well, not with the Alps. Even though I managed to plan my trip in a way that the 4 rainy days in June were exactly the 4 days I was there, it was still an epic part of the trip! I love mountains. It’s very hard to mess up my mountain experiences. But the way my jaw dropped over and over when a new view arose behind the trees. I can only recommend visiting this region!

Bad Gastein cable car for a guest post on Brads Backpack on european train travel by Lizet from A Wanderfood Life

Mountain views from the train

And the good thing? It’s super easy to get around Austria by train, including through the mountains. And even the views along the way are so worth the trip! I would never even consider taking a night train through Austria (or Switzerland for that matter) because I wouldn’t get to enjoy the stunning view along the way. Which is just one of many reasons why train travel is such a great way to travel. You just extend the joy of your hiking trip by slowly leaving the views behind. It’s no fun to hop on a plane and just be back home in a few hours and it feels like your trip was already weeks ago. By going by train, you get to enjoy your surroundings a little bit longer.

Unexpected places

And you get to visit places that were never even really on your radar. I’ve heard about Graz from friends, but it wasn’t exactly on my bucketlist. However, I had the option to travel through Vienna or Graz. Since I’d been to Vienna, I opted for a new place to discover. Isn’t that why we travel? To discover new places? At least I do. I never related to the people who went back to the same place, every single holiday. Doesn’t that get insanely boring? Nah, I’ll opt for the adventure of undiscovered places any day. So, Graz it was. Honestly, I liked it better than Salzburg, which wás on my radar. So that just shows, how the unexpected places you pass can surprise you.

Bucharest Parliment building for a guest post on Brads Backpack on european train travel by Lizet from A Wanderfood Life

Final destination

No, I didn’t get into a train crash like probably happened in one of the final destination movies (am I old?). I actually reached my destination without any major issues. The train from Salzburg to Bad Gastein was pretty stuffed because they decided to make regional travel free (too bad I pre-bought my ticket before they decided on that). So yes, I would hop on a train for a weekend getaway as well if it’s free. But no delays and no issues. About 30 hours of travel and I safely made it to Budapest!
I could have taken a flight. Actually, I was looking into flights for travel inspiration, and I found a € 35 ticket from The Netherlands to Budapest. But that seemed too boring. What was I going to do from there? If I had bought that flight, I wouldn’t have seen those amazing mountain ranges in the Alps. I wouldn’t have randomly met people in Cologne who invited me to a Drum ‘n bass party in apparently one of the world’s most famous clubs. And my only views would have most likely been clouds and more clouds.

Train trips are adventures

I’d opt for a train trip any time, as long as I have time for it. With proper planning, it’s not even that much more expensive. I paid €150 for this entire trip, and the difference with the €35 was so worth the adventure and views! It’s my favourite way of transport, and it probably always will be. I don’t hate flying, but I also can’t say I really see what the fuss is all about. So, I’m here to convince you to try a train trip instead. Did it work? 😊

Hi, I’m Lizet and I’m a sustainable travel agent. Which means, I help other people plan their sustainable (train) trips. Like I said, there are so many more options when you travel by train so I can totally understand you might feel overwhelmed! I’m here to help. Feel free to reach out or plan your own trip with one of my train travel guides.

— Lizet, Awanderfoodworld.com

Austria train window view for guest post on Brads Backpack on european train travel by Lizet from A Wanderfood Life

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