Trains, Planes, Metros, and More

Written by Valerie

Before coming to Europe, the closest thing even resembling a metro system I had ever been on was the plane train in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. If any of you have flown into or out of Atlanta, then it is very likely you have used this train system and know it is very fast and useful. The news of me never having been on a train or metro came as a surprise to many of my friends considering I grew up on the outskirts of metropolitan Atlanta. To this very day, I have yet to ride the Marta around the city. I was always so afraid to have to navigate through the stations alone that I never gave it a try. In addition to that, I have thankfully always had a car at my disposal to get anywhere I needed to go.

Now I am in Europe, the land of abundant and intricate transnational railways and other forms of public transportation. I can’t simply avoid using public transportation here because I am afraid of not knowing how to navigate it and risk getting lost. As a long-stay visitor, I must do as the Europeans do and get a metro card. So far it has been a great experience but also a very humbling one. I could not possibly think of a better adjective to describe some of my experiences in trying to catch a bus or train in these cities than humbling. On the five long-distance trips I have been on so far, I have had to run to make it on time for four of them. That is four times too many. Everywhere I have traveled, I have only taken a backpack and a purse. No matter which way you look at it, there is unfortunately no way to look good while running with a backpack on. Hot take or not, it is a difficult task and much more so to do it in a fashionable manner. Then, if you are lucky, you make it and get on your train. However, if you are anything like me, you will walk onto the peaceful train car panting, winded, and sweaty with messy hair gasping for air. I thought I was a decently fit person when I was in the United States, but I was wrong. I learned that the issue was that I was never properly put to the test.

Despite all those moments that I think back to and laugh at, taking public transportation has been an enriching experience. You will see some of the most breathtaking views from the windows of a train that you may never get to see otherwise. There can be so many changes in scenery in a single ride. One minute you are watching the cows graze as you fly through the countryside and the next you are entering the city limits of a major metropolitan city like Paris.

Retiring my car keys was not easy on me, and I miss being behind the wheel in the comfort of my own car. However, there is a time and place for every lived experience and now is my time to enjoy being a passenger.

Hopped off the Train at LUX

Written by Swati

February 17th, 2023

When in doubt: hop in a moving vehicle. Wait, maybe not literally. I am a big proponent of changes of scenery, and there’s something particularly comforting about seeing some new faces and watching trees pass from a moving window. Something about galavanting through the world on public transport makes you feel limitless, just unstoppable. 

Many of you know this by now, but public transport in Europe is far and wide. As current GTE students gear up to start our spring breaks, let’s talk a little more about the modes of public transport you’ll be frequenting as a student and how to navigate them! As with anything, understanding train lines, bus routes, and flight terminals take time, but doing a little bit of reading ahead of time will definitely ease some of the anxiety. 

Shuttle: On Monday evenings, GTE has a personal shuttle waiting at the bus stop in front of Cora for students to catch back to campus after their weekly grocery shop! While I don’t frequent Cora any longer (see: C’est pas drôle from a few weeks ago) and favor the much smaller and more palatable Auchan, the benefits of having shuttle waiting to take you back to campus with a week’s worth of groceries instead of making the 20 minute trek back can really make a difference for your shoulders after a long day of class. 

Buses: The GTE campus and primary dorms are situated nearby many of the city’s bus stops running routes to places in downtown Metz like the train station, the Centre Pompidou, Metz Cathedral, and other neighborhoods along the way. Most bus routes can be found on transportation apps Moovit and Omio, but I’ve found Google Maps to be linked to the routes and times perfectly. When you get on the bus, you’ll tap your bus card, a blue pass with options for 1-way, round-trip, 10-way, and monthly passes purchased through Le Met. You can grab a 1-way or round trip pass directly from the bus driver when you enter the bus, or purchase a 1-way, round trip, or 10 way pass at any bus stop downtown! You can also purchase unlimited monthly passes at Le Met’s store downtown, but seeing as how I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, I’ve found the 10-way passes to work best for me. Make sure you remember to tap your card as public service workers frequent buses with a scanner to check that passengers all have valid bus passes that they used to get on the bus. If you haven’t tapped a pass, you’re subject to a hefty fine! 

