Travelling by rail through Europe – and how quickly things have changed

Last month I wrote this post about our impending travels through Europe. 20 days, 11 trains and seven countries later we returned home with heaps of washing, very few souvenirs and lots of amazing memories.

We saw some wonderful sights: huge cathedrals, stunning countryside, lakes and mountains, historic cities and cultural sites.

Travelling by train proved to be so easy and hassle free. We were only delayed twice (both short delays on Eurostar). Booking through the fantastic Loco2 website proved to be so easy (despite my doubts about paperless ticketing). And, yes our £22 individual tickets from Paris to Milan (7 1/2 hour journey) really were valid! The trains were amazing – the majority of them were roomy and comfortable and we even experienced the dining carriage while travelling through the Brenner Pass in Austria.

Our kids became great train travellers, managing to climb aboard each carriage, find their seats and then occupy themselves for up to seven hours.

However I feel that I can’t finish this post without commenting on how much the Europe that we travelled through only one month ago has changed.

It seems incredible to think that less than a month ago we were at Munich train station. Since then the city has seen tens of thousands of refugees arrive. It is amazing to think that we were able to travel freely through seven countries, barely having to show our passports because of the Schengen Agreement which allows/did allow for document-free border crossings. We weren’t turned away at borders, we didn’t have to fight to get on board trains or sleep outside railway stations. At the end of our holiday we could return to our own safe island.

Yet as I write the European continent is now struggling with 400,000 refugees. This has become the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War and it shows no sign of improving.

Red Cross Refugee Crisis Appeal

UNHCR Appeal


6 thoughts on “Travelling by rail through Europe – and how quickly things have changed

  1. What a lovely thoughtful post. Really striking to think about the huge difference in what travel and free movement can mean to people in different circumstances too.

  2. Yes, it is shocking what some people are going through. I’m glad you had a good holiday and I’m glad you pointed out that for some their experience of Europe will not be half so pleasant…

  3. Yes, it’s very sobering isn’t it to reflect on the vast differences between our experiences travelling through Europe by train and the experience of refugees and migrants. It was a constant through for me throughout our holiday this year, and one I’m still trying to ‘process’ and think how to address it. But what I do know is that I want to take some kind of supportive action within my own community. I just need to figure out what.

  4. Thank you for all your comments. We had a couple of very small experiences with the migrant/refugee crisis (our train from Italy was stopped at the German border for 30 minutes while immigration police came on board and – very calmly and politely – took about 15 young men off the train who didn’t have the appropriate paperwork. I believe they were from Africa, rather than Syria). One of the things I felt most was that I was an observer and – call it middle class guilt – wished that I had been able to help more. I do feel that, at present, we are rather isolated from the day to day crisis in mainlaind Europe.
    Deborah, have you looked at CalAid Bath?( They seem to be quite active and, at present, are raising funds to send a van with supplies to Calais next month. It’s hard to know what is the appropriate things to give but I know they are also working with Harvest Healthfood Store where people can donate money so Harvest can assemble food packages.

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