Showing posts with label boomer Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boomer Europe. Show all posts

Monday, December 20, 2021

Italy ~ All Aboard!

 I am almost convinced it was that train ride in August that brought us back to Italy in November. 

Milan's  train station

That summer taste of Italian train travel from Venice to Milan was what made us want to return for more this fall. To our way of thinking, half the fun of Italian travel is getting to ride their trains!

Rome a mind-blowing number of tracks and trains

Italy was one of the first European countries we visited oh-so-many-years-ago, and our introduction to train travel began in Rome. I recall being overwhelmed by the enormity of the station, the bustle and the number of tracks and trains there.

Our train arriving in Cortona, Italy

On subsequent trips to Italy we've tried to include at least a train trip or two.  Trains played prominently in our last, pre-Covid, trip  to the Tuscan town of Cortona (yes, the one Frances Mayes put on the tourist map). We took the train both to and from the small village with its equally small train station. There was no confusion about getting the right train there ~ there was only one!

Masks are required in Italian train stations/trains and distancing encouraged

When finally last month we decided to return to Italy, we made train travel key to our 10-day adventure. We began by spending a few days in Bologna then we hopped a train to Verona for an overnight stay. Another train transported us o Venice where we spent the remainder of our time. 

That Amazing Italian Train System

Waiting to board the train to Verona

Italy, a country about 3/4th the size of the state of California, has a railway system of 24,227 kilometers, or 15,054 miles.  And with high speed trains that can reach 300 kph, or 186 mph, it has come a long way since its first railroad was constructed in 1839. That line between Napoli and Portici was built to connect the Royal Palace of Naples to the seaside. Now rail lines lace the country and trains travel with such frequency that picking a time to travel isn't difficult.

Trenitalia ticket offices

We purchased our Trenitalia tickets at the train stations.. Self-service machines also dispensed tickets but we took what we consider the easier route and used customer service. Staff spoke fluent English so we could ask questions about the options available to us and not guess using the self-service machines..

In what we assumed was an attempt at maintaining distancing, customers waited outside the ticket office until their number (generated by a small machine at the entry) was posted on the sign (to the left in the photo above).  It isn't unlike the process used at cheese and meat counters in Greece. 

Ticket to Venice for less than 10 euro

The tickets are easily understood. Using our trip to Venice as an example, the ticket showed both our destination and from where we were departing. Estimated times of departure and arrival were also provided. Perhaps the most important thing on the ticket was the type of train and its number. Tracks can change at the last minute so it is important to know which train you are looking for. 

 The class of travel and the price paid is also printed on the ticket. The QR code, that ubiquitous part of travel, I wrote about in an earlier post, was scanned by the conductor as he made his way through the car.  

Second class on this modern train looked like this

We were impressed that certain of the cars were designed with space to park bicycles and included charging ports for electric bikes.

A train car with space for bicycles

Dogs, cats and other small domestic animals are welcome on board Italian trains. For a portion of our journey to Venice we watched this four-footed passenger be assured, kissed and caressed by his human who sat on the floor with him. (His owner muzzled him only when the train started and removed it the minute they stepped off the train.)

Pet-friendly train system

One tricky thing to remember is that the train you are riding might have started long before the station from which you are departing and may be traveling beyond your destination. You need to pay attention to the screens in each car showing the next destination and listen to the announcements made in Italian and English, prior to each stop. 

Monitors throughout the car show 'next stop'

This photo of one of several monitors in our car was taken on the train from Bologna to Verona, and shows the train began in Rome and was ending in Bolzano. We were riding just a segment of the trip and needed to be alert to when the train arrived in Verona.

Binario or platform may be outside or inside

The good news is you don't check your bags on Italian trains. 

And the bad news is you don't check your bags.  So you'd better be able to lift and carry and stow the baggage you have with minimal effort. You may need to hoist the bags up or down when entering the train car while balancing on a narrow step that doesn't quite fill the gap between the platform and the train. (Fellow passengers don't sympathize with those who block their way.)

Train stations, the larger ones, are built like subway stations in the U.S. with trains and tracks at ever increasing depths. The track you want may be many levels below the ground level. Escalators and elevators are easing movement but still there is the occasional need to haul your bags up and down stairways the old-fashioned way, as we've too-often found when the one going the direction we are is not working.

