Tag Archives: Rail

My Story … Naples to Sicily, Italy.

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20151124_091625Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to report from Bari to Naples by train as the weather was inclement with very little photo opportunities and the outlook diminished somewhat. I know I could’ve flown to Sicily, but for me it’s about seeing the lay of the land and enjoying the rocking, rolling sojourn of a rail escapade.

However, this next post I’d penned mostly as a recount of my train journey last year from Naples onto Sicily.

For those who know me well, you will again read excepts from the Facebook Page ‘You Know You’re from Cowra  When…’ And, because Cowra was where my parents as ‘Displaced Persons’ had settled after arriving in Australia, I felt it was fitting to write about some of those insights. Firstly, they were at the Bonegilla Camp (like many others), and  they too had left war-ravaged Europe and mine embarked on their new life from the seaport of Napoli and the records show the Ship Nelly had arrived late November, 1949 into the Port of Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

Whilst I was standing here at Napoli Termini looking at the schedules, I’m pondering what life may have been like as post war-torn Europe tried to repatriate its peoples – most of whom would never return to their origin after leaving its shores hoping for a better life, leaving their families behind and facing an uncertain future.

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Königsberg (until 1946 officially: Königsberg in Preußen) Now Russia’s Kaliningrad it was the first opportunity we had access as part of a tour. Photo taken in 1997, and on this visit with my cousin Beine and Uncle Reinhard, we found the family farm of which the nearby township no longer exists of its old name – just like many other European places. Additionally, many country’s borders had changed after the war and of course, the division of Germany being the most evident.

This is my story, partly of my family’s early life in Australia, perhaps I’ll write more about it at a later stage … These are the excepts from my journey in November, 2015 of my thoughts and maybe one answer to Jean’s post. See below.

“On Facebook I’d read with interest Jean Eade’s post of ‘Town Revival’ with Cowra having been given as an example to the dwindling numbers of country towns.

What they seemed to have forgotten is the post-WWII immigration of the 1950s onwards – when towns such as Cowra swelled due to the then current Government’s slogan of ‘Populate or Perish’. There was an influx of new migrants who helped form the backbone and soul of this community’s psyche. In terms of multiculturalism, I believe Cowra was somewhat ahead of its time, considering the diversity, skills and cuisine offered to a small rural epicentre; of which they had to call their new homeland – for better or for worse.

After I boarded the train in Napoli (Naples, Italy) heading onto Sicily with a nine-hour trip ahead of me, it brought back a few memories of what it was like growing up with European parents who’d left their very own world from this Italian port.

20151124_093423On this sector of my trip, I was holding a Prima Class ticket and I knew that the train would eventually divide at some point, I’d then have to move to another carriage to ensure I ended up in the right destination. Once the conductor came along, he tried to explain reluctantly, but as luck would have it, I was seated next to an Italian Professor who spoke ‘good’ English and informed me when I needed to shift myself to another carriage.

20151124_134436Afterwards, we chatted and the Professor asked me, how many days would it take to sail by ship to Australia? Clearly he could see I couldn’t answer immediately as I had reflected when Mum talked about the journey from Napoli, Italy to Australia; going back then through the Suez Canal when it was still opened and then onto Melbourne, Australia. Even as of today, I don’t believe there are any passenger ships which solely cruise direct from Europe to Australia. Maybe he had me bemused – because I was awokened to the fact this was exactly what my parents and two older brothers did in the latter part of 1949; one of which who had to be ‘fattened up’ due to having rickets before being permitted the stamp of approval to travel. They embarked on a voyage to the southern hemisphere which was as foreign to them, as were they to Australians. And, not just by language or borders, but a whole new ‘she be right mate’ way of life.

20151124_122705The question of being asked how many days sailing, can only be described in my mind as, what would’ve it been like if sailing to Australia on a luxury cruise liner as opposed to a ship load of immigrants? They were about to become New Australians (as the Government then coined their status), trying to embrace their new ‘one-door opening and another closing’ ideology – not necessarily having a marvellous time for the duration of the voyage.

As many migrants with ‘Displaced Persons’ stamped in their passports, they took Australia as their new homeland and were dispersed to regional areas with no input or say as to where they might like to live. I remember asking Mum as a young teenager ‘why Cowra?’ and she’d said it was because the Government placed them where they thought relevent at the time after being processed in Bonegilla. Dad had to catch/kill rabbits in Gunnedah (due to plague proportions) for a period of time to pay for their passage and Mum stayed with the two boys at the Cowra Camp trying to learn English – along with all the others. However, Dad gained a job on the Railway and they then lived close to the Loco in a tent alongside with three other families until they’d saved enough money to buy land and build in town. (You may have noticed by now, rail is my preferred mode of travel …)

Anyway, I have given this some consideration over the years and I believe Cowra was in fact ahead of its time in regards to multiculturalism and acceptance. I feel, many of the nationalities bestowed upon Cowra made it one of the most diverse small European communities in Australia without maybe realising it at the time. Move aside Melbourne … We already knew what it took – with a population which was miniscule by comparison to this cosmopolitan city, we were entwined with a varied assortment of nationalities and a kindred neighbourhood-like spirit. Everyone seemed to ‘get on’ with life and held similar Christian values and judgements.

