Less than two minutes after walking into the ticket office at the train station I walked back out into the streets of Lucerne holding my freshly printed train ticket to Vienna. Sure, I would have to travel from Lucerne to Zurich on Switzerland’s train system and then switch to Austria’s international rail service that would take me the rest of the way, but with my Eurail Global Pass, the two separate trips were treated as one journey, making the reservation process as hassle-free as possible.
I simply informed the ticket agent of my desired final destination as well as the day and approximate time I wished to travel and she immediately printed out two tickets, one for each leg of the trip. And that was it. Done deal.
Then, the following morning, I returned to the train station and the actual train journey began, a journey that started off with a smooth 50-minute ride to Zurich, an easy transfer to my next train and even better, the discovery that I would be sitting next to a Tibetan monk who was on his way to a Buddhism conference in Salzburg, Austria. We ended up chatting for almost an hour, sharing stories of Dharamasala, India as well as recipes for spinach and cheese momos, until the ticket collector came by and kindly pointed out to the monk that he was sitting in the wrong train car. Of course, being a Tibetan monk, Joshi took this news quite well, laughing and smiling the entire time as he gathered his backpack, shook my hand and said goodbye.
With Joshi gone, I settled into my seat and hoped that the remaining 8 hours wouldn’t be too painful. Little did I know at the time just how painless this journey would prove to be. In fact, this was perhaps the most comfortable, and easiest, long-distance journey I’ve ever taken in all my travels, on any form of transportation. Not only were the seats uber comfortable, the leg room more than sufficient for a giant, the train cars spotless and the staff friendly, but the on board menu was also impressive (food and drinks did cost extra but were reasonably priced) and every seat had it’s own personal plug outlet. As a result, and while sipping tea and nibbling on a sandwich, it didn’t take long for me to realize why so many travelers rave about train travel in Europe.
And apart from the comfort level being top notch, it was actually the scenery that lined this route, from the moment I boarded the train in Lucerne until the moment I disembarked the train in Vienna, that made this first leg of my Eurail adventure so truly memorable.
From the Swiss Alps to the Austrian Alps, from Buchs to Bludenz, Landeck-Zams to Innsbruck, Salzburg to Linz, this was the kind of scenery that any normal human being could stare at, in complete awe, for hours and hours on end, which, in my case, was perfect considering that it took nine hours to reach my destination. At one point, I decided to turn on my laptop and start watching a movie, but after 30 minutes I realized that I had not been paying attention at all as I remained fixated on the mountains and country villages passing by. So I turned the movie off and closed my laptop.
I might have taken a short nap at around hour five, and I did read a few pages of my book at around hour seven as well, but in reality, when the announcement was made that Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna) would be the next stop, I found it difficult to believe that 9.5 hours had passed. I literally walked off of that train feeling as fresh as if I had just taken an all-inclusive holiday to a Greek island.
And so the first leg of my Eurail adventure came to an end, with me not only looking forward to spending some time wandering around the Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz in Vienna, but also looking forward to the next travel day of this trip. I must come clean and admit that I was not expecting to enjoy train travel this much but with my Eurail Global Pass in hand and a dozen destinations ahead of me, I can’t think of any other method of transportation I’d rather use to explore this continent.
While this is my own adventure, I must make a note that Eurail.com has provided my Eurail Pass as part of their Blogger Project for 2011. With that said, I am completely free to write about my journey as I see fit (I would never participate in any project that would not allow me to do so) and as always, my posts are my own words based upon my own personal experiences.
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[…] in Romania before continuing on into Bulgaria, where I hoped to spend the final week or so of my Eurail Adventure. However, three weeks later, I still had yet to leave Romania. My experiences from Transylvania to […]
I miss the trains in Europe it is so easy to travel there!
[…] I knew this wasn’t as efficient a train system as in Switzerland or Austria, but I still wasn’t expecting it in Romania. Apparently, however, that’s how things […]
[…] I was still a little weary as I had been required to book a seat for my earlier train trip from Lucerne to Vienna. Well, of course the ticket office was correct and I had dozens of empty seats to choose from. And […]
Can’t beat a good food cart on a train, but yeah the scenery looks awesome!
Hey Earl, your pictures are looking really good. I think I remember reading a post where you lamented your photography skills, what are you doing different? I’m looking for a good travel camera for my trip starting in January and welcome any suggestions. What kind of camera are you using?