Trains: My personal favorite! Trains run far and wide and Metz is the perfect location to easily get to different countries and cities, especially with a Eurail pass! It takes less than an hour to get to Luxembourg, my first stop to catch a flight on my spring break adventure, and under 5 hours to get to cities in Belgium, Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Germany! With Paris just an hour away, you’re free to hop on and catch the Eiffel Tower sparkling after class (just make sure to get a reservation beforehand!) 

Be aware that while Eurail passes essentially function as train tickets across Europe, there are high-volume cities and countries you’ll need to reserve seats for! France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are included in the places that require seat reservations for an extra fee! You won’t be able to board a train to major destinations in these countries without a copy (physical or digital) of your reservation alongside your Eurail pass. 

Flights: It’s no secret RyanAir and EasyJet have European college students in the palms of their hands. With strongholds in smaller airports, expect a bit of a trek to and from these cheap flight hubs. RyanAir runs in several airports in France, but the one you’ll probably see as the most relevant is the airport in Beauvais. A tiny little thing with just 2 terminals, I spent the day exploring Beauvais prior to my flight to Scotland and left a little piece of my heart in the city. You won’t need to get to the airport any more than an hour to an hour and a half ahead of your flight because it’s so small and there’s really only one restaurant inside and another little shop with snacks and magazines next to it. Many tend to lean away from this airport as it is two train transfers away from Metz, but I loved the city too much to have anything bad to say about it. It has a similar small French town charm of Metz with a breathtaking cathedral and tourist stops along the way. Many favor the Luxembourg airport for its proximity, but I’d recommend taking just one flight out of Beauvais if there’s a destination you’d like to go to that flights out of Luxembourg don’t reach!

It’s no secret that the accessible, well-managed, and often clean methods of public transportation make Europe a well-oiled machine. With enough patience and willpower, you too can soon be on 15-hour long train journeys to Prague or Rome! Me on the other hand, I prefer to swap off between trains and airplanes based on time and cost efficiency. Happy traveling!

High Speed Trains: Rated

Friday, April 22, 2022 | Written by Claire

Trains. They’re what make Europe run the way it does today. From local to region to cross-country high speed trains, there are so many different designs and engineering feats you will encounter everywhere you travel. As a newcomer to European transportation before this semester, I found the intricate time tables of arriving and departing trains, engineering mechanisms of high speed rail, and designs to be highly fascinating. From the hundreds of trains I’ve ridden in this past semester, here are my top 5 favorites. If you get the chance, definitely use your Eurail pass to your advantage and take a luxury train ride across the country of your desire. 

5: TGV (France)

This train is going to be your best friend. The good ol’ TGV, also known as Train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train in French. This is the French intercity rail line that will be the heart of how you travel in, out, and within France. There are many other trains that follow the design of the TGV, but this is the original, fastest rail-based high speed train developed in the world, traveling up to 300 km per hour. While TGVs are not the most luxurious on the inside compared to many other trains, it is definitely a classic exterior that represents France as a whole.
4: Italo Treno (Italia) 

To me, this train is like a Ninja. Flanked by red and black stripes, the design of this train embodies speed, agility, and precision. With a nose slightly sharper than many of the ICE and TGV trains, it creates a narrow, streamline figure that cuts through air as it races down the tracks. It is also eco-friendly and sustainable, a good move towards Italy’s renewable energy plan. The interior also has several sections, one that is more “first class” that comes with unlimited snacks and private suites. The seats themselves are firmly cushioned for comfort. Bathrooms are kept squeaky clean and table space is generous. 

3: ICE (Germany) 

I’ve spent most of my travel days on ICE trains simply for its convenience, reliability, and comfort. While it can be packed as the summer months approach, the ICE train is the German high speed rail line that is designed to get you across the country in a matter of hours. If timed right, you can take them as overnight trains and save a few bucks on hotel costs. For the winter, these trains are definitely safe havens for warmth and shelter among the blistering cold winds outside. The seating cushion is also one of the most comfortable. With pillowed head rests and curved back spaces, you can comfortably sleep without leaning your head on a stranger’s shoulder. Additionally, ICE trains have adequate luggage racks at the end and above seats to actually fit your backpack and not just a jacket like some of the French TGVs. 

