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How one Interrailer discovered jaw-dropping views by taking regional rail

 

 

Rachel Schnalzer

Senior Writer

11 December 2023

 

Hills and cliffs, covered in chaparral. Pristine beaches and bright blue water, boats bobbing in the waves. 

 

Charlotte and her friends didn’t expect train views like this when planning their Interrail adventure around Europe. 

 

The three young women began their two-week trip in the summer of 2022, during their school break. Beginning in Germany, they took the train through Switzerland, France and Spain, with the goal of reaching Portugal to visit Charlotte’s friend’s family. 

 

“We've always wanted to visit my friend’s family in Portugal,” she explained. Along the way, “I got to experience new cultures and ways of living while also learning a lot about myself.”

 

One lesson Charlotte learned? Sometimes lengthier train journeys lead to the most unforgettable views. On their journey, the three travellers discovered the beauty of taking slower, regional routes across the continent. 

Charlotte on her Interrail journey

Departing from their home in Germany, Switzerland marked the first stop on their adventure. “I really enjoyed Basel,” Charlotte said. “The dynamic was really nice in the city.”

 

“People can actually swim in the river,” she explained, nodding to a favourite summer activity among Basel locals. “That's really a traditional thing to do.” 

 

From Basel, the three adventurers travelled to Marseille, originally planning to take a high-speed train from the French port city to Spain.  

 

Instead, because they had some extra time in their schedules, they decided to save money on seat reservations and take the regional train, Charlotte said. 

 

Fortunately, she said, “it was the best decision I could've made.”  

 

Charlotte has had plenty of good experiences taking regional rail lines in Germany – but nothing could have prepared her for the beauty she saw on the way from Marseille to Barcelona.  

 

“The regional train went right alongside the coast in the south of France and Spain, and the sea, bays, and boats were absolutely stunning,” Charlotte said. 

 

The unexpected change in plans, she said, “showed me that being more spontaneous is amazing because you experience things you wouldn't have when you plan everything in advance.”

One of the photos Charlotte took from the train window
One of the photos Charlotte took from the train window

Opting for regional rail may extend your travel time – but this tradeoff is worth it, emphasised Charlotte. “That's why I would definitely take a slower, regional train again in the future.” 

 

Reflecting on the trip, “it was good for us to experience being together for a longer period of time and learn how to plan things,” Charlotte said, also noting the importance of flexibility while travelling. 

 

Though she enjoyed the trip immensely, “maybe I would have enjoyed the trip more if we would have not planned that much,” she added. 

 

After returning home from her travels in France, Spain and Portugal, it wasn’t long before Charlotte embarked on another Interrail trip, keeping these new travel lessons in mind. This time, she headed east.  

 

“I did a second Interrail trip the same year in autumn…we went to Prague, Budapest, and Vienna,” she explained. “It was amazing.” 

 

She said she enjoyed the flexibility of travelling on reservation-free routes. “In Western Europe, we [often] had to book reservations. But, in Eastern Europe, that wasn't really the case.”

 

She encourages fellow travellers to embrace spontaneity and choose flexible routes, too. “Some people will feel more secure if they book hostels and everything. So you can plan a bit, maybe,” she said. “But I wouldn't plan everything, so you can stay a bit flexible on your trip.”  

 

“Just take your time, don’t rush and maybe don’t plan too much in advance,” she advised.  

 

Now back home in Berlin, Charlotte is working at a Christmas market this holiday season, already dreaming of her next adventure. 

 

She says she feels the beauty of coastal France and Spain calling her back. “I'm thinking of taking the train, taking it a bit slow and experiencing more along the way.” 

 

Once in southern Spain, she plans to take a ferry to Morocco to explore further (Interrail and Eurail travellers are entitled to a 30% discount on certain ferry journeys between the two countries!).

 

Whenever possible, she plans to embrace slow and scenic means of travel over the most direct route from place to place. The last piece of advice from Charlotte to fellow travellers? 

 

“Don't always choose the easiest way to travel, because when you don't, that's when you experience the most.”

Feeling inspired by Charlotte's regional rail adventure? With Interrail, you can:

Tour Europe by train with 1 Pass
Experience the highlights and hidden gems 
Travel flexibly on trains that don't need reservations
Stay conscious and travel sustainably