Brian and I just wrapped up an epic tour of Europe by train with eurail.com. The fun started in Barcelona, Spain and ended five weeks later in Budapest, Hungary. Learn everything you need to know about touring Europe by train.
The churches and castles of Prague embody my deepest childhood nightmares where Grimm’s fairy tales come to life. There are back-alley puppet shops and a Medieval chiming astronomical clock from 1410. A skeleton, the figure of death, rings a bell to mark each hour.
So we finally ventured out into Berlin. It was snowing and cold and I still didn’t want to get out of my pajamas, but I figured I’d be pretty disappointed in myself if the only thing I saw of the city was the subway, the grocery store, and the four white walls of the apartment we rented. So out we stepped into the snow to see the sights of this massive city.
I hit a travel wall in Amsterdam and have yet to peel myself out of the pancake position. We’re in Berlin now. We arrived on a blistery cold day. A heavy wind is whipping down the streets of this massive city. The sun sets before 4 p.m.
We’re in Amsterdam and I’ve hit a travel wall. Amsterdam is a great city but it’s crowded. Yesterday we took a walk into the city center and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. There was too much humans/bicycles/coffee/beer/drugs/bagels/shot glasses/dildos/scarves/you name it.
Last year Brian and I spent Thanksgiving in Puerto Natales, Chile. We’d just returned from walking the W in Torres del Paine National Park. It was snowing. We tromped through the icy streets to the only brewpub in town and, finding it closed, walked across the empty square looking for a place to have dinner.
I drank Trappist beers most of the day. My favorite was Chimay. Brian drank the Lambix Doux and the Kasteel Red. We both liked the Trappist Rochefort. Brian lost his mind over the Cossendonk Christmas Ale. To be fair we rarely meet a beer we don’t like.
Walking away from lunch, Brian and I began talking about all of the kindness we have been shown by complete strangers over this year and a half of traveling. Before we left, before we’d traveled much, we had genuine concerns about our safety. You turn on the television or open the paper and you’d think that humans only do despicable things.
We were freezing so we bought scarves. And then we bought mulled wine to warm our hands and bellies. We walked arm in arm, telling childhood Christmas stories and daydreaming about the Christmases in our future.
We set out today to explore Paris by foot. We spent hours roaming through the Pere Lachaise cemetery where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried. We warmed ourselves inside of the Cathedral of Notre Dame (850 years old this year). We held hands on the bridge of love locks while searching unsuccessfully for one with our names on it.
I love travel days. I love them because after the stress of figuring out which train to catch or where your bus is parked or how to say, “is there a bathroom onboard?” in a foreign language; the time comes when the wheels hit the road and the train slides out of the station and you are in motion.
On most days emails overrun my inbox. I get fifty by morning, at least, that require answering. A few of them are normally soul-bearing things, notes from people who are delicately balanced on the edge of their dream and searching desperately for reassurance.
It’s true that I’ve only been in rural southern France for 3 days but I realized in an instant that these roads are a runners dream. I’ve already explored them for hours, setting out alone down the empty gravel streets to the sound of the birds in the trees and my own rhythmic breathing.
“We’ll shop like the French,” said Hannah, handing me a woven basket. Then we set off to wind our way down ancient cobbled streets, past farmer’s stalls and bread stands and impressive displays of French cheese.
The train stops. Waves of riders disembark and a new crowd filters on. Already, the French are dressed impeccably. The men sit in their tweed pea coats, the collars turned upward in an easy air of style. Women walk past us, a splash of red lipstick. The smell of their perfume lingers once they’ve gone.
I’m thrilled to announce that Brian and I will be working with Eurail.com and have in hand two Eurail global passes that will allow us to ride the trains through 24 European countries over the next month.