2: Südostbahn Traverso (Switzerland) 

Deemed as what my friend calls the “sexy train,” the Südostbahn, often abbreviated as SOB, is the new design for the regional Swiss railcar. Plated with a rose gold chrome roof and side matting, the Traverso features spacious seating, large window space, and noise canceling interior. Many of the regional lines also go through scenic routes, making the train ride even more enjoyable. Not only is it kept clean and hygienic, the train also has a bistro car for certain food options and even a vending machine in several cars where you can grab instant coffee or soda. Additionally, while most train bathroom cars are filthy and often smelly, the Traverso has a huge and luxurious bathroom with high pressure faucets and good mirror lighting as well. This was by far one of my favorite train rides I’ve been on and one the most sleek exterior designs within European trains. 

1: Thalys (French-Belgium)

For me, the Thalys will always have a special place in my heart. Branded as an entirely red train, the sleek design makes Thalys standout among the mass of trains passing through each station. They are characterized by their bright red exterior, flanked with silver. Thalys are one of the most expensive trains to ride and they only run through specific cities as well. This French-Belgian line runs high speed trains from Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Cologne. Interior-wise, spacious seating with adequate working room and quadded table space make it easily one of the most comfortable trains to ride. 

City Hopping on Lake Como (25 Trains and Counting…) 

Thursday, March 31, 2022 | Written by Claire

The day began with cancelled trains and booked out trains across the board as we approached the Metz Ville station. The original journey took us from Metz Ville to Chiasso where we would catch the last bus across the Swiss Italian border at 11:30 PM to our hotel. Strangely, all the TGVs heading to Nice and Marseille were completely booked for the weekend and right before we had to leave for our train to Italy, a truck driver got stuck on the rails on the Strasbourg line and shut down the entire area for several days. It was a mess!

However, thanks to the help of the SNCF app, we were able to find another route out of South France that routed through Nancy and some smaller stations such as St. Die and ended in St. Louis. There, we booked it to a train headed to Basel only for it to stop halfway at a random station called Mulhouse, making us miss our next 3 connecting trains, but after hopping onto the next train, we finally made it to Basel for a quick 20-minute connection, an expensive bite of food from the local Migros. Our next stop: Zurich. Not more than 5 minutes after slumping down into the cushioned seat of the nice Swiss Train, I got a text notification that I had a 50 euro surcharge from my Free Mobile phone plan. Turns out, Free charges you one euro per one MB (emphasis on Megabyte) of data you use abroad, which was JUST what I needed. A quick pro tip, Switzerland isn’t in the EU, so make sure you turn off your data before passing through the country. It was a hefty charge for a careless mistake. The train ride from Zurich was more of a miracle; it made up a decent amount of time for being late, and thankfully we were able to get into Chiasso with 20 minutes to spare. A bit past 11, we walked, and cartwheeled, across the border and into Italy. 

Over the next few days, we were hoping to ferry hop the water-front cities across Lake Como, but of course-there was a strike. Ferries were operating at unreliable hours, so we decided to just suck it up and take the hour-long train journey to Bergamo. 

As the sun rose high in the sky, I was delighted to feel the warm rays bathed across my face and the fresh breeze. It was a definite change up from the weather in Metz, where it was perpetually grey and gloomy seven days a week. The city itself was beautiful. The town was lined with colorful houses of pastel orange, yellow, and red. The small little alleyways of the quaint Italian town seemed to emerge from stone, stacked upon each other creating small winding trails on the cliffs above the water, which shimmered a beautiful crystal-turquoise color as small private boats settled on the surface, rocking peacefully back and forth. Although the trees were still on their early spring phase, the leaf-less branches created intricate shapes and patterns that weaved higher in the sky, a natural masterpiece.

