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No more flying, ever

So, I’ve pretty much decided not to fly anywhere anymore. Ever again.


I just got back from a trip up to Germany to help out a friend who was coming down to Rome for an academic conference, so I went up to his place to look after his kitties, while he came down here to look after mine. He paid my ticket, and I got a nice little quasi-holiday in the snowy, lovely German countryside.

From my front door to my friend’s house, took just over eight hours. The trip home from Germany took 12. Let’s look at the differences.

To Germany:
1 pm Train from S. Mar to Trastevere. Train from Trastevere to Fiumicino = 11 Euros. Got to Fium, couldn’t find check-in desk. Spent 20 minutes running around trying to find it, only to be finally told I was in the wrong terminal. Found right terminal, dragging luggage the whole time. Found check-in desk. Went to security. Forced to remove boots. Metal detector went off from the hair pins holding my hair up. Was told to take down hair. Refused. Was told to take down hair again. Refused again. Was groped and humiliated in public. Now very angry and already exhausted. Found departure lounge. Bought yogurt+juice = 13 Euros (!!!!). Discovered at last moment that they had changed the departure gate without telling me. Found correct departure gate, now shaking with exhaustion, overheated, sweaty, anxious, angry and generally miserable. Got on plane. Jammed into miserable seat designed for 13 year-old ballerina. Plane suffocatingly overheated. Flew to Zurich = 150 Euros. Got off plane, walked about 3/4 of a mile to baggage claim. Claimed baggage. Met friend. Ate dinner. Got on train from Zurich to some place in Germany. Changed trains to other place in Germany = 45 Euros. Arrived friend’s house nine pm.

Total = 219 Euros + misery, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, public humiliation and physical discomfort. Close to losing the will to live.

Total time = 8 hours.

From Germany:
Friend drove us to Some-Austrian-Town-Starting-with-a-B (on Lake Constance) to catch train at ten-thirty. Bought train ticket = 160 Euros. Got on train. Chose crummy seat. Switched to dining car seat with a table and big window. Bought chicken sandwiches and tea = 7 Euros. Sat staring out at the gorgeous scenery of Austrian Alps. Ordered more tea = 1.50 Euros.

Pretty much this out the windows, all day long.

More gorgeous scenery. Phoned friend in Canada to talk about gorgeous scenery. Arrived in Innsbruck. Found correct platform for Verona after brief and accurate instructions in English from train personnel. Five minute wait. Got on train. Got a compartment to myself. It was too hot. Turned down heat. Discovered that all six seats can be pulled out to make the whole thing into a big double bed. Tried this for fun. Watched more gorgeous Alpine scenery. Did a little sewing. Decided to have lunch. Went to dining car, ordered vegetable curry, white wine and sparkling water = 11.50 Euros. Drank wine while watching gorgeous alpine scenery. Noted complete absence of misery, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, physical discomfort or public humiliation. Tipped nice waiter who demonstrated that he spoke at least three languages. Returned to compartment. Sang Office of None. Said five decades of the Holy Rosary. Watched Italian Alpine scenery (castles!). Sang Office of Vespers. Got off train in Verona. Changed trains after getting coffee and bun in noisy, friendly, homey and familiar Italian bar; 2.50 Euros. Got to platform for train to Rome, waited ten minutes. Got on train. Found assigned seat. Worked on novel. Got off train. Bought ticket for Santa Marinella; 4.60 Euros. Got on train. Went home.

Total = 187.10 Euros
Total time = 12 hours
Loss of will to live = 0

Saved = 31.90 Euros + misery, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, physical discomfort and public humiliation.

Gained = awesome time, good food reasonably priced, nice friendly service, incredible scenery, comfortable accommodations, peace, quiet and mental tranquility. Basically like spending a day in a fantastic, inexpensive hotel with the most beautiful scenery imaginable constantly running past outside.

Lost = 3 hours.

It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis.

In fact, I spent quite a lot of the time daydreaming about just moving onto the trains full time. You could probably get some kind of multi-nation rail pass for a reasonable price, and just make sure you get on the compartment trains when it’s bed time. Riding the rails. Care-free.

