It took me about three days to get from Girona, Spain to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Each day was somewhere between eight to twelve hours of actual travel, spent almost entirely on trains.
I love travel. By that I mean I actually love the act of traveling. Just the “getting there” part.
I love trains, buses, cars, walking, sailboats, cargo freighters, lorries… anything that gets one from point A to point B. When I am in a bad mood somewhere, the thing that immediately picks my mood up is moving. Anywhere.
Asking my fellow travelers, both the long-term ones and shorter-term ones, I think that feeling qualifies as a rarity. Hardly anyone I know loves the act of travel as much as I do.
To be clear, I love the act of travel more than actually being in a location in almost every single instance. I just love the feeling of movement. Perhaps I was a shark in a past life.
Wait… I was a lawyer in a recent life…
Others look forward to teleportation and other miracles of quick movement… while I want to take a slow boat to China. Then when I get there, take a few slow trains to Mongolia, then maybe some horses to a rural yurt, then pack up and leave a few days later to head to Burma.
The older trains in Europe, most often found in the Eastern European countries, are the best. Although the new, high-speed trains are marvels of engineering and singularly helpful when you want to get from Point A to Point B with some alacrity, I much prefer the ones where you can open the windows and hear the sounds of the wheels rolling down the train tracks.
The train from Villach, Austria, to Ljubljana only took about two hours. I stowed my suitcase in the luggage area of my compartment, said hello to the two other people in there, then went out to the hallway, opened up one of the train windows and proceeded to hang my head out the window for almost the entire two-hour ride, just like my dog used to do when he rode in the back seat of my car.
They were two of the best hours I have spent in quite some time.
Looking out at the jagged mountains made softer by their dressing of trees in their mid-summer vibrant hues of life. Grassy pastures flying by, sometimes slow enough where you could make out the small yellow wildflowers that the cattle hadn’t yet eaten. Passing through small villages with nary a street light, but always a small train station. Clouds that ran the full black and white spectrum all the way from wedding dress white to Ascot tie gray. They seemed to sit gently on top of the mountains, high enough to allow the view of the entire landscape, but low enough to still be a part of the scene. The soft, light blue sky lit up the gaps in the clouds, unobscured by the haze that seems to ruin most views these days.
The warm wind created by the moving train blew past me as I ate up every bit of what passed by and thought to myself “this is what I love about travel. I can feel it. I can feel the miles.” And it makes me smile every time.
The train made three stops along the way to pick up and drop off a few passengers. At the exact minute of its scheduled departure, the conductor, standing right outside one of the car doors, would blow his whistle and off we’d go.
Ahhhhhh, the whistle. There is no other sound exactly like it.
On the move again. Farmers working in the fields. Cows grazing, heads down in the seemingly constant search for sustenance. Cars on roads running parallel to the tracks, sometimes as speeds that matched up so perfectly with the train that they didn’t seem like they were in motion at all, if you just focused on them alone. The colorful reds and yellows and browns of the painted houses.
Roads go past the front yards of people’s lives. Trains go past the back yards.
Sometimes that view is just a little more informative. A little less made-up and pretentious. A little more honest.
We went through a long tunnel, long enough that the temperature dropped significantly due to the insulation of the mountain we burrowed through. The only light was reflected off the black walls from the inside of the train cars. Up ahead in the distance, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It grew slowly, then faster and faster as we approached, until we burst free into the light. And the warmth of a perfect summer day.
Give me a few thousand more of these days and I will go to my grave a very happy and contented man.
I read this article a few weeks back about an overnight train from Rome to Sicily that crosses over into the island by having the train get on board a boat. Hmmmmm…. I’ve got a Eurail pass (thank you to the wonderful people at Eurail.com for providing that to me – they are so great to work with)…..
Who’s up for a train ride to Sicily… just to take a train ride to Sicily?
One travel oddball just might be. But a damn lucky one.