Hey Meg – The only thing I’m doing differently is taking more photos and trying out many different settings. I used to take one shot and then walk away but now I take several of everything. My camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ-40 which I really do love, especially for it’s excellent HD video capabilities. There are different versions of Panasonic Lumix cameras as well and I’ve rarely heard a bad word about any of them, especially the smaller versions that are often classified as the perfect travel camera. I believe it’s called the Lumix ZS-10.
Oh, Earl, reading this makes me feel right at home!
In the last couple of years, I must have travelled the stretch between Feldkirch and Vienna, what, 10 times in each direction, and each time before boarding the train, I think “oh no, not again”, and like you try to watch something on my laptop, but once I get west of Salzburg, my eyes start wandering out to the fields and mountains outside, which are spectacular any time of year and I find myself unable to pay attention to my laptop screen.
However, I personally don’t like the Railjet trains, at least not the second class (which is how I’ve always travelled on them) as it’s much too much like being on an aeroplane with insufficient legroom and the inability to recline the seat. I often go out of my way to take a regular ÖBB Intercity train, even if it takes a bit longer. Sounds like you found it fine though. Perhaps I expect too much!
Hey Sam – Maybe if I took the train a dozen or so times myself I’d feel the same way but for my first long-distance European train journey, I was impressed. Maybe it’s because I really only have India’s trains to compare it to!
But that really is a great stretch of scenery and if it was able to capture your attention after riding through the region ten times, you can imagine what it must be like for an Austrian train rookie!
This post makes me want to expedite the trip I’m planning! I just want to drop everything and GO! It’s impossible until next year though. Too many other things going on here 🙂
I’m so glad you’re enjoying your trip and that you’ve been able to share so many great pictures and experiences with us. You always say you love your readers, please know that we love you too! Maybe sometime next year we’ll meet in passing 🙂
Hey Michele – Thank you for that 🙂
And don’t worry, your trip will arrive soon enough. Just think of how excited you’ll be when that day does come to begin the journey!! It will be quite an unreal experience I’m sure!
I traveled through wels & Salzburg in Austria on my way to Ljubljana in Slovenia and I loved the scenery along this route.I too traveled 1st class and yes, a Eurail global pass is real convenient. If you have time when you visit Slovenia,do visit the castle on the hill(walk up,come down by cable car) in Ljubljana ,amazing views all around-I couldn’t make it to Lipica(famous for it’s 400yr stud farm) for want of time but,it’s not far by train from Ljubljana. Have fun,keep posting.
Hey Charmine – Thank you for those tips about Slovenia! I just arrived this evening and when I saw the castle on the hill, I knew right away that I will make it up there at some point during my stay. And I’ll look into Lipica as well…so many great places to visit in this small country 🙂
Just want to add that Bled is a charming town,1 hr away from Ljubljana by bus & 1/2hr by train-there up on a hill by the lake is a lovely castle and in the middle of the lake a church.As you say there’s so much to see in Slovenia.
Hey Charmine – I actually went to Bled yesterday and spent the entire day there! Charming is an understatement as everywhere I wandered I found myself staring out at what has to be some of the most impressive views on the planet. Such a beautiful town/lake/castle/island!!
WOW! Glad you got to see Bled.Spectacular indeed! Love Slovenia!
I enjoyed using the one month Global pass with my mom(74yo) and my sister(44 yo) last autumn 2009 and we loved it. My mom at her age also love the train. We covered Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And I am looking forward to doing again the same trip in Europe using the Global Pass. Switzerland is just amazing I have been in that country 4 times and I am still complete awed by its beauty. And the the Swiss trains oh…just great!
I agree that the train experience might vary from country to country like in Italy where we could go cheap by taking those regional trains or the high speed trains for a bit more expensive reservation fee, its really up to you. But train travel in Europe I think is remarkable.
Hey Gladys – That sounds like such a wonderful trip you had with your mom and sister, especially considering the countries you visited. And I can see how one would become so addicted to Switzerland. It really is such a beautiful, lovable country 🙂
Sounds like you’ll be back again in the near future!!
It was a treat reading your blog!! It makes me so nostalgic of my recently concluded trip in 4 countries in Europe. The Eurail pass is a complete treat in every which way!! Wish you a lovely trip ahead and some great journeys with the pass!!
Will look forward to reading more about the rest of your trip.
