Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ready to Ride the High Speed Rails

Flight booked. Train tickets booked. Hostels booked. Europe here I come. What do I hope to get out of this trip besides credit card debt? For one, I'd like to get some perspective on the current debate here in America about building a high speed rail network.

What can we learn from the Europeans? What are they doing right? What have they got wrong? What are the challenges? What are the advantages?

I'll be riding high speed rail lines in the U.K., Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, France and Spain. I will blog about my experiences on the rails and in the cities I'll be visiting. Some of my more general blog posts will be on this site, others more specific to clean energy and clean transportation will be found on my Green Center Blog. Click here for my clean energy/green economy blog site.

Here is my itinerary:

I'll be flying overnight on Virgin Atlantic from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow. My flight departs the evening of Thursday, July 14th.

I'll be staying in London briefly for one day and night. Then early the next morning it is off to Benelux. Well, specifically Brussels, Belgium. I'll be traveling on the Eurostar high speed train with a top speed of 186 miles per hour. That should get me into Brussels in a brisk three hours.

Here is the historic Brussels skyline. What a minute. Are those Brussel Sprouts? Ooops.

After a day and night in Brussels it is off to Berlin on Sunday, July 17th. The super fast Inter City Express train clocks in at up to 200 mph. Wow. Now that is a fast train. It will be a seven hour trip, with a connection in Koeln, Germany.

Now this is a nice cockpit. If I can't get a job here in the United States then I'm training to become a conductor for the Deutsche Bahn ICE!

I'll be spending a couple of days in Berlin, where I hope to visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the area where the Berlin Wall stood. And of course, I want to experience modern Berlin -- one of the most progressive and democratic cities in the world. It will be satisfying drinking a beer in the city that has survived Nazism and Communism and is now a thriving, diverse metropolis. Here is a picture of the Brandenburg Gate.

On Tuesday, July 19th it is time to hop on another train to Prague. The trip is a little under five hours on the EuroCity Hungaria train. And it's a fast train right? Faster than Amtrak right? Ultra modern right? Wait. This is what it looks like?

OK. So not all of the trains will be true high speed. But I still haven't gotten to France or Spain!

Out of all the cities I will be visiting, next to Barcelona I'm most excited about Prague. There is so much history to this beautiful city. And I will take lots of pictures of old buildings. But that isn't the only sight seeing experience in Prague.

On Friday, July 21st it will be the overnight train to Paris on the City Night Line. I'll be sleeping in a cabin with three total strangers. I hope no one drools or snores!

I'll be arriving in the City of Lights the next morning at 9:59 a.m. I'll do the typical tourist sight seeing. As an avid Capital Bikeshare rider here in Washington, D.C., I'd like to ride the Velib -- the largest bike sharing system in the world.

On July 23rd it is south to Barcelona. And I'll be riding on the king of the high speed rails -- France's TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse, or High Speed Train in English). The train tops out at 200 mph.

Then it is three days in Barcelona. I've never been on Spanish soil so I'm really looking forward to the last leg of the trip. My only experience with Barcelona is playing FC Barcelona's soccer team in the video game FIFA Soccer 11 on my Xbox 360. Somehow I think seeing the actual Barcelona will top that experience.

As for the end of the trip? I might fly from Barcelona to Tel Aviv and work on an Israeli Kibbutz for two months before flying back to the States in early October for my sister's wedding in D.C. Or, I might fly back to Washington from Barcelona or Madrid. Either way, I can't wait for the European adventure to begin!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Welcome to my Travel Blog

I'll be posting interesting stories, pictures, videos and more from my travels domestically and abroad. This summer I'm traveling to Southern California, riding the high speed rails in Europe and waking up at the crack of dawn to work on a Kibbutz in Israel. Each place so different, but the threads of being human run across this tiny blue ball of rock we call Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blog.

Bon Voyage!