The beginning of The Ultimate Train Challenge is exactly two weeks from today and I face a typical situation of my personal style of traveling.
I have absolutely no idea what route I am going to take. No idea at all.
At least I know how I am going to get around, once I sort out the where part. The amazing folks at Eurail.com are one of the primary sponsors of UTC11 (#utc11 is our Twitter hashtag for this zany adventure) and they have generously denoted three passes good for 15 days of train travel in a 2 month period. Of course, we will be using the 15 days in …. 15 days.
Eurail.com was the first sponsor to sign up with the Ultimate Train Challenge and they have been a complete and utter joy to work with. If I am fortunate enough to be able to work with companies this professional, knowledgeable and conscientious in the future, I will be a lucky, lucky travel blogger.
So, as you know, I am a big fan of trivia, so I put the Eurail.com folks to work on coming up with some odd and/or interesting facts about their company and its products:
- The service and sales team replies to 75,000 questions by e-mail per year (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese). In the first six months of 2011 the number of answered Facebook replies is 5,000 (English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese).
- Eurail.Com services to over 216 nationalities and delivers worldwide.
- Most popular Eurail pass: Global Youth pass 15 days.
- Most popular benefit: free ferry crossings between Italy and Greece.
- In 2012, Slovakia will be added to the Eurail Global Pass offer. In 2012 they transported 45 million passengers and this is likely to increase because of the Global pass travelers! (I thought that number was a mistake, so I asked them twice)
- Eurail.com met over 2,000 of her travelers all in one week in Venice: in July they celebrated their Mashable Award with fans by offering free gondola tours for every customer who bought their rail products from either www.eurail.com or www.interrailnet.com We’re looking for suggestions on what they might do next year.
- Eurail.Com actually has three websites: www.Interrailnet.com, www.Eurail.com and www.Germanrailpasses.com (their newest). InterRail is the rail product for Europeans.
- Most popular countries to travel in: Italy, France, Spain and Germany.
- And… they are going to be handing Eastern Europe soon, so you are going to be able to use their Rail Passes everywhere in Europe, for the most part.
In short, they are the preeminent supplier for your European train travel needs. Their website is a snap to work with — you can check train schedules, figure out which of their many pass options work for you, or check out the map of the extensive European rail system.
Did you know that Germany has 29,3oo miles(47,200 km) of railways?! For comparisons sake, the entire United States Interstate Highway System is 46,876 miles (75,440 km).
The area of Germany is 357,021 sq km, or 137,847 square miles – slightly smaller than the state of Montana. Or half the size of Texas.
You think it might be time for the US to start catching up on basic infrastructure yet?
So, let’s get back to my mini-dilemma. Which route am I going to take?
Par for the course on all things Train Challenge, Jeannie is ahead of me here. She has set up online polls of her readers to choose locations she should stop in Spain and in France, and no doubt others soon enough. I am far from that tech savvy.
Nora, perhaps the most prepared and plan-oriented traveler I have met yet, has already agonized over this and I am sure has come up with a hour-by-hour route.
On the other hand, my basic travel style is just to show up and see what happens.
Given how much trouble I have had with that “strategy” in the last month over here in Europe, I am thinking I might need to make some revisions and come up with a plan. Heck, I might actually make some reservations for some of the overnight trains.
I know. Crazy talk.
So I shall open this up to the crowd. There are a variety of different themes I can go with on this trip — and I am a theme kind of person.
- Visiting all the “tiny” countries: Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino.
- Making the furthest north, with a mad dash all the way up to Sweden, including a part where the train actually rides on a ferry. For real.
- Hitting the best wine regions in Europe: Rioja, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Mosel, etc. Damn, perhaps that is a bad one to pick.
- Making it all the way south to Greece and though the Balkans, all new territory for me, aside from Croatia.
- Maybe a “best castles in Europe” quest?
- How many different beers native to a country can I taste in two weeks?
- Or anything else you can think of….
So put your creative hats on. I want to hear it. No theme is too offbeat or odd for my taste. Well…. perhaps there are a few themes I might have to censor, but generally speaking, you get my point.
I await your desire to make me do something slightly crazy, offbeat, and memorable.
To book tickets or find out more visit Eurail’s website. I highly recommend “liking” their fan page, quite often they offer contests or special deals. And of course, don’t forget to follow their Twitter stream, to find out just why that won that award. Did you know they even have a YouTube channel? To get the travel juices flowing.
Don’t forget to also follow the Train Challenge antics, and stalk us on Facebook or Twitter.