In praise of The Man in Seat 61

In three days’ time I’ll be setting off on a European train trip that takes in 9 cities in 9 countries in 9 days. All the tickets are booked, and all the seats are reserved, with 5 different train companies, with the tickets stored on 3 separate apps and backed-up on 11 different print-outs. All the timetables are available both online and offline on 2 more apps, and literally the only thing that isn’t organised is the train from Ljubljana to Zagreb because you can buy the ticket at the station the day before and it only costs €9.

And the reason a mere mortal can arrange all this without suffering a nervous breakdown – the reason I know about the Ljubljana to Zagreb bargain ticket – the reason why train travel is really so damn easy if you know how?

The reason is The Man in Seat 61.

It goes without saying that I know nothing about the train operators running the route between Zagreb and Zürich, or which side of the carriage to sit on for the best views over the Bernina Pass between Switzerland and Italy. How do you get to Lichtenstein by train when Lichtenstein doesn’t have any trains? I’ve no idea. Can you reserve a seat on a train in the Czech Republic? Can I get an e-ticket on an app to show a train guard in Slovenia? Who knows and feck knows, respectively.

But the Man in Seat 61 knows. His website is a work of frighteningly organised and highly informative genius. Pick a train route – any route, anywhere in the world – and The Man in Seat 61 tells you how to book it at the cheapest possible price. It’s startlingly comprehensive – Armenia to Zimbabwe – and beguiling in the extreme, so that you start off looking up, say, London to Berlin and end up down the rabbit-hole on the Trans-Siberian wondering how many days’ stopover you really need in Ulan Bator (yer man says three).

If you ever went InterRailing or EurRailing back in the day, then it’s that feeling you got as you pored over the big red Thomas Cook Rail Timetable that you had stuffed into your backpack. It was easy – on the rattling overnight Paris-to-Barcelona train, wedged into a stuffy six-seat compartment, unable to afford the couchette, waiting out the uncomfortable hours till dawn – to flick through the tissue-thin pages and muse on the possibilities afforded by the 17.50 from Istanbul to Diyarbakir that maybe, just maybe, one day you would catch.

The Man in Seat 61 will do that to you. He makes it easy to arrange train trips, and shows you how it’s done, step by step, but what he really does is package dreams. Here’s the world, he says. You don’t have to fly. Take the train. It’s romantic. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it’s better for the planet. And most extraordinary of all is that this is a free resource. Seat61 is a personal website, with all the information provide free of charge.

So this is probably the best piece of advice I have ever provided on my blog.

Train travel = The Man in Seat 61. Remember him, bookmark him, use him. And let me know about your own rail dreams as you flick through the pages of one man’s creative obsession.

My big summer train trip

Here’s how I’m doing it – if you feel like a trans-European train trip, I’ve done the work for you!

Flying UK–Berlin: then Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Zürich, Lichtenstein, Milan–UK.

There’s one overnight sleeper train (Zagreb to Zürich); one of the greatest of all European train journeys (over the Bernina Pass from Switzerland to Italy); and two side trips (to tick off Slovakia and Lichtenstein).

If you happen to be on the 9.20 to Vienna, or any of the other trains that The Man in Seat 61 helped me book, I’ll see you there!

DB

Jul 23, 2019

Berlin 6.59 Prague 11.26
Regiojet

Jul 24, 2019

Prague 9.20 Vienna 13.23

Jul 25, 2019

Vienna day trip Bratislava-Vienna
Eurocity

Jul 26, 2019

Vienna 7.58 Ljubliana 14.06

Jul 27, 2019

Ljubliana 14.45 Zagreb 17.10
OBB Zagreb-Zurich sleeper

Jul 28, 2019

Zagreb 18.38 Zurich 9.20

Jul 29, 2019

Zürich day trip Lichtenstein-Zurich
Bernina Express

Jul 30, 2019

Zurich 7.07 Tirano -Milan 12.49

 

2 thoughts on “In praise of The Man in Seat 61

  1. browney237

    Couldn’t agree more Jules. The Man in Seat 61 has been a key element of our travel planning for a number of years. He’s awesome. That said we have had plenty of great tips from your blog as well!

    Like

    1. Jules Told Me

      It’s the travel website I use the most – even if it’s just a random flick through destinations that I never even realised you could get to by train from the UK. Spain, sure. But Singapore? Who knew!

      Liked by 1 person

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