Friday Thought #92 Travelling by train

Europe is a wonderful continent, endlessly beautiful, with ever-changing landscapes and enough different languages and cultures to fill a lifetime. However if you only ever travel by car, the majority of the scenery you will pass by will all blend into one, fairly uninspiring blur; edge of the motorway, fairly mundane and not worth writing home about. Now of course motorways are incredible, without them cross-country travel would be a nightmare at best, but there is no question that it is not the way to really see a country. You need to get off the beaten track, and while that may mean meandering off the main roads and winding your way through those B roads at a snail’s pace, a wonderful alternative is to travel by train.

Since moving to Austria, we have discovered the joys of superb, and remarkably reasonably priced, train travel, and these days we try and cover most of our long journeys by train rather than by car. For a start, it’s so much more enjoyable; you’re not stuck in a tiny box, or in traffic, you can walk around, eat in the restaurant and go to the bathroom at your leisure! You don’t have to concentrate; you can read a book, watch a film, catch up on work, or even go to sleep. But finally, and the best part for me, is that you become privy to, albeit only by a glimpse, secret parts of the country that only those privileged train passengers get the opportunity to see.

I recently travelled from Innsbruck to Geneva by train, crossing pretty much the entire country of Switzerland in the process, and what a delightful experience it was. Switzerland is a truly stunning country, with landscapes to rival the most impressive across the World, and what better way to see these beautiful lakes, mountains and villages? Why from the comfort of your train carriage, earphones in, gently rumbling through the countryside with not a care in the world!

The photos were taken with a phone whilst on the move, but hopefully they will capture some of the beauty and tranquility of the journey.

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Friday thought #28 Apartment hunting – what matters and what doesn’t??

When looking to move to a new town, finding somewhere to live is an absolute minefield, especially when you don’t currently live in the place you’re planning to move to. Do you look to live in the city centre? Right in the hustle and bustle but easier to make friends and socialise. Or do you look out of town? Quiet, peaceful, more space and overall more appealing but with the knowledge that you may end up feeling cut off and out of touch. Should you live near work and avoid the commute, or live somewhere more desirable and travel to work? So many things to consider!!

It’s a big step upping sticks and moving somewhere completely new, and add to that a new country and a new language and your life suddenly becomes very complicated. However hunting around, comparing prices and studying maps of the area is a great way of finding your way round a new place. You very quickly get a feel for where you would like to be, what’s too big, what’s too small and far more importantly than what you do want, is to eliminate what you absolutely don’t want.

I’d say this can be the same for many aspects of life, if you can’t decide what you’re looking for or where you would like to be, consider what you’re not looking for and you will immediately reduce your options enormously. When looking at somewhere to live, for example, an estate agent’s website may display 300 potential properties in the city and surrounding area. No-one has time to trawl through all of these but by carefully considering your criteria you can vastly narrow your search, thus making the whole process much less irritating! But the big question is, what are your criteria? Being forced to think about it really makes you realise what is important and what is an unnecessary luxury. How many bedrooms do you really need? How often is the spare bedroom actually used? How desperately do you need a garden? What can you get rid of? How will your cat come and go? By adamantly insisting that you will only consider 3 bedroomed houses, are you missing out on some lovely 2 bedroomed places?

All useful questions, the answers to which are only considered when we’re forced to make a decision. But it’s a very useful exercise whereby you often learn something new about yourself. What do you really need, and what do you not? The answer is rarely what you first expected…