Europe by Rail

I was recently sent a copy of the latest (15th) edition of the book Europe by Rail – The Definitive Guide, by its Berlin-based authors Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries (who are also the lovely people behind hidden europe magazine, to which I have been a regular contributor since 2007).

european rail travel ebr-15-cover-web It’s a wonderful book – I love the idea of arranging a travel guide around rail journeys, rather than rail journeys merely being included as a means of getting from A to B (or as the authors put it, it’s a guidebook with an emphasis on journeys rather than destinations). Over its 512 pages, it includes some 50 rail routes, which between them do an impressive job of covering the wealth of landscapes, cities, cultures and languages this continent has to offer, from the Bay of Biscay to the Baltic, and from the Balkans to the Arctic Circle. The routes are preceded by a 48 page introduction which carries sections on night trains, rail passes, how to get the best deals on tickets and other useful information, along with plenty of inspiring colour photos. As you’d expect from the people behind hidden europe, it’s very readable, with a more literary style than you’d generally expect from most guidebooks, and an emphasis on slow travel. And it’s not too large, fitting easily within my camera bag (a fairly standard indication of whether something is likely to accompany me on my travels). That’s not to say the routes are short on facts either – along with tips on what to see along the route, each is accompanied by journey times, distances, train frequencies (cross-referenced to the relevant sections of the European Rail Timetable), suggested stop-overs, connections and other details (including some suggestions for hotels, and the locations of tourist offices), together with a handy sketch map.

Europe by Rail began life around 20 years (and more than 100,000 copies) ago, and over successive editions has been transformed from a book about 60 European cities (presented with a healthy serving of information on rail travel), into a book about the rail journeys themselves, a form it first took with the 14th edition. This new, 15th edition builds further on this, with more routes added, improved sketch maps, and thoroughly updated timetable information.

Within the card covers are maps of Europe showing the location of the routes. With one of these open, I closed my eyes and took a blind prod at the map with my right index finger. It landed somewhere near Prague, on Route 22 – a rail journey stretching from Hamburg to Budapest. Having been on at least one leg of that journey earlier this year – taking the S-Bahn east from Dresden along the Elbe to Kurort Rathen, followed by a short ferry crossing and a hike up into the other-worldly rock formations of Saxon Switzerland National Park – this brought a smile to my face. Turning to the corresponding page of Route 22, I found the sensible advice to 1) sit on the left when travelling south (the views of the sandstone formations are on that side) and 2) take the slow train, allowing for a stop-off to visit the national park, and mentioning the ferry.

The information given on a suggested stop-over is always interesting and goes well beyond the standard blurb of tourist brochures. Looking up another journey (45, from Zagreb to Thessaloniki) for example, I turned to the pages on Zagreb, a city I know rather well having lived there. Sure enough, what greeted me was not a paragraph with its number of inhabitants or a dose of hyperbole, but a paragraph about Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža and one of his essays on Zagreb. More familiar and practical information on the city is cross-referenced to another journey (44).

As the authors state in the introduction (I paraphrase a little), it is the job of a decent guidebook to inform and inspire. Europe by Rail does both in spades.

You can find information about where you can order a copy of Europe by Rail – The Definitive Guide here.

New books

Just received advance copies of my two most recent books:

St Oswald’s Way and St Cuthbert’s Way, published by Cicerone Press
Istria. The Bradt Travel Guide, published by Bradt (co-author with Thammy Evans)

Both published February 2013

cover-istria cover-stoswaldsway

A rainy day in Sibiu, Transylvania

I’m in Sibiu – European Capital of Culture 2007, with its beautifully preserved medieval core – for a couple of days, working on the updates for the Bradt guide to Transylvania. Here are a few photos from today…

Street #1

Street #2



View from the Council Tower

Dracula kitsch

Members of the ‘Balkans Let’s Get Up’ project

Windows to the soul

Doorway #1

Doorway #2

Sleepy dog

Reflections in the Great Square

Infectious joy
All photos copyright Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

St Oswald’s Way, Northumberland

A few shots from my most recent visit to Northumberland (last week), walking/re-walking some sections of St Oswald’s Way for my new Cicerone guide, due out later this year.

