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A 10-day Train Trip Through Europe

Lots of us have traveled by train occasionally. But have you ever done a really long train ride? Trains in Europe are perfect to quickly explore the beautiful cities. They’re fast, comfortable and most importantly: A very sustainable way of travel which is now more important than ever. Living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands I’ve done my fair share of traveling by train in Europe. But I’ve never crossed many countries combined in one train ride.

That recently changed as I was invited to join the Connecting Europe Express . This train is an initiative by the European Commission to promote train travel. Because (did you know?) 2021 is the European Year of Rail . So basically, the Connecting Europe Express is a press train. It’s a one time train that crosses Europe within 36 days and covers 20.000km! It started in Lisbon and eventually ends in Paris. I ‘only’ stayed on the train for 9 days but I was able to experience the start in Lisbon and went all the way to Bratislava. Even though the train had a sleeping coach we stayed at different hotels in every city during the night, all located at a walking distance from the station we arrived.

Route that I traveled on the Connecting Europe Express. Cities I stayed along the way:

Lisbon - Madrid - Bordeaux - Turin - Milan - Rome - Bolzano - St. Polten - Bratislava

For the full route, check the website

I received lots of questions from people who were interested in booking this particular train but unfortunately that’s not possible, for now at least! But crossing through Europe by train is not that hard and there are many ‘rail planners’ online that show you the connecting cities, railway lines and timetables that makes it a breeze to plan a city trip through Europe by train. But in this article, I want to tell you about my own trip and show you lots of photos from along the way.

10 cities, 9 days

Like I mentioned before I started in Lisbon Portugal. I love Lisbon. It has beautiful architecture, both old and modern. I was really intrigued by the trams that ran through the city. They really fit the architecture well. I had one early morning before the Connecting Europe Express departed to photograph these trams with with first sunlight. During the day it was impossible as it was very crowded with cars and people, but in the morning it was beautiful.

The Lisbon trams in the golden morning light

After the early morning we made our way to the beautiful Estação do Oriente station from where the Connecting Europe Express started its departure. I should mention there was lots of press on every station as it was really an event that united countries from the EU to work together to promote European rail.

The spectacular Estação do Oriente station

What followed was an intensive but super exciting trip where I tried to photograph a glimpse of every city.

We first passed through Portugal, stayed the night in Covilha and made our way into Spain, where we stayed the night in Madrid. I had the afternoon to walk around and enjoy Madrid and explored the streets and beautiful architecture and buildings of the city.

Madrid has some really nice colourful streets.

Palacio de Cibeles

Puerta de Alcala

Little temple in Parque de El Retiro.

After Madrid we went straight to Bordeaux, France. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the city of Bordeaux. It was full of beautiful streets and spectacular buildings like ancient gates and churches. And it was just very lively on the streets in the evening with lots of terraces on the streets, good wine and nice food.

I did everything on foot in Bordeaux. Everything was close to each other and close to the hotel and the train station. Plus I really like to just walk around in the streets and see if there is anything interesting to photograph. I always made sure to prepare and I kind of knew where I wanted to go. I checked the ‘hot spots’ of the city through Google and I did this in the train on my laptop. Most of the time the train had a good wifi connection so it was very pleasant to work while looking at the nice sceneries out of the window. So like I mentioned: I would simply check the ‘hot spots’ through google, make a little map for myself to walk, and in between I would see if there was anything interesting to photograph. And if the spots were too far from each other I would use the electric scooters that they basically had in every city! Very convenient to get around fast.

As I would often sit for many hours in the trip I also started to take photos from the train itself. Not only the window views but I found it also very interesting to photograph ‘abstract’ images with slightly longer exposures from the window of the train. By moving the camera and the moving train, I could get very abstract patterns which almost look like paintings. I met a girl named Jennifer (@landscapeinmotion) on the train who was ‘specialised’ in that, you can see her work from the trip on her Instagram. Here are some of my abstracts from out of the window.

The line in the middle is actually the rail track next to the train. The image is 90 degrees flipped.

By using slower shutter speeds and shooting while tilting the camera I could create a wave effect.

Photographing different landscapes with different colours had endless possibilities.

After Bordeaux we had a long train ride of almost 16 hours (small stops included) all the way to Turin in Italy. Turin was another city that was very pleasant to walk around in. It instantly reminded why Italy is one of my favorite countries in Europe. I just love the architecture and the relaxed atmosphere. I walked around a bit in the morning and enjoyed spending time finding interesting angles and details in the city along with the famous buildings.