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Europe by Rail by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Wed 29th Nov 17

In my student days I used to pore over an annual publication called Europe by Train, by Katie Wood and George McDonald. Marketed as "the Inter-Railer's bible," it provided detailed information about Europe's many and varied railway systems and served as an appetiser for budget travellers who wished to explore the mysteries of Eastern Europe, the hostels of Paris and the camaraderie of the Transalpino. I seem to recall that the idea of older, more financially solvent rail travellers was viewed with some suspicion.

The modern traveller is far more fortunate. Borders have vanished, train companies have modernised and we now have a guide book which appeals to a much wider range of travellers. Rather than aiming at students, Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries have created, in Europe by Rail, a book which combines essential practical information with romantic descriptions of places familiar and otherwise. Now in its fifteenth edition, the book is the perfect guide for today's rail traveller.

Fifty main routes are suggested, and alternative timings give the option of frantic dashing or leisurely trundling. Sometimes the journey is the thing, passing through glorious countryside and watching the landscape change as borders are crossed. More often, however, the proliferation of routes and options allows the traveller to meander, loiter, sample local cuisine, maybe take in a museum or two before moving gently on. A lot can be experienced in a few days without hurtling madly from city to city.

Highlighting the green credentials of rail travel, the flexibility of the continental network and capturing the sheer excitement of Europe's towns, cities and landscapes, the book also gives useful links to websites offering tickets, route plans and more. Side panels offer historical background and railway trivia as well as a taste of local life in the many stops. For instance, there's an awful lot of coffee in Trieste, and this book tells you the best place to drink it.

What comes across more than anything is a genuine love of Europe and a huge enthusiasm for exploring different countries and cultures. Living in Berlin, the authors are at the very heart of Europe, and the routes and diversions they suggest give everyone the chance to sample the excitement of having a whole continent spread out before us, offering sights, sounds and flavours for the price of a train ticket.

The opportunity exists even on our little island - the glorioustheatre of St Pancras offers a gateway to Europe, with an optional champagne send-off. Armed with this book and its sister publication, the European Rail Timetable, tucked under one arm like a latter-day Bradshaw, the British traveller should be ready to embrace everything that mainland Europe has to offer.

Europe by Rail, 15th edition rrp £15.99, available in all good bookshops, including this one.

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