20151124_141915 (2)Anyway, having digressed from my travelling yarn, I eventually moved carriages earlier than I should’ve on my trip to Sicily ensuring I had plenty of time to do so. However, an older gentleman did the same as I and we ended up with our own cabins as most passengers left at Lemezia Termini, including the English-speaking Professor. This older man couldn’t speak English, nor I of Italian, but we struck a chord with a little bit of German. He’d never heard of Sydney, Australia. (It was a stark reminder that we as Australians are on a much smaller stage in this world than we think, even though we live in a big and lucky country of which others are at break-neck speeds to come and settle.)

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Our train was then prepared to be loaded onto the ferry for transportation for the 20-30 minute crossing from San Giovanni, which incidentally was a truly thought-provoking encounter. What if this was me sailing into unknown territory as a migrant? I don’t know the language for starters or customs, nor what lay ahead in terms of a home to live? How would I have been in a totally different environment trying to fit in if it had been me heading to say, this new land? Luckily I’m on holiday and just blogging along as I go.

Coleone family and mafia were still being spoken about by my new companion. My guardian, if I can call him that, looked out for me throughout the remaining five-hour journey to Palermo, even though I  understood he was alighting at Terminal 1 before me, his instructions were clear. However, once we arrived at San Giovanni, the train did indeed divide and importantly we were in our correct places at the time. He pulled out of his pocket a three-pronged key meant for carriages on different train services – not just in Europe (not unlike a wheel brace to look at) and he offered to lock my carriage door like his. I thought perhaps he was a retired train conductor with his precious spanner which would make us a little safer in a world full of materialistic people? Sometimes, you just think to yourself, maybe you’re in the lap of the Gods and you need to just trust in what’s before you. All what was in my suitcase – was it really all that important? Not at all. As long as I had my documents and something warm to wear, that’s all that really matters.

He and I meandered up to the top deck of the ferry after leaving the train’s compartment and then watched San Giovanni slowly disappear from our view. Certainly not something I’ve experienced before, but this elder had witnessed it many times and you could tell he was excited about going home to his family and something I admire greatly about the Italians – their sense of home and family.

20151124_151936It pelted down with hail as we glided past the seven metre-tall golden Madonna guarding the entrance of the port in all her glory looking out across the Strait of Messina. Once on land again at Messina and the train offloaded onto the tracks, it was again divided and separated with the rear-end carriages departing for Syracuse and the remainder of us continuing north to Palermo hugging the coastline.

20151124_155612 (2)So what’s the purpose of me writing this? I think it’s wonderful Cowra had/has a respect of its immigrants’ contributions towards the Australian way of life – be it food, culture, art and yet, its differences. I’m glad to have been a part of it, rather than as a young teenager asking Mum ‘why Cowra?’ I’m grateful my family assimilated into a country town which did embrace us and we had the opportunity of growing up there. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for the dwindling numbers, but it’s not always easy when it comes to offering new opportunities to everyone who seek them. Hence, the reason many of us leave for the metropolis of city life and move on.”

Next stop Palermo, Sicily

 

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From Toronto and onto Ottawa, Ontario Canada with Via Rail – Part Three

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A quick run around in Toronto reveals the city has changed somewhat since I last visited. However, the CN Tower hasn’t moved of course and still a drawcard.

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The new extended metro system is an easy and convenient way to make your way around.(Incidentally is still being extended.)  Bike lanes are open as well for those wishing to make use of it.

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Toronto’s grown up into a cosmopolitan metropolis – it’s the largest city in Canada and fourth largest in North America.

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I’m on my way to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city in the province of Ontario. The passengers are asked to wait inside at the designated gate at Union Station and called forward to board in the same way you might at an airport. It’s orderly and staff are available on the platform once through to assist with directions and reserved seating.

The main difference between flying and using Via Rail is of course, the train departs Toronto from the centre of the city and arrives just outside Ottawa with a short bus or taxi ride into the downtown area. Regular services  depart throughout the day. Business class passengers may use the lounge facilities before boarding whereby you can make use of some light refreshments, read the paper of use the free wifi.

