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10 of the best train journeys in Europe

A new book on rail travel across the continent showcases gorgeous scenery, historic routes and adventures at a slower pace.

Railways in Europe are many things. With their grand stations, history and evocative destinations, they evoke a timelessness that is absent from the uniform experience of flying. In recent decades, high-speed services have complemented classic routes, while the demand for more climate-friendly travel has grown and new options have sprung up, including a recent wave of night trains.

Lonely Planet, which for nearly 50 years has championed a down-to-earth, connected style of travel, has produced a new Guide to Train Travel in Europe aimed at unlocking adventures by rail from any starting point on the continent. Here the authors pick fantastic journeys from the book.

Paris to Berlin – fast or slow

A well-established network of high-speed trains and a huge choice of slower options connects two of Europe’s great cities. A glorious three-country tour would allow you to head from Paris to Brussels, travelling on to Cologne via the space-age architecture of Liège-Guillemins station. Cologne’s cathedral is so close to the station you can hardly miss popping in before boarding an onward ICE German fast service to the capital, which takes less than five hours. To see more than the immediate surroundings of the station buildings in each city, book separate tickets for each leg at, or add in a stop of a few hours or an overnight booking via Deutsche Bahn ( A high-speed connection from Paris via Frankfurt is also possible.

Amsterdam to Vienna on the Nightjet

One of several recent additions to Europe’s sleeper train scene, the Nightjet service operated by Austrian Railways ( departs every evening at 7pm or 7.30pm from Amsterdam. As you doze off, the train will trundle alongside the Rhine, passing Cologne and Koblenz, then continuing south-east through Germany and entering Austria at Passau. A 9.19am arrival in Vienna ensures time for a lie-in and breakfast. This train can easily be combined with the Eurostar service from London or a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, or from Harwich to Hoek van Holland.

Loop the loop in North Wales

Some of the world’s most beautiful narrow-gauge railways can be found in Wales and two of the best can be combined in a loop that takes in the mountains and coastal scenery of Snowdonia. Catch a service from Llandudno Junction – which has main line connections – down the Conwy valley to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Change for the celebrated Ffestiniog Railway, a distinctive steam-hauled service that winds 13 miles down to the coast at Porthmadog. Return via the sublime steam service of the Welsh Highland Railway under the summit of Snowdon to Caernarfon, where you can catch a bus to Bangor and main line services.

From Bastia to Ajaccio through the Corsican interior

The Chemins de Fer de la Corse (Corsican Railways) is a narrow-gauge railway centred on Ponte Leccia – from where three main lines head to Ajaccio, Bastia and Calvi, all providing incredible views of beautiful and rugged terrain. The route linking Ajaccio and Bastia is the longest and most celebrated, taking three and a half hours, so is best done with an overnight stop, rather than attempted as a day trip. Corsica is well served by ferries from mainland France such as Toulon, Marseille and Nice, opening up a tempting train-and-ferry route from the UK.

Dublin to Madrid by train and ferry

It is possible to head from Dublin direct to mainland Europe. A largely single-track line skirts the Irish Sea heading south as far as Wicklow before veering inland and stopping in the appealing county town of Wexford, set on the estuary of the River Slaney. It’s a short hop along the tracks from there to the port of Rosslare for the twice-weekly ferries to Bilbao, which take about 30 hours. Then it’s a five-hour rail journey on to Madrid. Recommended stops take in Burgos’s treasured cathedral, the former Spanish capital of Valladolid and Segovia’s Roman aqueduct and Alcázar fortress.

Venice to Palermo – across the water in Italy

Heading from top to toe in Italy, this dramatic journey’s potential stopping points need no introduction. Fast Frecciarossa trains connect Venice to the gastronomic centre of Bologna in 90 minutes, with Florence 40 minutes down the line. An hour and a half further on you’re in Rome. From here the south of Italy opens up. For one of Europe’s most unusual rail experiences take a train service all the way to Sicily. At Villa San Giovanni in Calabria, you and your carriage board a dedicated ferry to Messina, in Sicily, from where the hectic fun of Palermo is a slow-rolling four and a half hours’ ride away along the coast. There are several daily intercity and night services that run from the mainland, via the ferry, through to the Sicilian capital including sleepers direct from Milan, Genoa and Pisa.