Other than Bergamo, Bellagio and Varenna are the other two must-sees in the area. We happened to stumble upon a giant garden in Varenna that stretched for miles along the waterfront. It had an array of flowers, trees, and small bushes, creating a myriad of purple, red, and orange that contrasted the bright green forestry. The white columns and marble coated buildings gave the entire garden a Venetian look, comparable to the marble statues in Rome and Florence. Other than the scenery itself, luxury cars decked out in silver lined the streets, perfectly blending into color scheme. 

Finally, in Bellagio, we hopped off the ferry right on time to catch the glorious sunset, a ball of bright red that dipped below the horizon. As the sun disappeared, the cold started to set in, coupled with the strong winds that ripped our hair back and forth. As we took a look at the time, we would be right on time to catch the last bus back to the train station in Varenna, which would bring us back to the hotel. We stood in the dark corner of the bus station, waiting as the time ticked past its scheduled arrival. As the moon continued to rise higher into the sky, the bus finally showed up, only to be packed to the BRIM with passengers huddled like sardines on board. There was no room to spare. The driver, however, didn’t even stop; instead, we took one look at our shivering selves at the bus station, shrugged, and sped away. Our hearts sank. There was no way back. We stood there in silence for a minute pondering on what to do, but not too far from the dock, we saw a ferry pulling up to the station. It seemed to be running on schedule despite the strike. At once, we bolted on board only to find twenty other people trying to get to the same train station to catch the next train that would supposedly leave 5 minutes after the ferry arrives. 

As the boat sped across the water, the workers seemed to be in no rush docking the boat. The exit ramp was not even close to the dock, but all of us were on our feet, ready to sprint. The next few moments seemed to be a movie. It was as if the ferry became a starting line, and as soon as the ramp touched the ground, everyone ran. Flying out of the boat, over bike racks, and across the town, everyone ran to the train station together, wheezing and laughing with those who once strangers were now bonded over our mutual rush to the train station. 

A Guide to Buses in Metz

The fastest way to get around Metz is definitely by bus. Mira breaks down her knowledge on the bus system in Metz in this must read for any student at Georgia Tech-Lorraine!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 | Written by Mira

The 45-minute walk into downtown Metz is anything but ideal. Yes, it’s picturesque, but it’s not quick. I’ve used the bus system extensively in the month that I’ve been here, so let me break it down and share some tips.

Bus tickets come in 1-trip, 2-trips, 10-trips, or monthly pass. If you get to Metz at the end of the month (ex: August 20th), I’d recommend holding off on the monthly pass. It expires at the end of the month, so a 10-trip pass should suffice until the beginning of the next month. To get the student discount on the monthly pass, you go to the Le Met office in République square.

The Metz Buses go all over the city, which makes it really convenient to get around!

There’s a bus stop right outside Lafayette for a bus (C12) that takes you directly to the train station and downtown Metz. It’s about a 20-minute bus ride to Republique square, and buses run about every 30 minutes, from 5am to about 8:30pm. If you’re downtown after 8:30pm, such as for dinner or coming back from the train station, you can take the M4a or M4b to the station nearest Lafayette and walk 13 minutes. 

To use your bus pass, you tap it on one of the screens on the bus. Always remember to pay, because you never know when metro workers will come around and check that you paid. If you see someone official walking down the bus with a little device, don’t panic! Watch what other bus patrons do and tap your card to the device. If you paid, you’re all good! If not, you could get fined.

To get off the bus, pay attention for your stop. Right before your stop, you should hit the “Stop” buttons that are spread out around the bus. Usually they’re red, but you can also click the small metal ones to indicate that you would like to get off at the upcoming stop. Once you press the button or if someone else already has, “Arret Demande” lights up in red near the front of the bus.