Our travel juices flow when riding trains. . .

Train travel, for us, is a much more relaxed way of traveling. There are no security checkpoints to clear, no emptying pockets and pulling electronics out of hand baggage. You need not arrive hours in advance of departure as you can board the train right up to departure. You don't need to turn off mobile devices and you are free to get up and move around.

Countryside views from the train window can't be beat

Much like airports in Europe, you are required - during this time of Covid - to wear a mask in train stations and while aboard the train unless drinking or eating. You must also show proof of vaccination (our CDC issued cards were accepted) or proof of a negative Covid test.

We'll bring this journey to a close and be back next week with another Italian tale. Until then our wishes for safe and healthy travels. Thanks for being with us today! And welcome to our new subscribers!!

Linking soon with:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hungary . . .for a little adventure. . .

The rain against the taxi windows blurred our first glimpses of Budapest. We arrived on a very dreary Sunday morning - the sky, the buildings and streets -- even the Danube River - were shades of gray.  A breeze stirred fallen leaves.

A rainy morning added to the ambiance of Budapest

Welcome to Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Even with modern vehicles, trams and buses passing our taxi, I still felt like we were characters in one of Alan Furst's novels which are set in a variety of European cities. His plots delve into a shady and suspenseful time surrounding World War II. And this city on that drab morning felt shady and suspenseful!

So many choices and so little time!

We'd arrived here as part of a quick fall getaway: five nights here, to be followed by three in Vienna. We've been landlocked in Greece too long this year. The travel bug, dormant during that 4.5 month wait for our residency cards - our keys to being able to travel outside the country - had definitely gotten restless. You regulars here know one of the reasons we moved was to have a launch pad from which we could explore more of Europe and the Middle East and Africa.  

Euro on the left, Hungarian Forint on the right

We were hungry for an adventure to someplace we'd never been before. Hungary is satiating our appetites! After a flight of one hour, 40 minutes from Athens we are immersed in such a different culture - language, food, currency; everything has just enough foreign feel to it to make this trip most interesting.  

And some things are a bit too foreign for my tastes

With so many layers of history, we are having a hard time absorbing all there is to learn about this once Communist-ruled country.

Buda Castle from our room
It didn't take long to figure out that the five days we gave ourselves here won't be anywhere near enough to visit all the sights within the city of Budapest, let alone to get out and explore the countryside! We've barely had time to sample Hungarian cuisine and sip Hungarian wine.

Free entertainment outside our window

Our room at the Budapest Marriott on the Pest side (pronounced, pesht) overlooks the Danube River and the Castle on the Buda side of the river. We could easily spend our days doing nothing more than watching the never-ending river traffic: tour boats and river cruise boats mingle with barges and other river transport.

Taking a morning stroll across the Danube on Chain Bridge

The November weather has been what one might expect in a Central European country: a bit of sun, quite a few clouds and periodic heavy rain, and chilly for those us basking last week in summer-like temperatures in Greece!  Here we've shivered in temperatures hovering between high 40F and low 50's ( 4-10C).  A morning of sunshine has become a pouring rainstorm by evening.

Street scenes to take your breath away

Aside from the fact I should have followed my instincts and packed our long underwear and heavier clothes, we are enjoying this adventure in Central Europe. . .it reminds us how much of the world there is to see!  Regulars here and FB friends know that Budapest has long been on The Scout's list of 'must see' places. It wasn't as high up on my travel list, that is, before I arrived. Now I am talking about making this annual trip.

I am at a European Christmas Market!
In addition to the multitude of art galleries and museums, the historic sites are many and varied. We've logged more than a dozen miles walking from one to another in just a couple of days and filled most of another day touring by Hop-On, Hop-Off bus and boat tours. 

One of the unexpected treats we have had was the annual Christmas Market. And I do believe there will be another market operating in Vienna when we get there this weekend! I will certainly be telling you about those soon!

Who is this man? What was he playing for us? Stay tuned.
I know some of you were expecting a post on Monemvasia and I pre-empted that with this trip.  We are hopping a train tomorrow to Vienna before returning home to Greece next week. I will get back to it, but I've got a lot of things to tell you about our travels to this amazing part of Europe so hope you'll be back again for the next installment of Travel-n-Write! 

Safe travels to you and yours and thanks for the time you spent with us today.

Linking sometime soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


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