Thank you Amisha!! And it’s great to know that you had such a good time over here in Europe as well 🙂 You’re right about the Pass as well….it makes traveling on this continent so incredibly easy!
Although train travel in europe can be amazing, I think it varies a bit from country to country.. in the heat of the Italian summer in an over crowded stoptrein for 8 hours with uncomfortable seats my experience was a bit different. All in the name of cheap travel I’m sure the more expensive speedtrains were more comfortable and probably air conditioned. I can’t wait to take some train trips through northern europe, possibly from Copenhagen to Oslo in february
Hey Christina – I’m sure it does vary by country but in reality, a two-month Global Pass that allows you to travel in First Class is not a bad deal at all. Of course there are cheaper ways to do it, ways that are less comfortable, but it is quite surprising how little it can cost to travel well around this continent.
And your norther European trip in February sounds ideal, although somewhat cold 🙂 But seeing that part of the world in the winter would certainly be a beautiful sight!!
Eagerly awaiting your next bloG!! Hope you are having a great time!! Do share more about where all are you planning to go!! It would also be nice to know about some interesting trivia from those places!!! Cheers
Thanks Amisha! Plenty more is on the way…and I’d love to share more about where I’m heading but I don’t know the specific places yet 🙂 It is looking like Bosnia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria…so that’s an outline of an itinerary I guess!
Yes this is a stunning trip, and you had one of the best trains available – the Railjet (although it is sometimes contested, because it gives you a bit of an airplane feeling….).
I am often wondering why so many people from oversea travel first class in Europe, until someone told me that the price difference between the two classes is not so huge. When you buy a ticket in Austria for example, you pay the double price for the first class ticket.
Good luck with your trip….
Hey Silvia – The Railjet is quite impressive! And you’re right about the difference in prices. Also, it depends on the length of the journey as for shorter trips, second class would be perfectly fine while helping travelers save a little extra money to be spent elsewhere.
I appreciate your comment!!
Earl nice to hear you enjoy your adventure so far. I can’t wait to read more….!
Thanks Rick! I’ll be heading off on the second leg of the journey tomorrow as I travel to Slovenia 🙂
Hey I´d love to hear about Slovenia, we are going this next summer, to Ljubljana.. We are pumped about some of those eastern Europe destinations that you are going to be hitting up!
Hey Marc – I’m actually in Ljubljana right now and originally I had planned to stay only 2-3 days. But I just went to the hostel reception desk and reserved another 4 nights! That’s the kind of place this city is….very addicting 🙂
Great perspective for those of us who may get too comfortable with super-smooth, efficient European transport systems and take train rides such as this for granted. All the best in Vienna and onward!
Thanks Eric! These trains (at least this one in particular) are in a class of their own!
Nicely done my friend and so happy you had such a great experience. I too have had wonderful journeys on the rails. Make sure you do an overnight adventure as well..you’ll never forget it!! Stunning pics of the countryside too!!!
Hey Jeff – An overnight adventure is in the plans for sure!! It’s quite easy to get used to this method of transportation around here 🙂
Looks like a fun way to travel. Do you have such a nice seating area because of the car you’re in or are they all like that? What kind of car was Joshi supposed to be in?
Looking forward to your adventures in Vienna!
Hey Steve – Every train is different but on this particular train there were 3 classes – Premium Class, First Class and Second Class. My Eurail Pass is valid for First and Second Class travel and I was sitting in first class on this trip. Second class looked quite comfy as well and I wouldn’t have minded spending 9 hours in one of those cars either. Joshi had a First Class ticket but for a different car. I guess monks travel well too 🙂
Earl, I did that Zurich to Vienna route five times in the past six weeks — Innsbruck to Feldkirch (for Liechtenstein), Feldkirch to Innsbruck (for Seefeld), Innsbruck to Salzburg, Salzburg to Vienna, and Vienna to Salzburg. And I was just as transfixed as you — the scenery was absolutely unbelievable, and I had no idea that Austria would be so beautiful in the summertime! If you get any rainstorms, look up — the mountains will have a fresh coating of snow!
Enjoy your trip…I hope to do more train travel in Europe myself this year! 🙂
Hey Kate – This is surely one of those journeys where even after five times one would still be fascinated by the scenery! It really was far more impressive than I ever imagined.
And I hope you enjoy the rest of your travels as well!