Glancing at the large clock in the rafters of Zurich's main train station, I
notice there is less than a minute until my train is scheduled to depart. I
punch my day pass in the validation machine on the track platform quickly; after
15 years of train travel in Switzerland I know my train will leave on the exact
minute with or without me.
Stepping into the second-class car, I survey the cabin and soon find an open seat. I've learned to identify where tourists are from, and it's obvious the couple across from me are American.
They share with me their vacation plans: cramming seven European countries into two
weeks. That entails 11/2 days in each country and nearly a full day of train
travel between destinations."We left Paris earlier this morning and are now
heading to Milan," the man tells me. "We've been riding the rails for over five
hours today, and still have another four to go."
When I question their motives for such a vacation, the couple respond with the overused answer: "This
will probably be our only chance to vacation in Europe, so we need to see it
But by attempting to see it all, they will miss experiencing the
real Europe. Much of their vacation will be spent on a train.
If you share the view of these tourists, consider a couple of options that will
make your trip more enjoyable. First, change your mindset about seeing all of
Europe in two weeks. Narrow your list of countries to two or three, based on
your "must-see" list. That allows you more time in each country, and less time
on the trains.
Then, if the countries you have chosen are a great distance from one another, look into flights. Take the example of traveling from Paris to Rome. By train it takes roughly 15 hours and costs over $245, but by
air it takes only two hours and can cost as little as $60, leaving you more time
and money. Making a few simple changes can transform what would have been an
exhausting vacation into a memorable one.