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Yes it’s early and we’re simply enjoying the views, just waiting for our breakfast and business class is definitely worth the difference in price from economy. Book early …
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Relaxing and finding the  big comfy seats are spacious with plenty of leg room which I’m really happy about! Oh did I tell you I’m quite tall? Makes a huge difference to me.

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At times the train divides going onto two different destinations. Make sure you’re sitting in the correct carriage or you might find yourself heading somewhere else …

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From Toronto to Ottawa industries range from cultivating crops, mining minerals, manufacturing automobiles, designing software and leading-edge technology are being sourced here.
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Look out, we’re coming through … Trust me this train is on a mission and is faster than fast!

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We’ve arrived at Ottawa and it’s a quick transfer into the centre of the city from here – either by local bus or taxi.

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Hotel of choice … The Lord Elgin Hotel is smack in the thick of Canada’s capital’s must-see attractions. Stylish art-deco hotel with a variety of eateries, bars and amenities at hand.

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Comfortable, clean and spacious rooms. When there’s talk about “location, location”, then this hotel is the one to book. Close to Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal, Town Hall, the Hop On – Hop Off Bus and located a block away from the Information Centre.

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Something I like to see – of course, I’ll trade in housekeeping services for a glass of vino! What Aussie wouldn’t? And yes, I am environmentally friendly wherever possible … Glad to see the hotel has similar views.

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It’s been a great day and all went like clockwork travelling by rail. There’s really no need to fly between the cities of Toronto and Ottawa as the timing is approximately 4 hours one way. And, with Via Rail’s Economy Escape fares which begins at around CAD67.00 (AUD70.00 on today’s exchange rate) they’re excellent value considering the cost of an airfare, with transfers to and from the airport, not to mention check in times and security checks.

Plus, by rail you’re able to see Mother Nature at her finest with a palette full of brilliant colours showing off the change of season to Autumn’s best.

Next up, Ottawa’s attractions and activities. Stay tuned …

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‘The Canadian’ Rail Journey with Via Rail – Part Two

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Up early after breakfast we’ve taken a seat to settle in for a full day’s viewing of Canada’s vast and expansive interior.

In Economy Class you have a comfortable reclining seat and access to the Economy Class Skyline car with its coffee shop, lounge and vista dome. Sleeper Plus & Prestige passengers have exclusive access to the Park Car at the very rear of the train.

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Plenty of farms all ready for a day’s work while we just watch.

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We’re having a break and walk around at Saskatoon. Time for ‘The Canadian’ to have a refuel and we’re more than half way now.

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No doubt we’re going to outdo the school bus …

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Speeding up towards Winnipeg whereby we’ll arrive later in the evening for another break.

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At Winnipeg Union Station, some passengers will either depart here and others will embark to continue their journey across to Toronto.

An easy couple of hours spent here whereby we have wifi available to check what’s going on, but really haven’t missed it all whilst onboard? Been too busy watching the world go by …

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The station’s building was designed in a “Beaux-Arts” style by New York’s architectural firm Warren and Wetmore (of New York Grand Central Terminal fame) and constructed from local Tyndall limestone, in which many fossils are still visible.
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Can’t help but look up. Simply stunning!

The station provided terminal facilities for the Canadian Northern Railway, the National Transcontinental Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway systems over the years.

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Breakfast won’t be the same again with the most delightful staff and superior service anyone could wish for.

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Passing Ogaki, Ontario where there’s a multitude of lakes and streams.

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Our final night onboard and everyone’s more than relaxed. Just don’t want the journey to end.

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Very much on the outskirts of Toronto with colours of the landscape changing constantly.

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Superb day to be back in Toronto after so many years. Upon arrival, our baggage which was checked in, is delivered on the platform for identification and collection. If you’re travelling in business class, you can use the Lounge facilities within the Terminal for your onward connection. There’s some light refreshments with the use of wifi and comfortable seating.

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Although, our trip has ended here at Toronto Union Station, there are excellent connections to other destinations, particularly on the Eastern Seaboard if you’re considering going further, particularly to Quebec and Nova Scotia.

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Across the road is the beautiful luxury Fairmont Royal York Hotel which is located in the centre of Downtown Toronto. It’s minutes away from attractions including: The CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, the Eaton Centre and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

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Very stylish rooms with a coffee machine for espresso lovers like me and fast wifi. A number of dining options are available with five restaurants, four lounges and 24-hour In-Room Dining available to suit every traveller’s taste.

VIA Rail offers several unique packages and getaways for visiting Toronto, allowing you to make the most out of your stay in the big city. See www.viarail.com

Next day it’s an onwards journey to Ottawa after a brief visit within the centre of Toronto!

