“To travel is to live”, wrote the famous Danish author and adventurer ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ in his portrayal ‘My life’s Adventure’. By that, did he also mean travelling with public transportation? I am not sure. But I decided to travel from Denmark to Cádiz in south of Spain, in train.
December last year I decided that it was time to go and visit friends and family in Denmark. And when my brother came to Cádiz to visit me between Christmas and new year’s, I decided to fly to Denmark with him when he was going back. And I wanted to go by public transportation back home to Cádiz after my visits in Denmark.
Why did I do it? Well, if Greta can, so can I. Greta has started a trend. But it was also because I wanted the experience. How is it to travel this far by train? Also something in me wanted to go to Paris for a couple of days, just because Paris is wonderful. Then it was settled. I was going with train. This blogpost is about my journey, my experiences, considerations, and pros and cons compared to flying.
First of all, don’t take the train that far, if you are in a hurry, haha… But that is kind of obvious. Flying from Denmark to Sevilla or Málaga, which are the nearest airports to Cádiz, takes about 3½ hours. Then you would need to travel 2 or 4 hours with bus to Cádiz, so maximum around 8 hours transportation time. Taking the train, if you don’t do any stop overs on the way, takes 35 hours with 6 train changesand it goes all the way to Cádiz.
I found that flying is more than ten times cheaper than taking the train. Seriously!!! Yes, seriously. I found a plane ticket for only 22€ (no check-in luggage though) from Billund in Denmark to Málaga. The cheapest way to take the train on this long stretch was to buy an interrail ticket, a global pass. You can buy different once depending on how many days you want to travel, check it out here. I bought a three-day travel pass with a ten percent discount, just before Christmas for 198€. You can buy them here. Now they have changed the three-day to a four-day pass and that is the minimum days you can buy. I recommend that you read about the interrail rules in order to know, if it is the right option for you. Once you understand how it works, it is not very complicated. What takes time is the planning of the route. There is an app that can help with that, called ‘Rail planner’. Or the following webpage is one I found most helpful. Or this one.On some stretches you are obligated to book and pay for a seat (some can actually be very expensive) and on some, especially night trains, you will need to do so some time in advance to make sure that you have a seat or bed. In this way some of the spontaneity and flexibility vanishes.The good thing about night trains are that you are transporting your self while sleeping and then you don’t “waste” a day travelling. But on the other hand, I didn’t find that many night trains, and the one I found was fully booked for several days. Another cost that you have to keep in mind is all that you use when you stop somewhere and the cost of food. You obviously eat more food in 35 hours than in 8, but on the other hand, you would need to eat anyway. Though access to healthy food, if you buy at train stations can be limited but if you love junk food, you are in heaven.
I’ve always enjoyed travelling with train. Train over plane, bus and car (except if I’m the one driving the car). It is somewhat soothing to travel by train and there is just more space to move around in. Usually you also get to see some great nature on the way. But if it is to travel 35 hours straight in train, then I think I am cured. Travelling with plane is just a cramped thing for me. You just sit so tight and close to each other. It also dries my sinuses and makes me bloated that takes a day to pass. But I discovered that the bloating also can be an issue travelling with train because you sit down for such a long time. Maybe a gym on the train could be a solution, haha.
What’s the win?
What is the win about travelling by plane? Time of course. It is just more convenient to get to a place faster and usually more rested. Except if it is one of those 11-hour killer flights and with a sick baby on board. You can go long distance travelling and exploring exotic places. Who invented the planes, by the way? I always find it amazing how a huge metal machine like that can stay up in the air.
Money. If you are travelling low season or book flights in advance. It is not always that you can find tickets for 22€, but tickets from Denmark to Spain are usually cheap. Travelling by train is not cheap, which I wonder, why not. Hopefully in the future.
What is there to win by going by public transportation.Well, the most important, in my opinion is the effect that it has on the climateof course. How much carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are released? The plane is one of the biggest sinners on the transportation part, but the calculations are not straight forward, as it depends on many things. For example, if you go by train, is it an electrical or diesel train? The diesel trains produce more CO2. So does cars, unless they are electrical. Actually, if you travel only one person in a car, it produces almost just as much CO2, as travelling by plane. But if you put just one more person in the car, it is already a lot less CO2. Read more about the calculations here.
Another win is the slowing down and enjoying the ride and views.A lot of train tracks run through scenic nature and you won’t see that when going with plane. You can of course also slow down and enjoy the ride in the plane, but in a different way. And also depending on how long the flight is. For me, travelling by train is more inviting to slow down. Maybe it is the movement of the train, or the comfort of the seats and space that you have. I am not sure. I just know that it feels more adventurous to me, when travelling by train than by plane. That is another win, the whole adventure and the travelling being a part of the adventure and not just a means of getting from A to B.I will tell you a bit about my trip, my adventure.
