First of all, it is possible to make it from Berlin to London on the same day.
After much deliberation about my progression into permaculture I decided to take the leap and booked a permaculture design course with Aranya and Klaudia Van Gool at the beautiful High Heathercombe Centre. Doing the permaculture design course in Germany could have been an option but alas my German skills are still atrocious. So I decided to go for a course in the UK. This would mean a 3 week trip away during our low season.
I was greatly inspired into slow travel by Gunnar Thöle amongst others, you can look at some of his work here. Although this was not my first slow travel it was certainly driven by the current state of the world and I would not have considered flying as an option as this point. I wanted to document the process here in order to help others who are interested to do the same.
I decided to buy an Interail ticket for 3 days travel within 1 month - I see now (2020) that they have removed this ticket as an option and replaced it with a 4 day ticket which is slightly more expensive that the €185 I had paid for it. This would have also been good for me.
Liebenthal OPR to Berlin Spandau: DB
First time I presented my interrail ticket to the train personnel I was expecting some questions perhaps they would not have seen one before but actually I was wrong. They were familiar with it and I was fine, no questions asked.
Berlin Spandau to Köln: ICE
Be careful! I missed this train because I did not realise that the train to Dusseldorf and the train to Köln was the same one - half of it was going in one direction and the other half goes to the other. Make sure that you get on the right part of the train.
This train was extremely packed and with no seat booked it was really hard to stay in a seat. I ended up on the floor for a bit and then someone was getting off so he nicely let me have his seat. I must admit after missing my intended train I was not feeling too well about myself and having people constantly moving me out of the seat they had booked didn't make me feel any better
Köln to Brussels: ICE
This train was also extremely packed and with no seat booked it was really hard to find a seat, luckily I managed to land a seat in the disable area.
Brussels to London St. Pancras: Eurostar - additional cost because Interrail does not include the seat booking
You need to be at the check in at least 1 hour before the train leaves, while I was standing here quite a few people were not let on the train even if they arrived around 1 or 2 minutes after the check in closed, so don't be late. To make things worse there were no trains on Saturday and therefore to change the ticket you would have to take a train on Sunday.
Due to the earlier delay I knew that I was going to miss the Eurostar train. I tried to change it and it would have been possible for a €15 fee but unfortunately I was informed by the nice woman on the website chat that there were no other possibilities for Friday and the next available trains would be on Sunday.
I checked the website and found that I could buy a new ticket for GBP 195 on the evening train at 20:22. I briefly checked whether flixbus would be a good option this was possible at €60 but would mean I would still not be at my destination until the day after.
It was a challenge to decide what to do and I had to do it quickly.
I decided to go with the new ticket after all, it was probably not the cheapest option. What one should take away from this is to keep in mind that there are only few Interrail options when it comes to Eurostar, so even if the train is not full you might find that they are no Interrail allocated spaces and they won't change it for you which can be very frustrating.
London St. Pancras to Paddington: Underground additional cost as not included on Interrail ticket at the time of writing a one way ticket was GBP 4.90
Paddington to Newton Abbot: GWS is a sleeper train at night but for a bed you need to pay GBP 80. It would have been nice but the extra cost was too much for me. I slept on the seat instead, this was not difficult as there was virtually no one else there and the staff was extremely kind.
If everything had gone to plan I would have arrived in Newton Abbot around 23:00 instead I arrived the day after on 04:30.
Even though I was tired and full of a cold I made it to my destination all in one piece.
The way back was quite straightforward, Peach offered me a lift from High Heathercombe Center to Portsmouth where I wanted to go to visit Anton. After a few days I started my way back home to the mill and I did not miss any trains, I managed to find seats with difficulty on the ICE trains and I made it back home on the same day.
The costs of the Interrail ticket + Eurostar extras was around €200 for the whole trip. Unforutnately because I had to pay the new Eurostart ticket for GBP 195 this doubled my travelling costs. This was nothing to do with the trains and only my mistake which I certainly will not be repeating again any time soon.
Planning the journey
The trip was a little tiring but definitely doable and I am looking forward to try that again next time I have to go to the UK. The next level would be to try and travel to Malta in this way... maybe on my next trip home that would be a cool thing to do and document.
My main highlights of the journey were:
- I had time to read and prepare for the permaculture course on the way.
- I could see the changing landscape as I went across Germany
- I felt good about reducing my CO2 emissions by travelling on the train instead of flying
- There was a lot of people from all walks of life on the trains making me hopeful that change is possible
What could be improved:
- The cost of taking the trains was reduced because I used the interrail ticket but it was still more expensive than flying - this was the no. 1 reason people gave me for not using the train - one solution to this problem - the cost of CO2 offsetting should be integrated into the flight ticket prices and not just a voluntary add-on after all the damage being done is very real, alternatively airlines should be made to cover the costs of the damages from their CO2 emissions from the vast profits.
- Not enough seats on the trains in Germany - on both ICE long distance trains finding a seat that was not prebooked was very difficult and seemed impossible, which makes me think they should have either more carriages or more frequent trains. If you are wondering why I didn't prebook the seat it is because to do so costs money.
- The GWS night train from London to Newton Abbot had lots of carriages but was almost empty which made me think they should reduce the carraiges when they are not needed.
Would I do it again?
Yes most definitely.
Do you want to slow travel but have no idea where to start?
Ping me an email or follow the links provided in the above blog post.