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How to see the very best of Europe this summer

Forget flying! The best way to see Europe is via bus and rail. Oh, and it’s usually cheaper and often faster than taking to the skies. The Local rounds up some top tips for planning your next European adventure.

How to see the very best of Europe this summer
Credit: Unsplash

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” mused the American scholar Ralph Wado Emerson back in the 19th century. While travelling has changed beyond all recognition since Emerson’s day, his message still rings true for eager explorers of all ages.

Investigate all options

It’s doubtful Emerson would have suggested that going through all the airport rigmarole was a part of travelling to be savoured. But did you know that numerous European routes are quicker to navigate by bus or rail than by plane? London – Paris and Munich – Frankfurt being just two compiled in a list by search and booking platform Omio.

Omio (formerly GoEuro) was founded back in 2012 by a former backpacker who was determined to make life easier for wannabe travellers. It streamlines the entire travel planning process enabling users to see all their options, such as departure times, transport operators and prices, before booking their ticket on the site or via the app.

Click here to start planning your trip to Europe

Other routes that are quicker by train than by plane are Brussels – Paris (2hr 39min faster) giving you plenty of extra time to explore the Louvre, and Madrid – Valencia (1hr 28min faster), which is almost enough time saved to watch a football match at Real Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Read Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Photo credit: Deposit photos

So spend some time investigating all your travel options to grant yourself some added time in your destination of choice.

Look out the window

Experiencing Europe by rail and bus opens up the path for routes through the Swiss Alps, criss-crossing between Spain and France down to the Italian Riviera and trekking across Scandinavia to name but a few.

With eye-watering scenery often on display, put down your paperback or tablet and glance out the window. Rail and bus travel offers the chance to see a great deal more of a country’s natural landscape and to also become au fait with new-fangled words such as couchette and hauptbahnhof.

Copenhagen. Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Wow your friends with random travel anecdotes that will surely pepper your trip. Try taking the Deutsche Bahn service from Copenhagen to Hamburg where you can marvel at how a train rolls seamlessly onto a ferry. And no trip aboard a German train is truly enjoyed without eating a meal in the bistro complete with table service and cute table lamp.

Have cash, will travel

Back in the old days, travelling across Europe involved changing currencies with every new country you visited. And while there was a certain charm in collecting new notes and coins, figuring out how much things cost compared to your own money was a nightmare; 1,500 Italian lira for an espresso anyone?

Let’s face it, queuing at the currency exchange for Deutsch Marks and pesetas was a hassle. Now with a single European currency, card payments and mobile banking apps, you can spend your hard earned money with ease.

But that’s not to say there still isn’t a place for old fashioned notes and coins…in certain places. In Sweden, for example, cash is practically dead but in Switzerland it reigns supreme. Buy yourself some time by having some cash in your wallet as it will come in handy for paying for luggage lockers and even to use the toilet in some bus and train stations.

Got your adblocker on? Pause it on this page to use the Omio widget below and find the best deal:

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Planning your trip in your own currency is made easy with Omio. Users can compare prices in 15 major currencies and in 18 languages. Omio is used by 27 million users every month to help organise their travel plans.

Click here to start planning your trip

What our readers say

We reached out to The Local’s readers via Facebook to get your travel tips. Below is a selection of your comments.

“Travelling by train especially from Perpignan to Paris, passing through all the different regions, is an easy and cheap way to experience the French countryside and villages. Easy travel.” (Sue Chamberlain)

“For Americans, make sure your credit card has a chip and ask your bank for a PIN. Before you get on the train, make sure you are getting on the right part; German trains sometimes split in two. Then relax. European trains are far better than those in the US.” (Doug Urquhart)

“Pack light!! Enjoy traveling like a local, the lighter you travel, the easier everything is!” (Jill Greenlee)

“Country roads or regional trains in the south of Germany, Alps and southern” (Luis Schlappkohl)

“Don't get off the train at the wrong city.” (Tom Roelke)

The Local's Assistant Editor in France Evie Burrows-Taylor also conducted a Twitter poll on travel in France see the results below.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Omio.

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TRAVEL

IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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