I highly recommend downloading the Moovit app. Moovit helps you navigate all sorts of public transportation pretty much in any city. I used it over the summer in Tel Aviv (in a big city), and it works in Metz (a smaller city). You type in a destination, and it’ll give you options of routes you could take and the duration of the routes. It also tells you how much you need to walk before and/or after the bus or train. Always check which side of the road you should be on, because sometimes it’s not clear on the map.  Moovit has the bus schedule loaded in, but sometimes the buses are late or early. Sometimes, it will show you an ETA, how far away the bus is from a certain stop in minutes. Once you select a route, you can hit the start button, and it will follow you on your journey. For example, once you get on the bus, it will update you on how many stops it is before you should get off. You can also set it to give you notifications when you are 2 stops away. 

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I’ve only used the C12 and M4 lines due to their proximity to Lafayette, but there are a few other lines that can take you elsewhere around Metz. The C12 can also bring you to and from Cora, the hypermarché near Lafayette (about a 25-minute walk). But, Georgia Tech-Lorraine provides a free shuttle back from Cora on a specific evening of the week (for us, Mondays at 7:30pm).

The buses in Metz are a great way to get around and to help downtown seem not quite so far away.

Train of Thought

Aria has some thoughts and experiences (some amusing, some heartbreaking) to share on public transportation – including her love of trains – in her latest blog post!

While Metz has one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe, the station in Antwerp (pictured above) remains my favorite.

My first time stepping off a German train and being greeted with a sign for “Ausgang City”, I reacted with panic at having gotten off at the wrong stop. Ausgang, while charming, I’m sure, had no prepaid Airbnb waiting for me. I often experience unwarranted panic, and it turns out that “Ausgang” just means “exit” and the Germans have not conspired to make every train drop you off in the same, incorrect city. It is fairly easy to start getting the hang of the terms it takes to navigate foreign train stations, as the announcements and signs are much clearer than anywhere else. Consequently, my understanding of foreign languages is extremely limited and largely train related. While it’s fun to throw “uscita” and “nächster halt” into my conversations, I now end up cycling between 4 words for “thank you” before giving up my attempt to courteous in the appropriate language.

Travel by train is the heart of the GTL experience. Europe is known for its public transportation, but above buses, cheap flights, and all else, I praise the train. Flights take hours to ensure enough time to get through security and not miss boarding. Buses get held up by traffic, skip stops, and are usually ahead of or behind schedule. The train never leaves early, and only occasionally leaves late. At this point, students are scheduling trains that leave half an hour after their last class, assuming a 20-minute bus ride and an easy stroll to the platform. As long you get off the bus with about 2 minutes to spare and a Eurail pass, you can meander to the train with confidence that it will be waiting for you.

This consistency can be additionally beneficial if you get a bit creative. When the cold became unbearable, we noticed that the train waiting next to us was scheduled to leave after our actual train, though ours had not yet arrived. Ignoring the fact that this train could take us in the entirely wrong direction if it left early, we hopped on for its luscious warmth. At least our Eurail passes made this technically allowable, though the potential to miss our Monday classes would be frowned upon.

The confusion associated with traveling in Naples is best represented by this image of a sign instructing you not to cross the tracks, next to the crosswalk for crossing the tracks (necessary to get between platforms). Another sign helpfully suggested you wait to cross the tracks until no trains are coming.

That said, the consistency is occasionally heartbreaking. A Viennese tram held me hostage at red light as I watched my train leave precisely on time, while I arrived about 30 seconds later. This led to taking the last train home, leaving no room for error. Even after finally making it onto my last train, I ended up napping slightly and missing the stop. At least Nancy has a bus that arrives at Metz at 1:30 in the morning, but this then requires a 40-minute walk in the cold back to the dorm. The Metz buses stop running sometime around 10 pm, and this should be factored in when planning return trains.

On the occasion that a train is late, much more caution should be taken. I’ve sat through so many announcements changing the time estimate that I believe my German is perfect, if just for that one phrase. One group had a train delayed by 20 minutes, so they decided to go grab food. These delay estimates are notoriously awful, leading to an unexpected arrival and the group having to find a last-minute hotel while the one member who had stayed behind got to attend his Monday classes.

