Recapturing the Magic of Travel (via Train)

Written by  Kat Mackintosh

There is something romantic about train travel. It’s the fading grandeur of another era, dressing for cocktails in the restaurant car, porters and attendants scurrying up and down the isles with pressed clothes and silver trays, quietly sliding open polished, warm wood doors, the slight wriggle it adds to a well dressed woman’s walk or to your cup of tea in bone china, or to your properly made martini from the piano bar car.. The Orient Express, The Trans-Siberian, The Red Arrow from St. Petersburg, authors have written these journeys, and Hollywood has glamourised them further, adding extra red lipstick, pearls, guns and intrigue.

And every moment of a train journey has connotations of romance, from pulling out of the station, blowing kisses to your lover in a cloud of steam - or watching them running to catch up with the train, jumping onto the last carriage, pulled in with help from the perfect porters - or waving farewell from the window, going off to war, one person in an ocean of waving... To clandestine meetings in station cafes, stolen moments in tiny cabins, spies climbing out windows onto the tracks or the roof, to sleeping in bunk beds that have curtains and which you have to pull down from the wall. Obviously I could just go on and on.

If slow food has come back, slow travel hasn’t quite, yet, but actually experiencing the distance you’re covering and the landscape you’re passing through can be miles more pleasant than sitting, cooped up in a tiny pressurised cabin fragranced with eau de sock, amongst shiny faced people wearing sweats. If you can spare the time, travelling by train can be part of the experience of travelling. In your seat on a train you’re in an enforced state of calm; moving already, there is no need for momentum but you’re not there yet, so you’re limited to the activities at hand: reading, writing, thinking, looking out the window…and these are the kinds of things I would like time to do more of. Static, yet there’s the exciting edge of anticipation, the possibility that comes with arriving somewhere new.

The changing panorama outside your window more often than not provides a lot to ponder, the vast red expanses of the Australian red centre, the bright, unexpected colours of small Indian towns or the sweeping view of Mont Blanc and the alps. Places ‘to pass through’ can offer a surprising rich sojourn, a way to capture the real thrill of travelling and maybe have some unexpected thoughts or encounters. Like they used to.

Top train journeys

Comments by other travellers

I also consider it as educational tour for my four-year old son. For him, it's already an adventure.

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