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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Lifestyle‹  ›Kultur/Culture‹  ›EN‹   –  27.11.2011

A slower, gentler time

Rush, rush, rush... in today’s world, speed is everything. We cross huge distances in the blink of an eye, just because we can. How different travel was in the old days. An homage to a slower world.

historical steam train in KandertalI admit it: I am a bit of train geek and no doubt my dad’s fascination with trains big and small must have had something to do with it. I like to travel by train, because I believe it’s a very sensible way to transport people and goods over long distances. Most of all, I like to ride on old trains, preferably the kind that doesn’t exceed 20 mph or so. You can actually still stick your head out the window and watch the world go by or admire the engine chugging away at the front, smoke billowing out the stack…. Just be careful that you don’t get some ash flying into your eyes. And, oh yes, there is the steam whistle – a most alluring sound, if there ever was one!

Riding on historical trains also allows for another treat that has long vanished from modern train travel: you can actually step out onto the platform between the trains and enjoy the trip en plein air. More than 20 years ago, I went on a memorable train ride from Arica, the northernmost city in Chile, to La Paz. As the old train (no steam) was winding its way from sea level up and across the Andes to the highest capital of the world (3,640 m or 11,942 ft) I spent many an hour sitting on the platform steps watching the breathtaking landscape unfold before my eyes: towering, snow-capped mountains, deep gorges, endless plains dotted with alpacas, here and there a handful of small huts crouching in impossibly lonely places. Sometimes, the train would slow down to a crawl and I would hop off to snap a picture of our train amidst the spectacular scenery – easily catching up with it again on foot!

train wheelsTraveling at this slow speed, you had time to truly experience the journey and the ever changing environment. I believe that’s why to this day, I have very vivid memories of this particular trip. By the time we finally reached La Paz, more than 20 hours later, one almost had a sense of achievement - even though, of course, the train had done all the work. It surely was quite a different experience from riding in a modern high-speed train at nearly 200 mph, with the world not much more than a distant blur speeding past outside the firmly sealed windows. But then again, without them I wouldn’t have been able to spend that weekend in Hamburg…


Fotos taken on the historical Kandertalbahn in the Black Forest, Germany.