As our experiences build, we get riskier. A day trip to Luxembourg is certainly an option, but if we left at noon on Thursday, we could take 5 trains over 8 hours and be in Berlin before 9. These decisions should not be made too hastily, however. For the longer legs, I highly recommend looking for German ICE trains, as they tend to come with a café and free wifi. These seats are commonly reserved, but you can sit in pretty much anywhere that doesn’t have a sign above it listing specific cities where it is reserved. The comfort makes a long ride tolerable. On that note, night trains are wonderful and often include breakfast, but the beds are a bit too stiff for my back.

The comfort and freedom of the rental car when we got upgraded to a Jaguar may be unparalleled, but trains are by far the easiest, most affordable, and consistent means of transportation. When in Rome, the buses would often take longer than walking would. The metro did lose power once, but I will never underestimate the benefits of having exclusive tracks, except in the case of a tram: the unfortunate mix with the traffic of a bus but the restrictions of a train. I am now preemptively dealing with the sadness that MARTA will bring me.

Night Trains: For the Long-Distance Traveler on a Budget

By this time, Maddy has some experience with getting to far-flung places, and she recommends night trains. Check out her tips and insights!

Basically, after all of the traveling I’ve done, I grew tired of the Franco-Germanic area and aspired to travel elsewhere, which either requires an 8-12+ hour train or an expensive flight. So, I found a nice solution: night trains! Night trains are awesome. Within France they’re very cheap: I went to Monaco for a 20 euro reservation, which is what you’d pay for an inexpensive hostel. From southern France, it’s just a quick train to Italy, and there are also night trains that go between countries as well. I have some friends that took one to Barcelona for 30-40 euros, and I’m positive the night train to Berlin is fairly inexpensive as well.

The trains have rooms that house 6 beds, and yes, they are super cramped. I’m talking Titanic movie cramped.

 

But, all you’re doing is sleeping, so instead of staying up late and doing homework or other irrelevant things, get a good night’s rest so you can explore all the next day! (I’m joking, although if you are thinking of doing homework on this train, then forget about it. There were no common areas to just hang out in (at least on mine), and don’t expect to be able to sit upright comfortably in your bed.

Also, If you’re tall you may end up like this:

These trains usually leave late at night (mine left at 10 pm) and you arrive at your destination in the morning.

One thing to consider is that unless you buy out an entire cabin of all six beds, you’ll probably be sharing them with other people. So, if you have a group of friends that are obsessed with a card game and are refusing to quit at even 1 am, just be courteous of the people you’re sharing the cabin with and try to move out into the hallway. That doesn’t sound fun but it’s better that than pissing off some French women who will 100% use the entirety of their vocabulary to make you shut up (totally not based on personal experience). Also, it’s always good to be conscious of your things, but that’s a bit hard to do when you’re asleep. I cannot sleep with one eye open, and I doubt you can either, so I suggest getting a money belt/something similar so you can keep your passport and phone close to you without fear of prying hands. Get out there and see some far away stuff!

5 Tips for Train Travel

The best part about traveling Europe is that you don’t need a car – trains can get you almost anywhere! However, trains are new to most of us on our first trip to GTL, so Lina has some hints to make your travels easier.

From using the Eurail pass, I have learned a lot about traveling on trains. Especially when one doesn’t speak the language, going on trains can be a bit daunting. Trust me, I have taken my fair share of wrong trains, slept in a few very cold train stations, and been to many an information desk. This post is a ‘learn from my mistakes’ type deal so I hope everyone is ready!

1. Make sure you are in the right car.
I know, I know, this sounds like a no-brainer. However, a lot of the newer trains have the capability for cars to split off from one another and go to different places. Make sure that the car you get into is going to your destination, because there is no way to switch once you are en route.

2. Secure your valuables with your companions so you can all sleep.
It’s always a good idea to keep your personal items close to you. I keep my passport, Eurail pass, and money in a money belt, and put it under my clothes. However, sometimes I worry about my backpack. I want to sleep, but I don’t want to have to worry about my bag being stolen if everyone in my group falls asleep. So, I came up with a plan. Whenever we are planning on napping, my crew and I all buckle and tie our backpacks together. That way no one can grab our backpacks and quickly make off with one, but will have to struggle through the tangle of backpacks and thus become discovered. It makes me feel a lot safer.

