I really like international train travel-watching the world pass by from the window, the chance to stretch your legs when you’re tired of sitting, the ease of jumping to the station, the pure excitement to arrive elsewhere. country where you started.
So, with two of my sons studying in different European countries and the third having a half-term break from school, the obvious way to make sure we’re all together for some days are flying to one city and from another. with a train ride in the middle.
Leaving Dublin on a wet February morning, we traveled early for Vienna before we left the terminal building and boarded our first train which, bound for Innsbruck, would take us across the country to the beautiful city of Salzburg.
Experienced travelers, we often travel carrying only luggage (even for a month of adventures), but nothing gets away from the red tape associated with plane trips and after the obligatory security checks, baggage weighing and long waits before. take-off from Dublin, it was a pleasure to see the train arrive on stage and just boarded.
In three hours, the journey is longer than flying, but there seems to be no more time to see towns, villages, rivers and then mountains, many majestic mountains. Minutes after we arrived at our destination we stood on the platform, breathing in the clean, fresh air.
Our beds for the night were about a 10-minute walk from the station, so after a quick consultation with Google Maps, we navigated the cobbled streets to the unique Wolf Dietrich Hotel (double from € 177 , salzburg-hotel.at).
Like Vienna, there is a cultural atmosphere in Salzburg
Salzburg is a small city, and everything is easy to reach, so after being given a run-down of the facilities (which include a small pool, sauna and steam room) and check out our comfortable family room, we deposited our bags and headed off. except for eating local beer with son number two who, after five months, is almost a local.
Like Vienna, there is a cultural atmosphere in Salzburg. As Mozart’s birthplace, his early life is carefully documented in wall plaques and place names, and classical music, real or imagined, as blowing in the wind blowing from the Alps and the city streets. Music students carrying instruments are more common to look at. And in a beautiful marriage of old and new, the natives are just as likely to wear the latest trends as they are to be sporting lederhosen and dirndls.
For three days, we visited the modern art gallery and rode the funicular railway to Festungsberg and the turreted Hohensalzburg Fortress, which overlooks the city and provides a fairytale background for the photographs. It also houses an interesting museum documenting the history of the region and its own past as a jewel in the crown of the princes-archbishops of Salzburg and also a prison during the second World War.
There is a restaurant with a panoramic view of the city, the mountains and the countryside beyond; the only place to enjoy a meal or a glass of wine while watching the sunset behind the Alps.
The Salzburg City Card (€ 26 per adult for 24 hours, € 39 for 72 hours) gives you entry to all the best attractions; from Mirabell Palace and Mozart’s birthplace on the Getreidegasse to the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the cathedral. But it also allows users to travel free on public transportation, and offers discounts for events and activities. Since the center is small, it is possible to pack a lot of activities in a short time.
A bus ride to Untersberg, the northernmost massif in the Berchtesgaden Alps, is a must. Just 25 minutes from Mirabellegarten or Rathaus, the last stop on route 25 is in the heart of the Austrian countryside. An eight-minute cable car ride to St Leonhard/Grödig reveals the most breathtaking scenery as it climbs 1,800m with views across Salzburgerland and Germany.
The next part of our journey will include a nine -hour train ride through three countries. It sounds a bit nerdy, but I just love the gentle pace of the train ride, ease of ride and the ever-changing scenery. Living on an island, I can never fail to appreciate how easy it is to travel between countries on the continent.
And as the train left at 6:30 a.m. for the first leg of the journey to Munich, my front seat was the perfect platform to watch the sunrise over the Austrian and German countryside.
In our fast-paced life, it is not uncommon for us to have time to watch the sky change from dark blue to purple and pink before the colors mix and combine to finally reveal the dim glow of the sun. a new day would break through the cold- covered fields. It’s fun.
Two hours passed and soon we gathered our things and got off in Munich, crossing the stage to board the larger train that would run us across Germany to Bonn in just four hours.
In our own six-person carriage, we gratefully received fresh coffee from a passing waitress before we spent another few hours watching the world go by.
When we arrived at our next stop, we faced a possible problem. Due to an “incident” there was an 11-minute delay-this likely meant we would lose our connection that would take us to our final destination in Maastricht. Initially we had a six minute window between trains, so if the driver could make four minutes, then we were fine. And sure, as the train sped up, we were updated on the route and assured that we would not only get three minutes, but we would actually arrive a minute early in Aachen, where we would board our last train of the day.
At 3:30 pm we reached the Netherlands and got off the road we were riding on, with no hassle or long queues. Within minutes we were out on the clean, rocky streets and headed to the Kruisheren Hotel (double from € 224, oostwegelcollection.nl). Formerly a monastery, this quaint building in the town center is now a five-star hotel, and home to an eclectic art collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures.
We weren’t there for six days, but due to the diversity of the trip, different locations, language, culture and cuisine, it felt longer.
Cafe culture can be found in Maastricht and everywhere you turn there are restaurants, bars and cafes with outdoor seating. All have efficient heating systems so that, no matter what time of year, you can sit under a canopy for a coffee or a meal to eat while watching the world go by. At sunset, we spotted the Vrijthof area, the city’s main square, and were greeted with some Bami Goreng (a traditional spicy noodle), prawns and calamari with sweet pepper, and bitterballen ( meatballs), followed by poffertjes (small. pancakes with syrup) to finish.
The next morning, after breakfast in the hotel’s impressive atrium restaurant, we walked to the Boekhandel Dominicanen, a unique bookshop located in a cathedral and a great place to spend an hour browsing the novel and biography.
Later in the day, we visited the Natural History Museum and the Museum Bonnefanten (which has a combination of modern art and ancient masters), before walking through the city’s beautiful park and into the rolling hills. above the river to see the Caves of Maastricht.
The rest of the short visit was spent browsing and shopping, and after a top-notch dinner in our hotel restaurant, paired with locally made Dutch wines, we said goodbye to this vibrant Dutch town ( and two of our sons) and took our last. train, this time from Maastricht to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
We weren’t there for six days, but because of the diversity of the trip, the different locations, language, culture and cuisine, it felt longer.
Watching Europe, I’ll be back in the summer.