Friday, February 11, 2011

Three countries in one day – Europe is at your feet

So I’m typing this on a TGV train, belting across the French countryside at about 300km/hr. This morning I had breakfast in Switzerland; I’ll have lunch in France; and dinner in Belgium.

For me, this is what being in Europe is all about. Being able to jump on an insanely fast train and cross entire countries, their languages and cultures included, in just a matter of hours.

I spent the better part of two days travelling from Australia to get to Europe. Today, in one day, I’ll spend time in three different countries. For someone that is from a place where a two and a half hour flight doesn’t even get you out of the state, let alone the country, this seems quite remarkable.

Just like someone from Europe has difficulty comprehending the vast distances and time needed to travel in Australia, I’m still adjusting to how compact Europe is; to learn that when my boss says ‘let’s send you to Paris for one day and Brussels the next’, it’s not that big a deal.

The trains and the low-cost airlines that service Europe make it so much easier. Looking up the cost of a return flight to London on easyjet, I was stunned to find you can get flights for as little as CHF90 (US$ and Aus$ are nearly parity with the Swiss Franc – CHF). The train I’m on from Geneva to Paris takes three hours.

When Emperor D and I moved to Switzerland, one of our goals was to try and travel throughout as much of Europe as possible. I think that through virtue of my work I’ll get to do that quite a bit, and on the longer trips, or trips that can be turned into a weekend somewhere, Emperor D will tag along. But we hope that sometimes we’ll say ‘let’s go to Prague/Amsterdam/Berlin/Stockholm/Madrid this weekend’. And it won’t be a big deal – a cheap easyjet flight, a room in a budget hotel, and Europe is at our feet.

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