3. Bring a scarf or neck pillow for sleeping.
One thing I learned about taking trains is that you will never know when or where you will be stranded. It is always a good idea to bring extra warm clothes in case you are stranded in a train station, because most of them are not heated. Also, most train stations don’t have places to lie down for sleeping, so having a pillow to rest your head on can come in really handy.

4. Leave enough time for transfers
Even though trains are usually on time, small delays or train strikes can lead to some close calls and missed trains. When planning your route, make sure that you can always get to the next platform for your transfer. I think 20 minutes is a safe bet. Every train station is different, and you need time to figure out where the train is and how to get there. Leave stress out of the equation and plan for decent transfer time.

5. Bring snacks!
Although many trains have dining cars, bringing snacks along for the ride is always an awesome idea. Train travel makes you sleepy, and a quick granola bar, apple, or other snack can be a great pick-me-up. Trust me, you will love yourself later.

Happy travels everyone!

Trains, Trams, and Automobiles

When you think traveling Europe, you think trains! Sam has some interesting thoughts on public transportation here…and there!

Today, I write to you from the sweet and small balcony of room 412 at the Attalos Hotel in Athens, Greece. I can hear the quiet, perpetual buzzing of the street lamps, the metallic screech of car brakes, the deep roar of a tour bus, and people below carrying drunken conversations in a language I cannot even begin to start understanding. Klick-klack, a train goes by. The sound of a skateboard rolling past carries up high to my balcony, and a church bell rings to the turn of the hour. All of these night sounds have me focusing on the wheels that are constantly turning to get masses of people from one place in Europe to the next.

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Zoom! I wanted to take a picture of the aesthetically pleasing subway wagons before I needed to hop onto a bus, but it was already moving :/

The efficiency of public transportation in Athens is not really comparable to what we have in the more northern countries of the EU, like France and Germany, but it is still quite the feat. Back at my home in Washington, we only had a bus that ran through town maybe once every hour. In France, even in small towns, there is a bus that runs at least twice per hour, and there is a train station to get residents to further destinations. Because of this, everything seem more accessible here.

From what I’ve noticed by talking to EU citizens, most people prefer a reliable public transportation system than a car. Sure, sometimes cars can come in handy, but it seems that taking a bus or a tram to work and back is both cheaper and nicer than weaving a car through traffic. It especially comes in handy for students and younger people, and it really helps if they aren’t old enough for a driver’s license, which are often expensive and difficult to get. People can easily get from one end of town to the next, cheap and quick, which is really nice (especially when student debt is looming over your shoulder asking you when you want to make a deal with the devil for free education)!

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Frankfurt Am Main Hauptbahnhof was giving me really intense hanger vibes

Throughout my European travels, I have taken international trains only a couple of times, but I already know that I love it. There is almost always a restaurant wagon, the seats are gracious enough to be spacious enough for my giraffe legs, and you can look out the windows and watch the beautiful countryside pass as you sip your macchiato. All of this and more adds to the temptation of Europe, and it increases the chances of catching the travel bug by about 48% (these are not, of course, real statistics, but I feel like this would be a pretty accurate number if there even were statistics on this).

The other main mode of public transportation in Europe, besides long distance trains, are short distance buses and trams. The inner city public transportation is absolutely incredible, with different wagons coming in every 2 to three minutes to get you where you need to be. You can’t even compare this to the transportation back home- it would be a dishonor to European transportation. I, for one, love taking the buses and trams here. They’re so convenient and affordable, and now that I see it in action, I really wish the US had better public transportation systems. I thought I was fine with my car, but taking a train is so much more fun! Maybe that’s just because I’m still pretty new to all of this, but I guess only time can tell!

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A wild Public Bus has appeared! What will you do next?

And until then, here is your French Word of the Week!

Ballot (n.): bundle, package

Example in a Frenglish conversation-

Sam: “Hey, have you mailed in your ballot for the election?”

Tina: “What do you want me to send them? A care package? I mean I don’t know the senator personally, but I guess I will…”

Ciao!