One of the perks of having lived abroad is the pleasure (or the pain) of taking a train ride. In fact, one of the things that I miss the most about living in the UK is the transportation system. Even in Europe, it’s so easy to get around without breaking your bank accounts, although sometimes it can be more expensive than travelling by bus. Of course there are pros and cons, but it’s so much better than having to endure traffic on the road or just being sick from sitting long hours in the bus without the ability to walk around to stretch your legs. Besides, nothing beats the view you can see from being in a train. Apart from that, it is usually quite spacious to pray and you tend to have plenty of privacy especially in a quiet train. Also, if you love the nature as I do, then this is a perfect way to unwind after a hectic day.
Having had the chance to travel to a few places in Europe and UK, I am excited to share with you 3 of my favourite train trips so far.
- Turin to Alassio (Italy)
This was my trip in the Northern Italy when I visited my friend in Turin. The train took us from Turin station to Alassio, a place that is famous for its sandy beach at the coast of Italian Riviera. This was during Spring time and I have to say, The Alps gave it all away.
One of the things that I regret was not investing in a higher quality camera. To be fair, I was a student under budget and even my trip to Italy, I was able to spend about 300 euros in 3 cities for 10 days. In fact, I was almost broke by the end of the trip. Nevertheless, it was definitely worth a trip because of the many indescribable experiences that I went through.
- Prague to Berlin
One of the cons of going for a train ride is that it is really weather-dependent, especially during winter. There was an hour delay due to the heavy snow but on the bright side, it allowed me to enjoy a cup of coffee with plenty of time to write about Prague thoughtfully. One word to describe Prague: magical. Berlin was a more modern city as compared to the quaint Prague.
The delay meant there were more people on the train than anticipated so it was a frustrating battle trying to find vacant and unbooked seats, especially having to squeeze through a crowd of people with your bags and their bags. One pro-tip: always book your seats for a long journey, even if you have to pay extra but then, search if they have student discounts if you are one. Again, our itinerary was motivated by our tight, student budget and unfortunately, there weren’t any student discounts. Also, if you are travelling to another country by train, always check for their regulations on visas and other rules (I don’t really remember what, but we almost got fined for something minor but the ticket lady was really nice).
I remember going to Berlin when there was some Islamophobic protests happening in Dresden, south of Berlin and we were really scared about the impact that it would have to Berlin.
With that concern in mind, my friend’s prayer alarm set off with a call of prayer during zohor time which made the two ladies sitting in the same compartment as us, a little uncomfortable. I was quite nervous that they would decide to react negatively, but Alhamdulillah, I was just overthinking. Although there was an awkward silence, they were quite neutral about it after a while. We had encountered only some of the most tolerant people. Sometimes, we have to give some people the benefit of the doubt especially if we know they have never spoken to a Muslim before. I only wish that I had the guts back then to break the tension off by offering some cookies or something.
Alhamdulillah, after a few tests and setbacks, we were finally able to relax and enjoy the view. In fact, the beautiful view became our kiblah for our zohor and asar prayer.
What I remember from conversing with my friends was how the snow and the mountains actually made the view even much more stunning. Otherwise, the modern architecture of the places that we passed by in Germany, like above, during our train ride would have looked quite plain. Unlike the timeless beauty of (Northern) Italy, I personally feel that snow makes Berlin much more beautiful than it really is.
- Northern Highlands, Scotland
The terrain in Scotland has a similar vibe all throughout and there were many exposures which is a perfect place for rock enthusiasts and geologists. In my opinion, Scotland is one of those places where you need to have a professional camera and some photography skills in order to capture its own uniqueness. One of the sayings I still remember until today is how often they say, you can have 4 seasons in a day in Scotland, which is true. It can be like summer in the morning, spring and autumn by afternoon and winter at night.
Below is just one of my many failed attempts to capture the beauty of what I saw with my own eyes. If you have the opportunity to go the Scotland, I think a ride around the Northern Highlands, say from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Fort William will be worth a trip, if you’re not really into road trips or can’t drive. Perhaps stay in a lodge or B&B for a few days and hike, which is one of the main things people do for leisure. Who knows you might catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster in the lake!
Scotland, in spite of the bipolar weather, has become one of my favourite places and one of the reasons for that is the people. Most, if not all, are friendly and caring.
I’ve never experienced anyone staring or being intimidated by me for just wearing a hijab, even if I am literally the only one who wears it in that place (I am not exaggerating… this is the case for me when I was most probably the only Muslim in Oban, a small town in southwest Scotland). So, I would definitely recommend going there if you have the chance to.
What I loved most about all these trips were how easy it is to feel so in touch with the nature even just by sightseeing. It’s also refreshing to realise how I never get tired of the same things: mountains, trees and all the greens. It’s that sense of humility that you feel when you look at how grand these creations are.
You instantly forget about the hassle of travelling. I think it is, without a doubt, a perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of a city.