My train adventures
After ten lovely days in Denmark, seeing friends and family, I boarded the train in Kolding, Denmark, Thursday morning the 9th of January. I was heading to Paris. The complete journey was going to take 11hours and 35 minutes, with short stops of 24 and 55 minutes, changing trains in Hamburg and in Karlsruhe in Germany. It all went really smooth, except that I almost boarded the wrong train in Hamburg. It is not just enough to look at the destination but also the train number. In Karlsruhe I had a nice break where I found some okay healthy food and a sniff of fresh air. It was nice that I had to change trains so I could walk a bit and go outside for a while.
The trains were nice and comfy. The fast train from Karlsruhe towards Paris was though a bit crammed, with enclosed air. It was the least comfortable train of the three of them, and actually the only one that I was obligated to pay a seat for. The best of the trains was the Danish one from Kolding to Hamburg. Everything was just more comfortable and the wifi worked very well. In the trains I was reading and doing some work on my computer. The wifi in the other trains was not so good though, so I could not do the things that I wanted, but it forced me to read and look out the window. I was tired from being very social when I was in Denmark, that I was happy just doing my own things on the train. And didn’t really talk to anyone.
The train reached Paris at 20:35 in the evening. I knew about the public transportation strike in Paris before getting there. Therefore, I had booked a hotel relatively close to the station, a nice 25 minutes’ walk. Ohhhh, what a joy to be in Paris again after 9 years of separation. Not that I have a special thing for Paris, other than it is a beautiful city, the buildings, the architectural, its peculiar things, the Eiffel tower, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, the Latin quarter, the small cafes, bistros and in general just the atmosphere. I had a wonderful two whole days. And because of the strike, I got to see a lot and walk more than 15 km every day. I also met up with a French friend of mine, that I got to know in Cádiz last winter. It was actually one of my students while I took my English Teacher training course.
Two days was enough time for me to explore Paris. I was actually a bit eager to come home to Cádiz. Then Sunday morning it was time to move on.
I had tried to book a night train from Paris to Toulouse, because I wanted to go to Carcassonne, a castle village in the south of France, but it was fully booked. So, I decided that I would go to Valencia instead, because everybody talks so nice about it. My trip was then from Paris to Barcelona and change train for Valencia. But for the interrailers it was not possible to buy a seat in advance for the Paris – Barcelona train, because of some technical issues on the website. I was told to just board the train and buy it there. All the interrailers were to go to the food wagon to buy seat tickets. There were 6 of us. I noticed a young girl and I saw on her passport in front of her, that she was Danish too. She didn’t seem very interested in talking to anyone though, so I figured that she was just on her first trip alone and I didn’t want to disturb her. She bought her seat ticket first and went off to find a seat. And as it was my turn to find a seat, I ended up in the same place as her and I just felt that I had to say hello to her. So I did. It turned out that she actually really wanted to talk to somebody, because her trip so far had been without much contact to people. We ended up talking almost all the 8-hour trip to Barcelona. The more we talked, I realised that she was my mirror of myself when I was her age, not so long ago. She is 19. A strong girl going her own ways and listening to her heart. She was a reminder to myself of just to keep going. She was travelling to Andalusia (a couple of hours from Cádiz), to do a permaculture course for a year. How amazing and brave is that.
My plan was to go all the way to Valencia that day, even though it meant that I had to travel all day long. The girl thought that she would have to stay in Barcelona overnight, because she didn’t think that there would be any other connections so late. I invited her to go with me to Valencia and she did. We arrived in Valencia at 23:05. This was the last day of a slow train between Barcelona and Valencia. The following day they would shorten the trip by two hours. Ha ha, and that Sunday we had to first go by bus and then by train, together 4½ hours. But if you want to move on, you have to take what comes.
We spend the whole next day exploring Valencia together. I am not sure that it lives up to its reputation of being this amazing as everybody says. I am not completely convinced. I did like the main local market building.
And also the ‘Science city’. It was very different to anything that I have every seen, and beautiful in the evening in its lights.
The rest of the town, I don’t know. Maybe a local should show me around next time. Or maybe I am just spoiled because I have travelled so much in my life. Tuesday, we boarded the same train in the morning. The girl got off in Córdoba and I moved on to Sevilla and changed for the train to Cádiz. But we knew that we would meet again soon. The connection was there.
I was home at 15:30. What a joy to be back. It is such a pleasure to feel this connected to a place. And also somewhat strange that I have never known about Cádiz before I got to Spain 1½ years ago, and know it is my home. Some words go that ‘Home is where the heart is’. I just couldn’t agree more.
Just to sum up. Is it worth it, to go by train? If you have time, money and are adventurous, then yes. It is definitely worth it, and you get to travel with good consciousness. Would I do it again? Yes, but for sure with stop overs and seeing places on the go. I hope it will be cheaper to travel with train soon. Will I still be flying? I would like to be able to travel only with public transportation in Europe, but if I am in a hurry to go somewhere, I am pretty sure that I will jump on a plane, I can’t refuse that. But I will minimize my travelling in general, I have already done that. I would like to try and travel by car or minivan to Denmark, filling up the car with other people of course.