From coast to coast, via a mountain high – Oslo to Bergen

A contender for Europe’s best train trip, the Bergen Line (Bergensbanen) thunders past southern Norway’s mountains and lakes between Oslo and Bergen, reaching 1,222m at Finse station, where a snowball fight is generally on offer. The trip takes nearly seven hours, which passes quickly in a blur of incredible scenery on a comfortable intercity service. There’s scope to do a longer version of this route taking the Norway in a Nutshell tour, which includes the Flåm Railway – possibly the world’s most scenic branch line – and a boat journey through Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord.

Paris to Barcelona on the slow train

These cities are linked by a fast train, but there’s a leisurely route south through France to the Pyrenees via Limoges, Toulouse and through magnificent rural and mountain scenery to Latour-de-Carol. While it’s possible to reach Latour-de-Carol by direct night train from Paris, you would miss the slowly unfolding views you can enjoy when doing this journey in daylight. From Latour-de-Carol a commuter line runs all the way to Barcelona and takes just over three hours. Possible stops along the way include fortified Ribes de Freser and Ripoll, home to an ancient monastery and a good starting point for hiking trails.

Budapest to Split on a sleeper

During the summer there’s a tempting night service between Hungary’s capital and the Adriatic. In recent years the train has left Budapest at midnight, getting into Split after lunch. En route it passes the Hungarian holiday playground of Lake Balaton and Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. Once on the Adriatic coast, buses head south to Dubrovnik, while ferries and catamarans radiate out to nearby islands.

Locarno to Domodossola through the Swiss Alps

Pretty much any journey in Switzerland promises jaw-dropping scenery, and on several routes trains run slowly specifically to show off the mountains, rivers and lakes that can be seen from the window. Travelling between Locarno in Switzerland to Domodossola in the Piedmont region of Italy, the Centovalli (Hundred Valleys) Railway is a short but scenic service past 52km of waterfalls, chestnut groves, church-topped villages, deep ravines and vineyards. Highlights include the Isorno Bridge near the village of Intragna and Intragna’s gorge.

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Tips to help you for your first international trip

Traveling abroad can be an exciting and fantastic experience, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming for first-time travelers. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, it’s important to prepare ahead of time and familiarise yourself with some basic international travel guidelines. Here are some essential tips to help you confidently navigate your first international trip.

Get your documents in order

Make absolutely sure you have all the required paperwork available and ready to go before you depart. This covers your plane tickets, passport, visa (if necessary), travel insurance, and any other documentation related to your journey. Make sure your passport and visa are still valid at the end of your journey by checking their expiry.

Pack smart

Consider the temperature, lifestyle, and events you’ll be taking part in while preparing for a trip abroad. Take into consideration that you’ll carry your baggage while packing so that you’re prepared for your journey. To simplify and reduce stress on your travel, only carry what you really need.

Be aware of local laws and regulations

Learn about the rules and laws that apply in the country you are going to before you depart. This includes restrictions on things like speed, drinking, and several other this. Make sure you abide by all rules and laws to prevent running into trouble with the law while travelling.

Plan your transportation in advance

Plan your transportation choices before you depart. This covers your transportation plans for getting to and from the airport, getting around while you’re away, and returning to the airport at the end of your vacation. Make sure you have all the necessary information, such as maps, taxi numbers, and bus schedules.

Use local transportation

An excellent approach to save money and get a taste of the local way of life is to use local transportation. If you’re brave and don’t mind being lost, it may also be a lot of fun. Just be cautious when traveling by local transportation because of thefts and other security issues.

Learn some basic phrases in the local language

Your journey will be more pleasurable if you can converse with locals and learn a few simple words in their language. Additionally, it can demonstrate to locals that you’re polite to them and involved in their way of life.

Be mindful of your surroundings

When you’re traveling, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Keep an eye on your belongings, be mindful of local scams and dangers, and be respectful of local laws and customs.

Respect the local environment

Finally, when you’re traveling, it’s important to respect the local environment. This means being mindful of the impact your actions have on the local environment and being mindful of the local wildlife and natural resources.

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6 genius travel tips from business-trip pros

If you don’t have much experience with traveling for business, then it’s easy to find the entire process stressful and overwhelming. But if you do travel frequently, it’s important to figure a few things out.

Here are a handful of helpful travel hacks you could gain from ten minutes’ conversation in an airport terminal with any experienced business traveler.