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Kamloops to Banff with The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada – Part Five

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Another early start from Kamloops and the water’s vapour is just waking up as well.

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Have quite a few more bridges to cross yet and heading onto Banff which is another 309 miles.

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A full day on the train is fine by me with these kinds of views.

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Keen fishermen and the water is crystal clear. Great time of the year as it’s not yet really cold for September and this is the last Coastal Passage journey for 2015.

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Little bit foggy but the air is fresh and crisp with gentle hills along the South Thompson River. The countryside is more arid here, rocky and sandy with fewer trees.

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We pass a lot of small townships and farming is the main industry of the area.

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Starting to see a lot more fresh water lakes as we track around the edges of many and in particular Lakes Shuswap and Mara.

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The train passes Craigellachie, whereby on 7 November 1885 the last ceremonial rail spike was driven in, completing the Canadian Pacific Railway and linking Montreal to Vancouver by rail. There’s a monument and small museum by the tracks for visitors.

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Love to, but we’re currently experiencing one of the best trains!

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Freight trains take precedence on the tracks and on odd occasions we need to stop along the way for them to pass.

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Noticeably starting to climb into the mountainous regions.

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The glass dome in Gold Leaf allows viewing at all angles and is tinted to reduce any glare.

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Mmmm, must be time to eat again and we’re passing through some long tunnels. Sophie’s taking good care of us and as an Aussie, she still speaks ‘the lingo’ well after being abroad for a while.

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Photo bombing a selfie …

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Always seem to meet up with a great lot of people on trains and this one was no exception.

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Heading into Banff after a full day travelling, eating, drinking, filming and chatting.

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Our last day on the train and really sad to farewell The Rocky Mountaineer at Banff. However, there’s always next year with the season commencing in May through to October, 2016.

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Riding the Rail Trail

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Europe Rail 2014_TBulletin
Article published by Travel Bulletin, Australia. Author Grace Lech

The Eurail Pass hardly needs an introduction, having earned a reputation as the leader in European rail travel. I’ve sold European journeys to clients for well over a decade, the words Eurail Pass have crossed my lips countless times. But a recent trip to Europe allowed me to experience the rail network first hand once again. Read more

Bergen to Oslo Norway
From Bergen to Oslo.

Norway Scenery (2)
Superb scenery in Norway.

Puttgarden to Malmo onboard
The ICE on board the ship from Denmark to Germany Puttgarden and included on the Eurail Pass.

ICE at HAM Hauptbanhof
Busy Hamburg Hauptbanhof.

Fields of gold
Fields of gold in Europe.

25per cent discount with Jungfraujoch
Jungfrau Railways in Switzerland offer a 25% discount if holding a Pass.

second-class CNL
Seating in Second-class travel on the City Night Line (CNL).

Thalys_France
Thayls hi-speed train in France and compulsory reservations are required at all times.

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Back in Berlin and the S Bahn is included if the date is marked on your pass.

ICE Germany
The Intercity Express (ICE) one of the fastest trains in Europe.

Viking Cruise Lines
Heading across by ferry from Stockholm Sweden to Helsinki – a discount is given for Eurail Pass holders.

Rovaniemi Lapland Santa Claus Express
Arriving in Lapland Finland with the Santa Claus Express.

Arctic Circle Pspt Stamp
Have your Passport stamped at the Santa Claus Village.

Rovaniemi Station
Departing from Rovaniemi to Helsinki – there was only one and half hours of daylight each day during mid December.

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Venice to Munich by City Night Line (CNL).

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City Night Line (CNL) trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn. A wise option by saving the daylight hours and allowing you to rest up, especially if you’ve travelled throughout this region previously.

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A three-bed compartment at 55.00 Euro per person is ideal for families. However, you still need to use one day on your Eurail Pass. But the great benefit of departing after 7:00 pm at night you will be able to record the time and use the following day for further travel.
Note: Prices are based on low season and adjustments are made for high season levels. An early reservation is highly recommended.

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Second-class seating is comfortable and as little as 12.00 Euro offers value. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if airlines could offer a seat like this? Especially some of those long-haul flights with seating fit for a contortionist …

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A couchette with beds for six passengers can be as little as 27.50 Euro per person.

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And private facilities for a double will be approximately 75.00 Euro per person. A first-class Pass may only be used to book these cabins. Compulsory reservations are required for all CNL trains. A big thank you to my Conductor Edward who, once had his passengers settled and tickets checked was kind enough to allow me a site inspection of this particular night train. Note to Deutsche Bahn: Keep an eye on this young man as he is a polished professional with a passion for his work.

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