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South Tyrol by train

The most comfortable and sustainable alternative to a flying holiday: travel by train.

As planned I have about 7 and a half minutes the moment I walk with quick paced big steps into the Central train station of Amsterdam to find myself in front of the acces ports where you need a ticket to check in with to enter. Shit, my Eurorail train ticket doesn’t have any code to scan, quickly I look into the printed train reservations, a QR code – wrong ticket. My Amsterdam to Dusseldorf reservation also keeps the little port stiff on lock. to jump over with my luggage might be a bit of a hassle, I take my Dutch public transport pass out, check in, walk through, and directly check out again from the other side but stay in. 4 minutes left. I must say, I get a bit nervous, start running towards the right platform: 8a. When reached I see the ICE. 90 seconds left for departure. I check my reservation for which cabin and seat I’m in, yikes: I’m al the way in the front while I’m standing next to the tail of the train. Here we go, with a heavy sprint I manage to just get aboard my cabin the moment the whistle blows. With a little curious pearl of sweat going down my left cheek I sit myself down in the chair. I made it.

Learnings

  • Even if you travel by train and there are no security checks, make sure to be at the platform more than 10 minutes prior
  • Check the coach number of the train that your seated in before you reach the station, makes it easier at arrival

As I get nestled into this long train journey I think about why I took the train: to experience the alternatives of flying. The moment traveling by airplane got affordable, the popularity of this way of traveling really took off. In the last decennia we went from flight tickets being only available to the rich and famous to now being a common holiday commute for the mass. In a way this is amazing, it made the world our back garden, within more or less 24 hours you can fly to any destination on this planet. The Wright brothers must have been dreaming of this the moment they flew their very first airplane. But since the whole climate change crisis becomes more visible and more known, our flying holidays seems to be stained. Flying now is linked to melting ice caps, extreme forest fires and extreme weather conditions. 

I am not a saint, I still fly. Although I have cut down a lot in the last two years from flying about once or even more than once a month to a maximum of 3 flights this year. For me it’s hard that some jobs require me to fly. Though also for jobs, I always ask myself – do I really have to go here? is it worth it? Can I travel in a different way instead of flying? Can I combine certain projects that would make it worth this trip?

As the different landscapes and numerous cities pass behind the big window that I’m glued to, I wonder wether I’m closer to the clouds while you travel by airplane far above the clouds or traveling by train down underneath the clouds. I have three stopovers to make on my journey to Bolsano, South Tyrol, Italy. The first change is at Dusseldorf, with a short 12 minutes to change, I directly jump from 1 train to the next. I thought I was traveling well prepared when I packed my XL reusable Dopper waterbottle and some snacks in the morning, but with a 12 hour journey in total, and all very short stopovers I came to find myself running out of water and food half way into my travel. As there is no way of filling up your waterbottle on the train, I was left with the only option of buying some more water in the restaurant within the train; of course in a single use plastic bottle. Failure.

In the weeks before this trip I envisioned myself drowning in a book on the train and straight after jumping into a new serie or movie. Funny thing is I ended up having read only about 20 pages in my book and watched not a single minute of a serie or movie. I did get a bit of work done, I found it super nice to just be working on a lot of emails, plus I entertained myself by taking photos of the travel and doing a little Q&A on my Instagram stories. Also, I’ve spent many hours just admiring the world, passing by, the changing landscapes, changing weather conditions, changing light – absolutely mesmerising.

Learnings

  • Have a look at your travel schedule, see if you have time on your stopovers; if not – make sure to pack enough snacks & drinks
  • You don’t need endless amounts of books/series/movies for your train journey; the window will provide you with beautiful views

With my head almost touching the clouds as I get off the train in South Tyrol, Bolsano, I think I have found the answer of my previous wonderings. It’s 21 o’clock, comfortably warm with a 23c degrees and the sun is already behind the mountains – although it isn’t dark just yet. Bolsano is the biggest city of South Tyrol, And although it’s not a ski-area, there is a big cable car lift going up from the centre of the city to Oberbozen, a very efficient (and sustainable!) way of connecting the city to the mountain villages in the higher area. From the mountain station of this cable car there is small tram that connects a lot of surrounding villages. In this way they minimised the car traffic up- and downhill with all of its hairpin bends which is time consuming. Most of the hotels in the higher area also supply you free of charge with a ticket for this cable car, which is amazing!

As part of the South Tyrol area focusing on sustainability they have a well working public transport network which includes trains, cable cars, regional busses and busses towards hiking spots. When you’re spending your well earned holiday here and came by train, they offer a one or multiple day pas the ‘Mobilcard’ which gives you unlimited acces to all different types of public transport.

This absolutely stunning area with its pristine pieces of nature you won’t visit for its public transport or for any kind of transport, this is an area you will be visiting to be away from public transport, cars and urban sites. South Tyrol makes you want to stay outside in the mountain forests as long as you can, sure slip into some mountain hut for a quick coffee every once in a while just to load up and getting out again. 

The southern part of the Alps, called the Dolomites are very iconic. With their extreme shark peaks and ridges they seem to be drawings of mountains by your 4 year old niece. On early morning hikes you’ll see a lot of mist with these sharp peaks sticking out, a pretty sight that will stick in my memories for a long time.

Waking up to plain silence isn’t something I’m used to living in the city. From my hotel room at hotel Pfösl I walked right out of my room onto my private patio with a panorama view on the beautiful mountains Rosengartenspitze. With a classic alpine wooden mountain home in the frame my view was a classic postcard one. There are multiple eco hotels to choose from in the region. Hotel Pfösl really took my heart, with its modern look and feel but at the same time very rustic and authentic because of all the wood used throughout the hotel. That one thing that made it stand out as an eco hotel for me was the birds drinking from the outside pool. I think I’ve never seen birds drinking from a pool like this, until I understood it’s because normal pools contain a lot of cleaning chemicals, but this pool had some innovative system that kept it clean without the use of chemicals, for this reason the birds kept flying over it to take little sips.

I’ve always been a major fan of the Alps and in forever love with Italy. Though for me Italy was more the southern part or Tuscany, now I feel like I’ve discovered the best of both worlds: beautiful South Tyrol.