Rail Europe Takes You There!

The European rail network is a vast system spanning over 160,000 miles that connects every major city in Europe. Travel is comfortable and convenient with a railway that is renowned for its reliability and speed.

The railway is used both by tourists and locals alike and is undoubtedly the best way to see the countryside. My travels took me from Prague, in the Czech Republic, to Dresden, Germany, and finally to Vienna, Austria.  Each city has a train station that is within walking distance and directly connected to the city through the metro system.

My rail adventure started at the historic and picturesque city of Prague, in the Czech Republic . The station was built from 1901-1909 by architect Josef Fanta. The main architects include Ohmann, Bendelmeyer, and Kotera.  These architects gave the main station, Hlavni Nadrazi, its unmistakable style that reflects the opulent 1920s.

Prague's Hlavni Nadrazi Station,
with Art Nouveau sculptures.

The station is a masterpiece of symmetry and contains incredible sculptures, stained glass, and ceramic frescos. These all reveal the greatest artistic influence on Prague Art Nouveau. This style was created by a Czech artist by the name of Mucha. Art Nouveau embellishments are seen everywhere in the city, including the main train station.

It is well worth taking a walking tour of the structure to see the many examples. The newer sections inside, built in the 1970s, are the remnants of a post-communist era. Suddenly the architecture becomes cold and efficient. Everything is very orderly, and once inside the kiosks are easy to spot. You must go to a ticketing counter, as there are no automatic machines in Prague. Choose your date and destination and you will be ready to go. The main station is located within walking distance of the city and is also connected by the metro. The metro is easy to access and has three lines: A = green, B = yellow, C = red. Daily or weekly travel cards can be purchased from the Prague Tourist Information Center.

Prague is truly stunning and is becoming wildly popular for tourists from all over the world. The Old Town has winding cobblestone streets that open onto expansive squares. For medieval enjoyment, the Charles Bridge is the best example in the city. By climbing up one of the towers that are located at either end of the bridge one can view the castle above and the city bellow. This bridge leads to the imposing Prague Castle that overlooks the brightly painted buildings.

Just one of Dresden's historic buildings.

I decided to take a day trip to Dresden, Germany. I made my reservations with Rail Europe prior to leaving the United States; however, I had to speak to an international ticket agent to obtain my final ticket. Once I chose my date and time travel was quite easy. The ticket agents at the international ticket counters speak English fluently; however, if you think you are being misunderstood it is a good idea to write down your exact desired travel details to show to the vendor. As I already had the information printed on my Rail Europe pass, the transaction went quickly and the language barrier was not an issue. I then watched for my departure information on the large screens and went to board my train. For this journey I had a 2nd class ticket and I chose to sit in the non-smoking area. I had my own box to sit in which was very comfortable and perfect for a relaxing journey to Dresden. It is important to note that the less luggage the better. Although security is tight it is best to keep your belongings close to you at all times to avoid them being stolen.  It was a quick two-hour ride to Dresden Hauptbahnhof.

The renovation of
Hauptbahnhof in Dresden.

The station is currently under construction to better accommodate the roughly 70,000 people that visit the city each year. I met my friend who was studying abroad and began my tour of the city. Although the city sustained massive damage during World War II, it has been reconstructed with care since the fall of the Soviet Union. The only way to tell the building ever sustained damage is to look closely at the brickwork.  Some of the ruins, however, still remain today.

Above: The Great Hall
of Kings in Dresden.

Below: Charles Bridge
leads to Prague Castle.

One amazing piece of art that survived is the largest porcelain painting in the world, depicting all of the German Princes, Dukes, and Kings on horseback. It contains 24,000 porcelain tiles and spans 1,200 square yards. This was miraculously spared during the fire-bombing and is well worth visiting. Dresden has many outdoor cafés which all serve delicious beer, bratwurst, and sauerkraut. The city itself is incredibly beautiful and very manageable on foot. In fact, Dresden made for the perfect day trip. After I meandered about for a bit I decided to make the 4 o’clock train back to Prague. The next day I began my final trip to Vienna , Austria .

Vienna is known for its classical architectural style, desserts, and music. To make the journey from Prague Vienna , I had to leave from a station that is actually just north of the Vlatava River, Praha-Holesovice. This was very important, as I had to take the red line to the correct stop, which was a bit farther away than Hlavni Nadrazi. This train station lacks the architectural beauty of the main train station, so there is no need to come early to take a tour. However, one interesting fact is that the Prague Zoo is at this stop, so if you are an avid animal lover, it might be worth a visit.

The Palace Schoenbrunn in Vienna.

My train ride was about five hours from start to finish. This time I went 1st class. I again picked the non-smoking section, only this time I had assigned seating as I made the reservations with Rail Europe. First class was nice for the longer journey as the seats were very comfortable and I was guaranteed my own personal space. I must say, however, that traveling on both first and second-class was very comfortable and the trains were clean and quiet. On my train to Vienna , there was a restaurant that served everything from vegetarian pasta to bratwurst, and I had the option of eating at the tables or taking the food back to my seat.

Church Karlskirche
at Karlsplatz in Vienna.

I arrived in Westbahnhof station. This was first opened in 1898 and completely re-built and re-opened in 1992. The main architects were Holzbauer, Marschalek, and Gantar. The second major railway station in Vienna is Sudbahnhof. Both stations are connected directly to Vienna through the subway, the U-Bahn. The metro was designed, in large part, by Otto Wagner and has six lines. He is famous for his Art Nouveau style of architecture, which is referred to as Jugendstil in Vienna .

Traveling on trains in Austria is convenient as tickets are only date specific so you can choose your departure time according to your schedule. Also, the fare is determined by how far you are traveling not by how fast the train is. If it is a busy travel season, however, it may be best to secure a time and seating with Rail Europe prior to your departure.

The rail system in Eastern Europe is easy to navigate, affordable, and comfortable. Both 1st and 2nd class are clean and quiet and the food service is quite good. Reservations may be made online or over the phone with Rail Europe, or can be made at the stations when you arrive.

— By Lucy Harrison, Boston Corrrespondent.

Vienna Public Transit Map

Vienna Public Transit Map

Vienna Public Transit Map recommended by Jetsetters Magazine.

Prague Public Transit Map

Prague Public Transit Map

Prague Public Transit Map recommended by Jetsetters Magazine.

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