Monday, November 2, 2015
Take The Train!
Take time to smell the roses; that's what my grandma used to say. She has a point. In times of getting there as fast as you can and risking your life for an adrenaline rush, is there a way for old time travel to survive? Apparently so. Luxury trains are all the rage for travelers around the world. So, since I've taken a couple of these babies myself, I wondered what other people thought of trains around the world. Turns out that there are several luxury trains doing just fine in the current global economy.
In no particular order:
1. The Bergen Railway or Bergensbanen runs 308 miles from Oslo to Bergen in Norway. This train runs across 18 snowsheds, goes through 200 tunnels and over 300 bridges. The ride lasts about 7 hours on northern Europe's highest elevation train. It goes through the Hardanger Plateau, the largest wilderness area around. The views are amazing and the accommodations are top notch. This used to be the only year round transportation between these two cities, so come and try it out.
2. The Maharaja Express is the most comfortable way to see Rajastan, the land of kings in India. There are a couple of multi day tours that you can take on the train that stop to see the Taj Majal and some of the more beautiful cities and sights in northern India. The best part about this train is that you travel in style. They boast the largest single cabin in their presidential cabin that takes up an entire car. The train only boards 84 passengers and pulls 22 train cars to do it. You will be most comfortable on this train as you see the most beautiful parts of India.
3. The Alaska Railway is a fascinating way to get around America's largest state. They have several trains that run different routes, but the most famous is the Denali Star. This train takes you from Anchorage to various stops and ends at Denali National Park. The scenery is something that you will never forget and in Alaska, this is the best and possibly the only way to see these places. On a good day, some trains have not only dome cars for observation, but also an outdoor terrace for all the best views. Most cruise ships stop in Prince William Sound and that's it. The interior of Alaska is too amazing to miss. There are many specialty trains though and you can also take them to the Kenai Peninsula and other locations. Remember, if you just want to travel like a local, they have regular transportation trains as well. Rail is still a necessary travel method in the rugged wilderness of Alaska.
4. The Belmond British Pullman Day Train travels from London's Victoria Station to Calais in France. This is the old world for a day with the interior completely refurbished to look like new with Art Deco and all. Not only do you get great scenery and a step back in time with wonderful food and atmosphere, you get to hop a short piggyback between the French and English trains while you take a ride through the Chunnel. Now, this is only a day trip, so if you would like more than that, then take the Belmond Orient Express onward to Istanbul.
5. The Hiram Bingham Railroad is another of the amazing refurbished specialty trains run by Belmond and it goes from Cusco, Peru to Machu Pichu. So, if you've ever wondered how you make that trip, here's one option. It's a day trip, but you get to go through the Andes on your way there. The Andes are some of the most picturesque mountains in the world. And, when you get to the end, you will be at the Machu Pichu Lodge and from there it is just a short walk to the lost city in the clouds itself. Once again this is an antique train refurbished with five star service and great amenities.
6. The Glacier Express in Switzerland runs from Chur or St. Moritz to Zermatt through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges through one of the highest passes in the Alps. The trip takes seven and a half hours and is one of the slowest of all luxury trains, but you will never see anything like the views from this train. There are times when you are almost 8,000 feet straight up looking out over the valley below. If you don't like heights, you may not even want to take this one, but if you truly love an amazing view, this will be a day that you will not soon forget. This train goes places that I honestly didn't think trains could go. It's amazing and you'll remember it for the rest of your life, trust me.
7. The Shangri La Express is part of the Golden Eagle Line and is the private guided tour train that takes you across China from Beijing to the Russian border. This train has amazing views, which is what you take the train for. It follows parts of the old Silk Road and runs through parts of the Gobe Desert. The accommodations are second to none on this train and in addition to great sleeping accommodations and fantastic food, you get live entertainment with a pianist to listen to.
8. The Trans Siberian Railway is the mother of all train rides in the modern world. Golden Eagle runs a luxury train all the way across it. You can catch it coming off of the Shangri La or you can take it all the way from Moscow to Vladivostok. Luxury accommodations, entertainment, fine dining and some of the most amazing scenery in the world. Russia crosses 11 time zones and the trip takes a good two weeks. Siberia is still a lot of wilderness and small villages. This is a trip like no other. This is a bucket list thing. Don't miss this one.
9. The Blue Train is the world's most luxurious train and it hails from South Africa. Run by Spoornet, the old time train has been refurbished and runs 994 miles between Pretoria and Cape Town. There are stops along the way and you can not only see amazing scenery, eat fine cuisine, and stay in five star accommodations; you can also go on a safari. You will be taken back in time and pampered like nothing you've ever experienced before. The big point to this train is the luxury. Enjoy it.
So, there's a few for you. I love trains, because they are a great way to get to see the scenery that you won't see any other way. They tend to go through the wilderness that roads won't dare traverse and therefore you get to see more wildlife, scenery, and panoramas. The Glacier Express is amazing. You can take my word for that. I have spent a lot of time on trains in Europe and Western Russia, so I can tell you that it is worth it. In Switzerland you get all the best views from the top of the Alps on more than just one train. In America we have Amtrak which is great and has wonderful scenery which I really enjoyed over roads and driving. We also have all kinds of specialty trains. In New England we have some whoppers. So keep an eye out, because I will just randomly get in that mood where I decide that it is time to once again talk about trains. Take one and have a great trip.