Europe by Rail

Contributed By Alan GedIt was some more than ten years ago when I was in Pelion, the peninsula in central east Greece. The mountainous area had many little villages. By visiting one of them, Milies, people told us that we had to walk instead of taking the bus. By following the unused railways we would have the chance to experience a different Greece. It was midday; the sun was right above us. We first doubted but nevertheless decided to do it as we were aware that we would never come back again. Starting at the old village station, we followed the railway down to the camping at the beach. It took something like 3 hours until we finished the trip.

At the end we were exhausted but nevertheless happy because the past 3 hours had really spent a wonderful feeling. On our trip nothing made the impression of being misplaced: the sun, the mountains, the brooklets, the olive trees and of course, not to be forgotten, the old railways. Although a product of the industrial period, you got the feeling that the picture could not be more perfect without it.

The railway of Milies is known as ‘The steam train of Pelion’. An Italian engineer had it built at the end of the 19th century. Till the 1960s it was the only gate for this mountainous area. Then the introduction of the motorcar made the use of the railway too expensive and the authorities decided to stop using it. When I was visiting the area it was still abandoned and so I could taste the magical stillness of the ‘The steam train of Pelion’. Today however, the train of Pelion is back in use, although only as an attraction for tourists. “To provide passengers with a journey that they will always remember. Passing through numerable scenes of natural beauty and over the impressive bridges, taking a ride on the train is an unforgettable experience”, as editors of the following website claim.

The story of the rails going through this little area in fact mirrors the history of European railways. Once a strong weapon of industrialization the railways became a burden with the introduction of the car during the 20th century. In some rural parts decreasing investments had made the railways appear as an ugly remembrance that nobody wanted to look at. Maybe thanks to the upcoming environmental consciousness and the increased mobility of people the railways have been getting more attention throughout the last decade. The travel industry tries to profit from this change.

Nowadays the internet offers plenty of information about local and international railways in Europe. The site of European railways offers the possibility to buy different rail passes, which makes it possible to travel in Europe within a certain period of time. Depending on the type of your pass you can travel in different selected countries.

The differences in rail structure between countries might be a problem for non-European travelers. Especially the suburban and regional lines might differ from country to country. Information are available on national sites. The website provides a list of all the national rails and railways connected topics like rail museums and network maps.

Traveling by rail in Europe could offer another experience than going by car. A search at Google forums, will deliver thousands of stories of how others have experienced such kind of a journey. I would suggest, try the rails before a united European Railway system destroys the local uniqueness of the rails. Like Pelion it will be a remembered for long.

E. Alan frequently writes for the newsletter of Europe Hotels Guide

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