1. Avoid checking luggage whenever possible

The goal of business travel is to save as much time as possible by being proactive and efficient. In this light, one of the best tips is to avoid checking luggage whenever possible. By bringing only carry-on luggage, you avoid the extra time it takes to check luggage and find it again at baggage claim. More importantly, you avoid the risk of your luggage being manipulated or put on the wrong flight.

How can you possibly fit everything into one carry-on piece of luggage and a personal bag? Well, start by leaving things at home. Even traveling internationally for business, you can leave extra gadgets, bulky items and clothing behind.

Remember that you really need only a few outfits. “Unless you’re traveling to an extremely remote location — where your water supply is limited – there’s virtually no need to bring extra clothes, when you can do a quick sink wash and line dry,” Luggage Council notes. “You could also splurge and use your hotel’s laundry services.”

2. Pay a premium for direct flights

If you’re paying for your own flights, it’s easy to choose the cheapest option. But the cheapest option isn’t always the best option. Connecting flights are sometimes necessary to get from one location to another, but look for direct flights if at all possible.

With each connection, you are not only increasing the amount of time it takes to get from “Point A” to “Point B,” but also increasing the amount of risk. With each leg, there’s a possibility for a delay. If your first leg is delayed, you risk missing your second leg, which then compromises your third leg, etc.

If you can reasonably afford it, pay a premium for direct flights. This will save you a lot of stress and wasted time in uncomfortable airports.

3. Check in online

There are always unexpected delays on travel days. From the alarm that doesn’t ring and traffic on the interstate, to long security lines and issues at the baggage counter, uncontrollable factors will always be in play. So, when you get the chance to speed something up, take full advantage.

Thankfully, most airline companies now let you check in online within 24 hours of your flight. This one little step can save you a ton of time at the airport — especially if you aren’t checking baggage.

4. Always carry these items in your bag

Every experienced business traveler has a few simple items he or she needs to carry on every trip. These vary from individual to individual, but learn what’s important here by studying your peers. One important item is a portable cell phone charger. You never know when you’re going to need to charge your phone but won’t be able to find your charger (or an outlet).

Another strange, yet effective, item is a tennis ball. “Bring a tennis ball with you when you’re traveling,” experienced traveler Brian Povinelli says. “It’s great to roll under your feet and even under your thighs to keep you from getting stiff/sore. It’s small, inexpensive and easy to replace.”

5. Kill the germs

Airports, rental cars, hotels, and taxicabs … they’re all full of germs. In order to stay healthy on your business trip, do everything possible to avoid germs in obvious places. That’s why you should always carry three things in your bag: hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and Bacitracin.

Antibacterial wipes should be used to clean down airplane table trays (which are rarely cleaned between flights). And sanitizer should be applied before eating anything. Apply a small drop of Bacitracin to each nostril to keep those pesky germs at bay.

6. Try negotiating with rental car agencies

If you’re renting a car upon arriving at your destination, consider inquiring about an upgrade. There’s a big difference in comfort between compact cars and premium cars. Plus, if you’re wining and dining clients, it’s always good to be thinking about your image.

“Premium cars can cost an arm and a leg, but counter reps will negotiate much lower prices if they are available when you pick up your car,” says Brian Kelley, The Points Guy. “Ask at check-in if you can upgrade to a higher category, and if they quote you a price, be sure to negotiate since they won’t start at their best price.”

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How to manage the iPhone camera’s AI effects your way

Instead of fearing technological improvements of mobile phone cameras, there are things you can do to gain more control of your image.

Last weekend The New Yorker published an essay by Kyle Chayka with a headline guaranteed to pique my interest and raise my hackles: “Have iPhone Cameras Become Too Smart?” (March 18, 2022).

Aside from being a prime example of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, it feeds into the idea that computational photography is a threat to photographers or is somehow ruining photography. The subhead renders the verdict in the way that eye-catching headlines do: “Apple’s newest smartphone models use machine learning to make every image look professionally taken. That doesn’t mean the photos are good.”

The implication there, and a thrust of the article, is that machine learning is creating bad images. It’s an example of a type of nostalgic fear contagion that’s increasing as more computational photography technologies assist in making images: The machines are gaining more control, algorithms are making the decisions we used to make, and my iPhone 7/DSLR/film SLR/Brownie took better photos. All wrapped in the notion that “real” photographers, professional photographers, would never dabble with such sorcery.

(Let’s set aside the fact that the phrase “That doesn’t mean the photos are good” can be applied to every technological advancement since the advent of photography. A better camera can improve the technical qualities of photos, but doesn’t guarantee “good” images.)

I do highly recommend that you read the article, which makes some good points. My issue is that it ignores—or omits—an important fact: computational photography is a tool, one you can choose to use or not.

Knowing you have choices

To summarize, Chayka’s argument is that the machine learning features of the iPhone are creating photos that are “odd and uncanny,” and that on his iPhone 12 Pro the “digital manipulations are aggressive and unsolicited.” He’s talking about Deep Fusion and other features that record multiple exposures of the scene in milliseconds, adjust specific areas based on their content such as skies or faces, and fuses it all together to create a final image. The photographer just taps the shutter button and sees the end result, without needing to know any of the technical elements such as shutter speed, aperture, or ISO.

You can easily bypass those features by using a third-party app such as Halide or Camera+, which can shoot using manual controls and save the images in JPEG or raw format. Some of the apps’ features can take advantage of the iPhone’s native image processing, but you’re not required to use them. The only manual control not available is aperture because each compact iPhone lens has a fixed aperture value.

That fixed aperture is also why the iPhone includes Portrait Mode, which detects the subject and artificially blurs the background to simulate the soft background depth of field effect created by shooting with a bright lens at f/1.8 or wider. The small optics can’t replicate it, so Apple (and other smartphone developers) turned to software to create the effect. The first implementations of Portrait Mode often showed noticeable artifacts, the technology has improved in the last half-decade to the point where it’s not always apparent the mode was used.

But, again, it’s the photographer’s choice whether to use it. Portrait Mode is just another tool. If you don’t like the look of Portrait Mode, you can switch to a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a decent lens.

Algorithmic choices

More apt is the notion that the iPhone’s processing creates a specific look, identifying it as an iPhone shot. Some images can appear to have exaggerated dynamic range, but that’s nothing like the early exposure blending processing that created HDR (high dynamic range) photos where no shadow was left un-brightened.

Each system has its own look. Apple’s processing, to my eye, tends to be more naturalistic, retaining darks while avoiding blown-out areas in scenes that would otherwise be tricky for a DSLR. Google’s processing tends to lean more toward exposing the entire scene with plenty of light. These are choices made by the companies’ engineers when applying the algorithms that dictate how the images are developed.

The same applies to traditional camera manufacturers: Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon, Sony cameras all have their own “JPEG look”, which are often the reason photographers choose a particular system. In fact, Chayka acknowledges this when reminiscing over “…the pristine Leica camera photo shot with a fixed lens, or the Polaroid instant snapshot with its spotty exposure.”

The article really wants to cast the iPhone’s image quality as some unnatural synthetic version of reality, photographs that “…are coldly crisp and vaguely inhuman, caught in the uncanny valley where creative expression meets machine learning.” That’s a lovely turn of phrase, but it comes at the end of talking about the iPhone’s Photographic Styles feature that’s designed to give the photographer more control over the processing. If you prefer images to be warmer, you can choose to increase the warmth and choose that style when shooting.

It’s also amusing that the person mentioned at the beginning of the article didn’t like how the iPhone 12 Pro rendered photos, so “Lately she’s taken to carrying a Pixel, from Google’s line of smartphones, for the sole purpose of taking pictures.”

The Pixel employs the same types of computational photography as the iPhone. Presumably, this person prefers the look of the Pixel over the iPhone, which is completely valid. It’s their choice.

Choosing with the masses

I think the larger issue with the iPhone is that most owners don’t know they have a choice to use anything other than Apple’s Camera app. The path to using the default option is designed to be smooth; in addition to prominent placement on the home screen, you can launch it directly from an icon on the lock screen or just swipe from right to left when the phone is locked. The act of taking a photo is literally “point and shoot.”

More important, for millions of people, the photos it creates are exactly what they’re looking for. The iPhone creates images that capture important moments or silly snapshots or any of the unlimited types of scenes that people pull out their phones to record. And computational photography makes a higher number of those images decent.

Of course not every shot is going to be “good,” but that applies to every camera. We choose which tools to use for our photography, and that includes computational photography as much as cameras, lenses, and capture settings.

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