Sicily Gets The Boot

The steering committee have regrettably had to veer away from Syracuse and curtail our Italian adventure at Rome. Unfortunate though this is, as it means we now can’t boast the most southerly extreme of the European railway network, and we loose a total of 1,700 km of, albeit duplicated, track, the reasons for taking this drastic action are numerous.

1. We couldn’t reliably get back to Milan in time to get the latest connection possible to catch the train over the Bernina Pass and still make it round to Geneva. i.e it would have cost us yet another day.

2. Even if we’d taken the gamble, we wouldn’t have had enough time to see this without probably losing someone somewhere between the racetrack and the stadium.

3. And we wouldn’t have been able to do this without being all stressed out about catching the train from Trieste.

4. and giving us enough time to see this without being in a state of panic

5. or have enough time for the obligatory, shockingly over priced, coffee here

6. nor would we have been able to get one of these over the highest rail traversable mountain pass in Europe, which we’ve just discovered you can catch across the Bernina (softies who wimp out and sulk back to the normal carriages wont be permitted to indulge in the quality grappa we’ll be collecting in the morning)

7. or be able to spend an hour here

8. or have enough time to have a leisurely breakfast while admiring this

9. or have a good 2 hours in order to cover the few hundred meters from the station to the lake side to see this

10. By scrubbing Sicily we get the day back we lost when we found out that we could do Berlin, Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava for the cost of an extra 24 hours. So we are matching the GCIRC timescale and minimizing the amount of grief we’ll get from wives, children and bosses, or whoever else you have to answer to.

So, apart from making days 12 and 13 super spectacular (not to mention nutritious), whether you get all worked up at Alpine feats of railway engineering or not,  the expedition is going to have to make do with 22 capital cities (Bern is a drive through, Geneva is the Swiss substitute,  and Zagreb is a 20 minute stop off where I am reliably informed you can get a track-side beverage. Everything else has plenty of time for at least a pint and a photograph of yourself standing in front of the most touristy thing on offer). Plus Venice, Barca, a full day in Istanbul, a night of 24 hour sunlight in the Arctic Circle,  and we still have the most westerly point in the whole of Europe. Oh, and an hour in the both beautiful and glitzy St Moritz.

The Bucharest Connection
So after discarding the highly dubious transfer in Bologna, and another in Milan, and spacing out Venice, Rome and the whole day in the Alps,  the only squeaky bit left was the swap from the Ister Express from Budapest, to the Bosfor Ekspresi to Istanbul, at Bucuresti Nord.

The joyful news just in is that our prayers to the railway timetabling deities of the Balkans have been answered. The 2012 schedule now shows a full 2 hours between the two, so enough time to scoff a few mitch with your bere, and with luck receive the supply drop that I hope to arrange. I’m working on getting pre-arranged picnic solutions wherever possible. We’ve pitiful enough time as it is without fumbling about in supermarkets and bazaars.

£35 for the Eurostar to Brussels
The best price you’ll get for this on your own is £39, and to get that you’ll have to avoid peak days and peak trains and still book it 3 months in advance. Well with our mobile riot on tracks you get to beat even that, and I’m told we should still be able to get ourselves on the civilized 10:57 out of St Pancras. Of course we’ll be booking it well before you’d be able to do this as an individual anyway, they’ll take group orders a full 10 months in advance!.

The official GCERC forum thread has now been established
We have also finally located where all the black belt rail nerds hang out. It’s in here
RailUKforums – The Great Circular European Railway Challenge
I don’t know how the heck I missed this during GCIRC, I thought I’d signed up to every conceivable travel and rail fans forum on the entire Internet. This place isn’t for the squeamish, but if you want to get all rail techno then you’ll find kindred spirits in here, and the Laird and I are able to fine tune the plan, and chit chat with people who have done enough rail mileage to get to wherever Voyager I is right now, and back again,

I am now infuriatingly smug, not just because we have nailed at least phase 1 of the planning process (there’s plenty more work to come), But also because I am about to take my tribe away from this dark, cold, wet little island of ours and spend the yuletide in Bali and on an idyllic island off the coast of Sumatra. So you wont be getting any more of this nonsense till at least after mi birthday.

Merry Christmas!


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