Copenhagen 2012: Travel In Style

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I spent the past week traveling around Europe. Given the surreal craziness of my last couple months abroad, this is nothing new. What was new was my mode of transport: the train.

With the exception of a few short novelty trips as a child and the Adventurous Express at King’s Island, this was my first legitimate train travel adventure. As usual, I had extremely high expectations. When I met up with my travel buddy in Venice, he was fresh from a first-class sleeper car ride complete with a gregarious Australian bunkmate and some sort of car attendant who called him sir and gave him extra breakfast rolls.
I ask you: what could be better?
So needless to say, I was excited for my first night train ride. In the interest of putting a stop to the whining, I’ll just break some observations down into bullet form for you here:
  • Second class does not come with breakfast
  • You can’t drink the train bathroom water
  • Recycled air makes your nose hurt
While I am now proud of myself for “roughing it” (I consider showering with a baby wipe and not caring enough to apply mascara to be roughing it), I am not sure I will ever make train travel my chosen form of transportation.

But that realization got me thinking: what happened to America’s obsession with the steam engine? Wasn’t there a time when trains were just as popular in the U.S. as in Europe? It’s certainly cheaper than flying (it’s pretty obvious why), but I don’t think a train has ever been my first idea when I’m determining how to get from point A to point B.  Nowadays, we think roadtrip and automatically imagine a car.
And though I wouldn’t recommend overnight train travel to anyone with a taste for luxury, I do think there’s something of our Westward-ho, manifest destiny heritage lost now that we’ve elected, collectively, to travel by other more efficient (and possibly cleaner) means.
So if you want to get the full, grungy backpacking experience, I say go all the way and travel by train. I hate to say “you only live once,” but I think in this circumstance, it applies.
Photo: at

Claire Wiseman

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