Morning light on Warkworth Castle (built from the 12th to the 15th century), Warkworth, St Oswald’s Way / Northumberland Coast Path, Northumberland

Victorian postbox in the wall of what was formerly the village school, one of the oldest buildings in Great Bavington, St Oswald’s Way, Northumberland

The remains of Whittington Mill, an 18th century windmill near the village of Great Whittington, St Oswald’s Way, Northumberland

Whittington Mill

Looking towards the Simonside Hills (a SSSI, or Site of Special Scientific Interest), Northumberland National Park, from the edge of Harwood Forest, St Oswald’s Way, Northumberland

18th century stone bridge over the River Coquet at Pauperhaugh, St Oswald’s Way, Northumberland

D700 + 14-24/2.8 (#2, 3, 5 & 6), 24 PC-E (#1) and 70-200/2.8 (#4).

All photos copyright © Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

St Cuthbert’s Way

Images from St Cuthbert’s Way, a long distance footpath stretching from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) off the Northumberland coast. D700 + 14-24/2.8.
Melrose Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian foundation, Melrose, Scottish Borders

The Cheviots. Crossing Wideopen Hill on the route from Morebattle to Kirk Yetholm, Scottish Borders

Border fence. The boundary between Scotland and England, on the hills between Kirk Yetholm and Wooler

All images © Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

Northumberland coast

Just back from a few cold, wet and windy days hiking in Northumberland, working on a new Cicerone guidebook to St Oswald’s Way, St Cuthbert’s Way and the Northumberland Coast Path. On this visit I started from Alnmouth and followed the coast up to Craster, then from Seahouses to Bamburgh, and around Budle Bay (a very long day with an enormous detour inland) to Beal. Crossed the sands to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) at low tide and spent the day there before returning on the next low tide, and on the final day followed the coast up to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Seaweed on Harkess Rocks, with Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands in the distance, Bamburgh, St Oswald’s Way / Northumberland Coast Path, Northumberland, UK

Rocks arranged in the shape of a horse, behind Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island, Northumberland, UK

View of Goswick Sands from Cheswick Sands, site of some of the tallest dunes on the Northumberland coast, Northumberland Coast Path (part of the North Sea Trail), Northumberland, UK

First and last images shot on a D700 with 24mm PC-E, plus Singh-Ray ND graduated filter (2 stops, hard edge); second image D700 with 14-24mm f/2.8.

All images © Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

Ryanair to begin flights to Podgorica, Montenegro

The word is that budget airline Ryainair is due to begin flights to Podgorica – which would make a very convenient (and cheap) route to the mountains of inland Montenegro such as Durmitor, Komovi and Prokletije. Watch this space for further info.

Komovi, near the border with Albania, Montenegro

Patagonia images

Chilean Patagonia has some of the most spectacularly beautiful landscapes on the planet, from massive, sprawling glaciers to fang-like mountain peaks, ancient forest – and some of the most amazing skies I have ever seen. With that in mind, and the fact that HidroAysén would dearly love to submerge/desecrate a few areas (namely the Rio Baker and Rio Pascua) in the interests of hydroelectric power (read: money) – a few photos from Patagonia (Chile and Argentina). The areas being considered for dams are even more wild and untouched, by the way.

Despite the fact that HidroAysén have run a high-profile ad campaign – to the effect that the Chilean population think they’re the best thing since sliced bread (really not a fan of the stuff myself) – a recent survey showed that around half of the Chilean population thinks that the dam projects are a bad thing. Good for them! You can find out more about the campaign to stop these projects on the Patagonia Sin Represas website.

All photos taken in 2008 and 2009 while researching a guidebook to Torres del Paine national park for Cicerone Press.

Old fishing boats, Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile (never ever believe someone if they advise you to skip Puerto Natales on your way to Torres del Paine because ‘there’s not much there’)

Cloud formations above Los Cuernos, Torres del Paine national Park, Patagonia, Chile

The Paine massif from near Lago Toro, Torres del Paine national park, Patagonia, Chile

Early morning light catches the massive east face of Cerro Paine Grande, Torres del Paine national park, Patagonia, Chile

Piedras Blancas glacier, El Chalten/Fitzroy area, Los Glaciares national park, Patagonia, Argentina

Torrent ducks (Merganetta armata), upper reaches of Valle Ascensio, Torres del Paine national Park, Patagonia, Chile

Evening light on Cerro Torre, El Chalten/Fitzroy area, Los Glaciares national park, Patagonia, Argentina

All images copyright Rudolf Abraham

‘Montenegro relaunches assault on wild beauty’

As someone who has written a book on Montenegro’s largely unspoilt natural landscape, this is deeply depressing….
A profoundly shortsighted piece of ‘planning’.

Croatia and Montenegro guidebooks

WordPress blogs started for updates to the two Cicerone guidebooks, Walking in Croatia and The Mountains of Montenegro: