As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of train travel. So when I was considering how to get from Basel to Berlin on my latest European adventures I decided to go train rather than plane.
Sure, flying would have been faster, but it wouldn’t have given me the chance to see the German countryside going by outside my window. And after hearing how the trains had WiFi and power outlets I also thought it could be a good chance to catch up on a little work in between taking in the view.
After getting excited about my new train trip idea and acquiring one of Rail Europe’s Eurail Passes I went about booking a seat on the train. While it’s not compulsory for Eurail pass holders to buy seat supplements on all regional trains in Europe, some of the high speed and premier ones do require a seat, and failure to have one could mean you have to pay the full fare even though you have a pass. So it’s best to check the rules for your train in advance to avoid that one.
Another thing to keep in mind if you’re an Aussie like me planning your European adventure, if you do want to book a seat it’s best to organise it at the same time you get your Eurail Pass. As the tickets are on paper, it’s easier to get the seat confirmation at the same time as your actual pass, otherwise you’ll need to organise it at the train station when you get there and if it’s a busy time of year the sort of seat you prefer may have been booked out.
Rail Europe Train from Basel to Berlin
When the day for my train trip came I enjoyed not having to worry about where I was packing my liquids, whether my laptop was easily accessible to be put into a tray to be scanned, how heavy my bags were or any of other not so fun things that come with travelling through airports.
After arriving at Basel train station I found the train diagram on the platform that explained which section I should be standing in to get onto my carriage and I was ready to roll.
When the train arrived I quickly found my pre-booked seat. But pretty soon I was had my eye on another one.
As it turned out our train was having a bit of a bad day. Electricity was out in one of the carriages which meant my carriage was very crowded and unfortunately people weren’t observing the signs asking them to be quiet.
As it was the start of a long day of travelling together I didn’t want to be the Shush Girl so bit my tongue and started plotting a move to one of the individual compartments at the end of our carriage.
When seat bookings aren’t compulsory, as they weren’t on my train, people are free to move about. And after realising no one was in the private compartment I picked up my bags and dove in.
Of course anyone else could have come in and joined me, but no one did and so I had a lovely compartment to myself. I soon discovered the electricity issue on the train meant Wi-Fi wasn’t working for the journey, but I was still able to charge my devices in the power outlets and as I had plenty of work I could do offline I simply adjusted my work goals for the day and started cracking on with other things.
In between tapping away on my keyboard I looked out at the countryside and enjoyed some of those ‘I love travel moments’ where you just breathe in views you’ve never seen before.
When it was time for lunch I could have eaten in the buffet car, but as I had my own table in my nook I decided to eat where I was. A friendly staff member came around with a menu and then brought me my selection. Okay, selections. I couldn’t decide between the Thai beef salad or pizza-like option and so tried both. Happily for my taste buds but perhaps not so much for my waist line both were very tasty.
After ticking some big things off my work To Do list I decided the time had come to down tools, and treat myself to a couple of episodes of Dark Matter on my iPad. When the nice member of staff checked in on me again I ordered some red wine, and settled in for some relaxing time.
When my wine arrived I was admiring the small towns and countryside we were passing through. Then the staff member mentioned how nice it was to be taking the scenic route and I discovered we weren’t following the usual tracks to Berlin.
He then explained there was some track work going on which meant we were going another way, and our journey would be eight hours rather than seven. Rather than being upset by the delay I was quite happy.
Maintenance is of course one of those things that happen from time to time and I’m all for having well maintained rails. And now that I was kicking back and relaxing I was in no great hurry for the journey to be over.
When we finally started pulling into Berlin and it was time to grab my bags and move on I had a big smile on my face. Sure, a few things hadn’t gone quite the way I expected that day but as we all know when there are hiccups on travels the best thing to do is roll with it. And I’d had a day that mixed work, pleasure and great countryside views.
If you’re planning your own train adventures through Europe, make sure you head to Rail Europe’s website as soon as you start planning as you may be able to bag a bargain. The website has constant deals and you can save up to 70% off the regular price if you book ahead.
It’s also a good idea to compare the different types of tickets. Rail Europe offers point to point tickets, rail passes for individual countries, two country passes, and Eurail Select passes for any four adjoining countries. So depending on where you want to go and what you want to do, you could save big with a bit of research into the options.
So how about you? Do you also like to take to the rails when you travel? And what’s your best train travel tip for travelling around Europe?
Amanda Woods travelled as a guest of Rail Europe but as usual all opinions remain her own.
Love train travel? Find out what it’s like to travel from London to Berlin on my train dream come true – the Venice Simplon Orient Express.
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