Slow Travel EuropeMaking conscious choices

The Spirit of Slow Travel

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Taking the Slow Boat

A few words in praise of slow coastal shipping services that hop from port to port. Surely a more romantic way to travel than to endure the thud, thud, thud of a modern catamaran.

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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Slow Travel: Europe by Train

Europe is often distilled in the glimpses from the train window. Many are the half understood scenes from other worlds that slide by outside our carriage. All the more so from the slower trains that dawdle along rural branch lines or take the back routes into cities. Not the main line, but the one that ducks and dives through a dozen suburbs.

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Saturday, 1 May 2010

Spring, Storks and Trains

A three-legged dog scuttles past the Pirana fast food joint with a chicken leg in its mouth. The ragged mongrel settles in the tattered dark of a long abandoned telephone kiosk to make the most of a free meal. The storks will be back any day now. As will the train. At least that's what they say here.

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Friday, 20 August 2010

Fourth Class Over the Border

Chernivtsi's distinctive green-domed railway station gives a hint of the city it serves. It is a stylish station, one that well befits what is a gem among Ukrainian cities. Of course, for many travellers Chernivtsi is merely a place to change trains. There are connections far and wide. But the most interesting train of the day from Chernivtsi is the morning train to Moldova.

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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

By Train Through Albania

The railway platform at Tirana was as full as it ever gets. That meant all of half a dozen people waiting for the dawn train to Pogradec, among them an English gricer and a Polish twitcher. The latter had travelled across Europe to catch a glimpse of rare birds and was bound for Lake Ohrid.

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Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Road Less Taken

Only the British can really understand the appeal of the perfect B road. It is a road that may have pretensions, hoping one day to be upgraded to A class status. And then there are B roads that have come down in the world. Take for example the B1043 south of Peterborough through the village of Stilton (which really does have a connection with cheese).

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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Winter Arrives in the Baltic

It was just an hour on the train to Putbus, a little community on the Baltic island of Rügen that is impossibly grand for such a remote spot. Just four thousand souls, yet a town so full of aristocratic associations that it seems like a Baltic take on Chatsworth or Versailles.

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Monday, 20 December 2010

Birmingham Silences

Head out along the Bristol Road and you get an eyeful of Birmingham's suburbs. Leaky ipods and restive mobiles mix with discarded newspapers and chip wrappers on the upper deck of Bus 61 that runs all the way out to Frankley. An empty Red Bull can dances beneath the seats, rolling back and forth as the bus brakes and accelerates.

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Centovalli Railway

Domodossola has sleek trains aplenty. There are great expresses that purr north through the Simplon Tunnel into Switzerland or slide south towards Milan, hugging the west side of Lago Maggiore along the way. But lovers of great scenery and unusual trains head down into the concrete zone, there in the subterranean depths of Domodossola railway station to board the little train that rattles east across the valley and climbs into the hills beyond.

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

The 313 to Botany Bay

We were having difficulty being enthusiastic about Enfield. Jack, an amiable octogenarian who is Enfield born and bred, is more positive. "Heavens," he exclaims. "You've no idea. Enfield has been important for centuries. Do you remember the Lee Enfield, for example?" asks Jack. Actually we don't, but Jack tells a plausible tale about how the rifle that was for sixty years standard issue to British troops was made in Enfield. Throw in the Hotpoint dishwasher and the cashpoint machine and we begin to appreciate Enfield as a hub of technological innovation.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Spiritual Geography of Karelia

Are not some landscapes genuinely therapeutic? We crested wave after wave of rolling forests as we drove through Karelia last week. Writers looking to plot the spiritual geography of Europe might do well to start here, for Finnish Karelia is a landscape full of longing and nostalgia, a region that has a very distinctive sanctity. We did not start our journey as pilgrims, yet Karelia wove its spell around us and turned us into pilgrims.

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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Train to Narva

Platform Four in Tallinn station: the train to Narva rests in the sunshine. An odd selection of shopping bags, magazines and items of clothing scattered on plastic seats are evidence of people having made a claim on a particular space on the train. One person has left an umbrella, another a melon and a third seat is occupied by a plastic chimpanzee. Their respective owners stand on the platform until it is evident that the train is about to depart.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Travelling Through the Harz Mountains

Travelling across the North European Plain, a vast sweep of two-dimensional terrain that extends from Brussels to Berlin and beyond, travellers might well give thanks for whatever modest hills punctuate their journey. The Harz Mountains barely rise to more than one thousand metres, but seen from the flatlands to the north they appear mightily impressive: great, forested humpbacks that preside over the plains. The highest point is the Brocken, at 1,141 metres the loftiest elevation anywhere in northern Germany.

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Plymouth to Portsmouth by Boat

Devotees of unusual ferry routes will find a few gems tucked away in Brittany Ferries' winter schedules. From next week until the end of March 2012, there will be a seasonal Plymouth to St Malo service. The service kicks off next Monday with a morning sailing at 11.30 from St Malo. The passage time is eight hours.

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