Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’d think it’d be easy to get from one major city in southern Europe to another but noooo, life can’t always be that convenient.
A relative announced last weekend that they want to take a grand tour of southern Europe, starting in Madrid and ending in Athens with a bunch of stops in between. There’d be stops in Barcelona, Rome, Napoli, Venice, Vienna and finally Athens and they’d get from one city to the next via train.
Sounds like a quaint and overly romanticized way to travel through the region. Europe does have an extensive commuter rail system after all.
The only problem is there are no direct routes in some cases. Take Barcelona to Rome as an example. You can get from point A to point B via rail lines. You just can’t do it in a single train ride. There are so many connections that must be made – first in Nice, France, and later in Milan — that you’d feel like a Washington, D.C. insider by the time you got to the Eternal City.
There are so many connections to be made in fact that the Rail Europe booking website won’t let you by a ticket for the Barcelona to Rome route, even though it often does let you buy tickets for routes that require connecting trains.
At least this relative would be able to say they made a nice trip of it and got to see the beaches of south France and a fashion show in the world’s fashion capital along the way.
Of course, travel among the cities in Italy would be easy. Just get to Rome, and from there, you can go anywhere you want in the country.
Going from Venice to Vienna wouldn’t be easy. It would require a very short layover in either Innsbruck or Villach, Austria. We’re talking about 37 minutes tops between the arrival in the layover city and when the connecting train leaves for Vienna — and that’s if you get the 1:30 p.m. train.
And to top it all off, it’d be a few minutes before midnight when you arrive in Vienna.
The arrival would go something like “Gee, I’ll bet Vienna sure is a nice town. Too bad it’s pitch black out right now.”
There are trains that leave Venice earlier in the day, and therefore arrive in Vienna earlier in the day, but their layover times are shorter than the 1:30 train. Trust me, you’d rather have that 37-minute layover as opposed to one that is just over 20 minutes long because you will be hauling your own luggage.
Making train and plane connections ought to be an Olympic sport, maybe as part of the decathlon. It could involve leaping over carts and little old ladies who move at the speed of snail.
Watching someone try to make that short of a connection, even in a train station, would be like watching a fat kid chase a piece of chocolate cake. It might be entertaining to watch, but it’d be horrendous to participate in.
You’d be better off booking a shorter trip, to say Innsbruck, because you can stay the night and then take another train to Vienna in the morning. You won’t have to deal with the layover hustle.
And, then there is the tricky problem with the Rail Europe website refusing to let you book a trip from Vienna to Athens online. You have to go through some “Contact Center.”
Ugh, it’s just not worth it for such an elaborate trip.
Curt Yeomans is the Senior Reporter for the Clayton News Daily and an avid traveler. He can be reached by phone at 770-478-5753, ext. 247, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CYeomansCND.