How one Ukrainian crossed EU border by train to have a sense of visa-free travel around Schengen countries (3/3)

by Andy Kozlov

Integration based on consumerism or industrialization? Integration of regions or member states?

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Barcelona? They say all is possible for train travellers these days.

On August 13, 2014, a Rhaetische Bahn train car slid about 10 meters down the slope before being stopped by the trees. Back in 2010, the popular Glacier Express tourist train derailed in the Alps in southern Switzerland, killing one person and injuring 42 others. This does not stop people from thinking of Confoederatio Helvetica (CH) as a much safer destination than, say, Eastern Ukraine or Western Zimbabwe. Accidents are rare in Switzerland despite the country’s challenging terrain. The Swiss company that runs narrow-gauge routes in Switzerland’s mountainous southeastern corner is popular with tourists.

July 2014. International Red Cross and Red Crescent HQ in Geneva (Installation by Andy Kozlov of Ukraine)
July 2014. International Red Cross and Red Crescent HQ in Geneva (Installation by Andy Kozlov of Ukraine)

My SNCF (France’s state-owned operator) train reached Paris in no time (4,5 hours of being surrounded by pretty French villages). The bullet train threading its way through the Paris suburbs, eventually easing into Gare de Lyon and — 100 metres from the platform — I missed out on a hearty meal at the celebrated Train Bleu restaurant. The historical location of Luc Besson-directed Nikita (1990) is closed for renovation works until September 12. Brigitte Bardot, Sarah Bernhardt, Coco Chanel, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Salvador Dalí, Jean Gabin and François Mitterrand count among some of the fans of their cuisine and ambience.

Map of France showing LGVs (Ligne à Grande Vitesse). LGV Rhin-Rhône -- the first high-speed railway line in France to be built as an inter-regional route rather than a link from the provinces to Paris -- is shown in shades of blue, south-east of Paris. Passenger service on the first element of the line was launched in 2011. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Map of France showing LGVs (Ligne à Grande Vitesse). LGV Rhin-Rhône — the first high-speed railway line in France to be built as an inter-regional route rather than a link from the provinces to Paris — is shown in shades of blue, south-east of Paris. Passenger service on the first element of the line was launched in 2011. (Photo: Wikipedia)

My trip from Munich to Geneva a couple days earlier, saw half of the bus transfer in Zurich. Passengers to Milano among them. My turn to shuffle buses arrived in Basel. Those of us who proceeded towards southern France and, naturally, Geneva, could enjoy the vistas of Lake Léman for a couple hours seated in a much comfortable bus than the one that picked me up in Munich. Drivers switched this time around as well: a Pole was substituted by a Spaniard, if my philological instincts don’t betray me.

Zurich greeted us with a 7:30 am rush hour
Zurich greeted us with a 7:30 am rush hour

Back in Munich, not only soap — or rather lack thereof — disturbed my peace of mind. My Vodafone Italia sim card wouldn’t work in Germany and I couldn’t have a Vodafone Deutschland chap resolve the problem because.. well Italy is a different country. “Can’t do it from hier.”

Lausanne in July (by Andy Kozlov)
Lausanne in July (by Andy Kozlov)

The Wi-fi experience in Munich. What about it? Even McDonald’s wants you to have a local sim card to log onto their free wireless.

It was only thanks to the unhampered Wi-fi access in the Starbucks coffee shop inside the Munich Hauptbanhof that I booked my first ever airline ticket using a smartphone. Having successfully negotiated a current account limit change with my banker at Privatbank back in Donetsk oblast — note that I phoned her after working hours and she didn’t disregard my request despite having left office — I got myself a Wizz Air ticket to Kyiv Zhulyany. My departure point this time? A pastoral airport of Memmingen in southwestern Germany.

Viewed from the Munich Hbnf Starbucks, a train is prepped for the next journey (Photo by Andy Kozlov)
Viewed from the Munich Hbnf Starbucks, a train is prepped for the next journey (Photo by Andy Kozlov)

I got my Geneva-Paris TGV ticket earlier that day, from an efficient Deutsche Bahn staffer across the hall from the Starbucks nestled in Munich’s main railway station. I went for a whopping €108 deal for a 2nd Class seat exactly for the same reason why I wanted to blog about my whole post-Euromaidan EU travel experience.

We Ukrainians don’t know Europe that well yet. We are afraid of getting lost, something that I already did when back in 2006 I got lost in Poland having gotten on a wrong bus.

I refrained from snapping a €70+ train ticket because it involved having to transfer at least once on my way from Geneva Gare de Cornavin to Paris Gare de Lyon.

Author facing the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris
Author facing the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris

Next time I will go for that transfer.

Just like I did on the final leg of my EU viaje: Karlsruhe to Memmingen by way of Stuttgart and Ulm. My single €23 daily pass (that covers all means of public transportation within the Bundesland of Baden-Württember) got me to what is already Bavaria: Memmingen.

If you add €4 per person, your fellow Ukes can be included, Buddy!

You can reach the author on a.kozlov@steppesinsync.com

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How one Ukrainian crossed EU border by train to have a sense of visa-free travel around Schengen countries (1/3)

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