Where I spend the day losing at chess, I speak about important rail connections, and the Connecting Europe Express slides through a very green region.
The night in Munich was sweet and smooth. The Oktober Fest is off due to the pandemic and Sundays seem to be particularly quiet. Good time for a break. Everyone needs a break from time to time, except for the Connecting Europe Express, which never stops its 36-days epic journey throughout Europe.
So, we had no big party as I so naively thought, or hoped, but on the bright side we have avoided the big crowds and drunken individuals inviting us to typical Bavarian dances (most probably not Bavarian themselves). We could enjoy in all tranquillity our sausages and beers. Yes, plural.
Soon the whole team goes back to the hotel under the first storm of the trip. Well, pretty lucky considering we are on day 25. In the morning the train is ready to leave around 8h. A small ceremony with an exchange of pennants takes place at the station and shortly after we are back on our track, the railways’ track.
Today, an important meeting of the Main Line for Europe Initiative is taking place in the Conference coach. This initiative is kind of special as it puts together a lot of regions and mayors who are committed to the rapid development of the TEN-T Rhine-Danube Corridor.
In particular, under discussion is the connection Munich to Stuttgart, where a brand new high-speed railway line will be built. Apparently there is good news as I am told the segment Stuttgart to Ulm will be the first major missing link in the corridor, and should be ready in 2025. A project with a €1 billion EU contribution.
While this meeting takes place, I am on the only passengers’ coach of the Connecting European Express that can host people with reduced mobility, provided by the German operator. Today Kamil Goungor, a super fun guy from Greece, has hopped on. He is staying with us for 3 days until Berlin, and at least for now kicking my A at chess.
Kamil is a blogger and Instagrammer with the mission to motivate other people with disabilities to travel, which of course also means that travelling for people with reduced mobility by train should always be possible. The EU Year of Rail is the perfect moment to send out this message. You can follow Kamil’s journey on the Connecting Europe Express, and his other travel experiences on Instagram.
Our journey goes on and after passing Ulm and Stuttgart, we soon arrive at the Swiss border. Switzerland is part of the Rhine-Alpine corridor, and connecting to the rest of the EU is the priority. There are two main cross border connections, through Italy (Milan – Chiasso) and Germany. Both access routes, north and south, are still under works for upgrades. Notably, Karlsruhe-Basel, where doubling the tracks from 2 to 4 is key for additional capacities for this busy freight line in Europe.
When I am not focused on losing at chess, I look out of the window. The sky today is whitish. There isn’t enough sunlight to make the colours vibrant. But the Connecting Europe Express is riding surrounded by a very green region, both in Germany and Switzerland. At times there are farms, cows and, it goes without saying, cornfields. Some vineyards stare at us from the height of their hills and quickly disappear. We are not in the Alpine region, but this is very pleasant.
Today is also the day of cyclers, finally. A German guy came with us until the Swiss border, while the CEO of the EU Cyclist Federation hopped on in Zurich to be with us until Bern, our final destination for the day. New rules on rail passenger rights, applicable as of June 2023 include the obligations for trains to have dedicated space to carry bicycles, and this is valid for all trains.
Travelling by train throughout Europe is possible, as I believe we are widely demonstrating. Even reaching remote regions and towns in most cases is possible. Then why not carry your bikes to visit those regions and towns. Combining public transport with biking is possibly the most sustainable way of travelling ever, and some exercise might be good before we stuff ourselves with local food, wines and beers 😉
On this cheerful note, I am closing Day 26. In Bern is night by now, and we are going out for dinner. As usual, I get a nice taxi driver who manages to tell me his life story in a 5 minutes drive. I have a weakness for this type. He has been a banker (not completely unexpected I must say) both here and in New York City, before retiring and becoming a taxi driver. Mmm… strange twist of fate. It could be a good plot for a movie.
Tomorrow morning we have a planned visit to the city. Then, we’ll go back to Germany.
Our mascot Chickee is also travelling on the Connecting Europe Express and having his own special journey. She also has her own Instagram account. Here are some of her adventures.