Travel: Fast and scenic, there's a lot to love about trains
DO YOU yearn for the day when we will have fast train travel in Australia? It will happen surely. But not in our lifetime, I suspect.
I enjoy train travel very much, especially in Europe.
Give me a train station instead of an airport every time. No long queues at check-in, no tedious waits at security and if you've bought your tickets before you leave Australia, you just rock up, get on and sit back.
I've had many a memorable train ride in Europe. One in particular in Denmark stands out when we travelled from Copenhagen to Aarhus.
We sat opposite four people, obviously couples, friends, mature folks, very train savvy by the look of their preparation. We were alone in the carriage with them and watched as they enjoyed a multi-course gourmet meal from their carry-on luggage.
They began with a glass of brandy, from their own flask with their own glasses. Then they moved on to what looked like herrings (smelt like herrings, for sure) and then went on to a colourful salad, some pungent cheeses and then a chocolate cake, a bottle of wine, another brandy, and then a flask of coffee. Fortunately they had a table in front of them - they even brought their own cloth.
When their feast was packed away out came the cards and they got down to a lively and competitive game.
They kept giving us glances, finally took pity on the unprepared Aussies who had not brought a thing to eat or drink and gave us a glass of brandy. We arrived at Aarhus in good fettle with a determination to pack a gourmet degustation dinner the next time.
So you can imagine my happiness at the news this week that passengers on the Swiss Travel system will be given free beer. Free books too.
This adds to the growing list of offers on Swiss Rail including free access to more than 490 museums across the country, 50% discount off most mountain railways and free travel for children under the age of 16. A lot to love on a train.
The free books come to you on the Bernina Express and free beer on the Quöllfrisch Express.
Since late last year, first class travellers on Bernina Express have enjoyed a library with books in different languages for adults and children.
The free beers come in September this year for passengers aboard Appenzell Railway.
The Quöllfrisch Express will run between Gossau and Wasserauen in eastern Switzerland, and you choose a traditional beer or shandy during the scenic journey.
But books and beer aside, how about just the thrill of being on a train in Switzerland?
It's all about what's outside the window. The Bernina Express is arguably the most spectacular of all alpine crossings, passing through scenes as varied as snow-capped peaks to palm tree paradises. Once you have travelled on the trains in Switzerland you will return yearning for a fast train here.
The Bernina Express is a four-hour train journey between Chur in Switzerland's east and Tirano in the country's south, on the Italian border.
One of the highest railways across the Alps, the Bernina Express operates on the UNESCO World Heritage Rhaetian Railway. The journey passes through 55 tunnels and across 196 bridges including the famous Landwasser Viaduct, which is the most spectacular landmark on the railway.
While Switzerland is best known for its cheese and chocolate on the gourmet front, many visitors to the country, especially first time travellers, are not aware that it also produces wine, brandy and beer.
Visit myswizerland.com/rail for more.