Great Railway Journeys Of Europe, by Insight Guides
As I have mentioned elsewhere, this book is one of the several books I picked up from my local library in order to help serve as a resource when it comes to traveling by rail in Europe. And while this book does provide at least some specific advice on how this can be done, including the general pattern of trains and the importance of setting aside more than is strictly necessary so that one can pay for the additional reservations that are required for some routes and some trains as well as meals and lodging, it is more useful as containing background material about what sights one can see along various routes. Now, depending on how adventuresome one is as a traveler one will take some of these routes or perhaps one’s own routes, and so this book may not be strictly what one is looking for for one’s travels but will at least provide some worthy information about European rail travel and its lengthy history as well as its present state. The authors are clearly interested in promoting European rail tourism, which is itself not a ignoble goal, and are particularly interested in promoting heritage rail so that the history of European rail is better known and regarded.
This particular book is about 400 pages long and is divided into various sections. The book begins with an introduction to European rail travel and a discussion of history as well as engineering feats, station architecture, speed, and heritage railways. Interspersed with the rest of the content in the book are various information panels about tunnels and hotels and eating on trains as well as various maps of railway journeys in particular countries or parts of countries. Most of the rest of the book contains discussion of railway journeys by country, beginning with the cross-continental routes of the Venice-Orient Express and the Paris-Amsterdam-Berlin-Moscow route, and then continuing with the railways of Great Britain and Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Scandinavia, and then other routes including Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Turkey, and Greece. The rest of the book after this consists of various travel tips about European rail travel, A-Z information on rail in various countries, and some suggestions for further reading. It would have been nice to have seen the integration of rail with other forms of transportation a bit more (like buses and ferries) as well as smaller countries whose railways are not as well known or that one might want to see along the way.
This book has plenty of gorgeous pictures and if you are fond of indulging a sense of nostalgia for European railways of years past as well as enjoying contemporary high-speed rail, this book is definitely worthwhile. The book particularly excels at selling rail travel, and that is something worth enjoying, but at the same time this is a book that doesn’t necessarily include the granular information that readers will want. It is certainly good for encouraging someone to travel rail, whether or not they end up enjoying it as much as they would want. It is very good at inspiring travels and on getting people to ponder what routes they might want to take, but when it comes to looking at when they would be able to travel on those routes or how frequently the routes are, the book is less precise. Still, if you want to spur your creativity for visualization and you’re okay with a country-by-country guide, this book will definitely be worth considering even if it is not the sort of book that I would want for the subject of getting to the nitty gritty on planning such a trip.