Thing is, we all know perfectly well this whole “security” thing is utter crap. So, there’s also the whole underlying anxiety about falling 35,000 feet to a firey jet-fuelled death or being killed by the Jihadis.

(Other tip: don’t fly in or out of Fiumicino. If you want to have a nervous breakdown, Fiumicino is definitely the right place. But if you just want to get to or from Rome with as little bullshit as possible, make sure your fly into Ciampino airport. I think Ryanair does that [though of course, I wouldn’t wish the mental torture of Ryanair on anyone…not even Jorge Bergoglio]. No one wants to do Ciampino because there are no trains to it, but there are loads of buses that are easy and cheap to get on, that bring you right to Termini. Ciampino used to be a military airport, and it’s small and a lot easier to deal with.)


7 thoughts on “No more flying, ever”

  1. Hilary White says:


    There’s always the Rockies. Skip expensive Banff, and try Revelstoke.

  2. Barbara says:

    Enjoyed reading about your travels; even the bad experiences teach us something. This shows us that the Muslims have won this particular battle in the greater war. I watch lots of old movies from the thirties – carloads of happy travellers breezily crossing borders with a wave of the hand, especially throughout Europe. Now, of course, we have fears. Fears of the odd bomb, or at least that these evil hordes will be bringing bombs from country A to country B. Yes, this battle has been won. We are all defence because any offence is deemed intolerant.

    Even crossing my local border from Canada into the US can be a harrowing experience – rudeness being the least of the troubles. Ever wonder why men and women choose a career where they have to greet hundreds of car-loads of weary travellers a day, hating every minute of it – and showing it too? A puzzle of life.

  3. Evangeline says:

    I will never see Europe, not once. I’m sure I’ll never be able to afford it.
    The scenery in that shot is astounding. Surely God lives on that mountain. It is a wonder the people have such a place to call home but are so willing to turn it over to Islam.

  4. James C says:

    SAF, you and me both. I still remember the joy I felt on my first trip to Europe—you could take the train all over the place!

    Once upon a time, almost within living memory, that used to be possible in the United States:

    What a loss. My hometown, a city of 140,000 and a metro area of 750,000, is one of the lucky ones: It still has rail service. But one train a day passes through the station, when a couple of generations ago it was 60.

    Air and highway travel are ugly and vulgar.

  5. SAF says:

    I haven’t been on an airplane in 13 years and plan to never be on one again. Love the train, too. Here in the US, the northeast/southeast corridor certainly lacks the picturesque (tracks run through the most impoverished city areas) but I’ve learned what urban US poverty looks like. The immense sprawling ghettos of Philadelphia, and the smaller ones of Baltimore and Newark, are a horror.

  6. James C. says:

    I’ve taken the train from Bregenz to Innsbruck—it’s glorious, as is the Brenner route through the Dolomites.

    As for living on the train, Hilary, well you can ride the Austrian railway for a year for only about €1,700. You can ride the entire Swiss transport system (trains, buses, funiculars, cable cars, boats) for a year for about €3,000.

  7. James C. says:

    Hear hear! Last month I had a ticket on Turkish Airlines from Atlanta to Fiumicino via Istanbul. What did I get in the end? A flight from Miami to Bologna via Istanbul, stranded at the horrific Ataturk airport for 3 days. I lost the will to live sometime around the second day, which was spent fruitlessly waiting in marathon queues surrounded by niqabs and pajamas for many hours.

    Upon finally escaping snowbound Istanbul and arriving in Bologna, I found a very reasonable hotel and walked under the city’s beautifully arcaded streets to a trattoria for tagliatelle al ragú with a warming glass of vino rosso. Ah!

    The next morning, the fourth day of my journey, I walked to the rail station and took regionale trains all the way down to Bari, changing at stations in Emilia-Romagna, Le Marché, Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia. 12 hours, €42, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

    Never again—and I hope I hold myself to it. I only go home to America once a year. And there are boats that cross the Atlantic.

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