By train to Milan and Como, via France and Switzerland.
Another European journey by train: this time to Milan, going via Zurich, Chur and the Bernina Express and returning via Lausanne and Dijon. Full cost and carbon analysis below.
(more pictures below)
If you’ve the time, I recommend these routes. The Bernina Express, a narrow gauge line over the Alps, is particularly worth going on – one of those experiences that lives up to its promise. Again, credit to Mark Smith’s seat 61 website for all the tips on how to arrange the tickets. The ride from Tirano (end of the Bernina line, just in Italy) to Milan isn’t bookable in advance – we made the mistake of forgetting to validate our tickets on the platform (not required for reserved tickets) and got fined, having to buy new full price tickets, by a very sullen ticket inspector (just our luck, all the others were friendly) accompanied by two security guards.
We also stayed at a wonderful eco bed and breakfast in the hills above Como, walking through the forest and criss-crossing the Swiss border. Truly a slow travel, slow holiday experience.
The cost and carbon analysis (click image for pdf).
1. I don’t include fares across Paris between Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon (still undecided whether RER or metro is the better option – RER always seems very packed but metro is slower and involves a change).
2. CO2 estimates are just that, estimates, dependent on a number of assumptions. The amount per mile varies, in part because the type of train varies as well as the energy mix – a lot of nuclear in France and a lot of hydro in Switzerland, for example. The upshot is that train travel emits about 10% that of flying, and strangely we wouldn’t have done better on direct trains (though maybe would have on the Thello Paris-Milan sleeper which goes slower than the TGV).
3. We had to be in Milan on those dates, but otherwise could be flexible with trains, so we got good prices.