hidden europe: Changing Trains
It is always worth pondering quite where is the best place to change trains. Many journeys across Europe offer multiple options. No sane Brit ever chooses to change trains at Birmingham New Street—a sort of subterranean Hades somewhere in the English Midlands—and few are ever really forced to do so. For many rail itineraries across England give a plethora of possible points for an hour’s leisure time, to enjoy a coffee and a bit of fresh air while waiting for the next train connection.
This is the case in many other European countries as well. Surely no rational human being ever decided that Warsaw’s eastern station (Warszawa Wschodnia) was the ideal place to mull over the affairs of the world for an hour or two between trains. Generous-hearted souls we may be, but it is difficult to find a good word for Wschodnia – unless you want to catch the pulse of what life was like in much of eastern and central Europe two decades ago. Take a look at this architectural gem and the surrounding cityscape.
And then there are the railway stations where it is an absolute delight to linger between trains, the sort of places where changing trains is a blessing. Dresden Hauptbahnhof is emerging from a protracted reconstruction to become one of those. Cologne’s Hauptbahnhof already is. Ignore the frenzied bustle of its shopping mall (a tribute to poor taste and greasy food) and head instead for the cathedral, a mere thirty-second walk from the station’s main entrance.
It doesn’t take a lot to transform an enforced layover into a memorable travel moment. Brussels Midi is the largest of the rail stations in the Belgian capital, and the area of town in which it is located is nothing to write home about. But we change trains there often and La Table du Midi, an unpretentious café just a stone’s throw from the railway platforms, makes it all worthwhile.
There are some stations which are just fabulous places to arrive and linger, unquestionably good spots to change trains. Among our favourites are Zürich Hauptbahnhof (so well placed for the city centre) and Berlin’s new Hauptbahnhof (a crystal cathedral for transport.)
So check those schedules carefully. You simply don’t want to change trains at Warszawa Wschodnia or Birmingham New Street.