Really loved Charlotte Gore’s blog post about taking the California Zephyr, a truly epic four-day train journey the entire length of the USA, from New York to San Francisco
[W]aking up in Denver and then making our way through the most literally breathtaking landscape I’ve ever seen – first the Colorado Rockies then watching the sun go down on the monumentally epic mountains in Utah… I don’t know how I’m going to ever be content with Yorkshire now. Damn. The day after the train goes through the Sierra Nevada mountains and it’s goo goo time, your brain is gone. That’s it.
America… it turns out… is a truly beautiful country. The magnificence of the scenery is then added to by the sheer audacity, courage and engineering-fu to build a train line all the way through it, not to mention everything else they’ve done to this continent.
The only halfway epic rail journeys I’ve done have been sleeper trains across Europe – from Magdeburg to Paris when I switched countries half way through my degree year abroad; and more recently I travelled to Munich by sleeper. On the return leg of that journey, I had the brain-wrenching experience of trying to translate from German to French whilst half asleep at 3am. ((“‘Travailler’, das heisst reisen, oder? / Nein, ‘travailler’ das heisst arbeiten”)) I had been rather surprised that in the four berth sleeper car, it was me and a woman who got on two hours after me, when all the literature suggested the sleeper cars would be segregated by gender. Three hours into the night, and the German woman woke me up to tell me that her handbag had been stolen – lifted off her feet by someone who opened the door from the outside. I helped a little in the conversation between the French-speaking guard and the German woman. In fact, I had probably heard the burglary happen whilst barely asleep, as the door opening makes a noise. I had just assumed it was my co-passenger getting up for a toilet break.
So, if you ever travel by sleeper train, make sure you lock your door at night.
USA, Europe – I have occasionally been reading the website www.seat61.com and getting carried away by the ideas of some of the epic journeys you can do – in particular, the 9 day journey from London to Beijing, via Brussels, Cologne, Moscow and the Trans-Mongolian or the Trans-Siberian railway.
Just how many books would you need to occupy yourself in all that time? ((would it be safe to take one’s Amazon Kindle or would it be flaunting Western wealth and inviting robbery? Would you even be able to charge it?)) How much would it be entertaining and how much of an ordeal?
I particularly like the detail that Russian trains have a samovar in each compartment, so if you stock up with tea bags and instant soup you can provide some of your own food.
A more general problem with holidays and travel
I’m skint and fairly time poor. As a result of making a few ferry journeys, investing a wee bit of an inheritance in HPB, and joining the Camping and Caravanning club, ((I want to build a camping pod in the garden to replace the current battered shed)) every week brings more and more interesting glossy holiday brochures through the letter box.
There are all these wonderful offers and interesting places to visit, and there’s little prospect of me being able to do any more than a fraction of them. Meh.