transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find any direct flights from Panama City to my next destination, Dar es Salaam. Since the cheapest flight to Europe was to Frankfurt, I decided to fly there, take a train down to Italy, and catch a ferry to Africa. My red-eye flight from Panama City was originally scheduled to land in Frankfurt at 7:00 AM, giving me plenty of time to travel by train to Florence, where I would spend the night. I was looking forward to this opportunity to see the Alps by train during the winter. When I arrived at the airport, however, I found out the flight had been “retimed,” departing seven hours late due to winter weather in Europe. When I arrived in Frankfurt, I found out the trains were running late because of weather problems too. There was no way to make it to Munich in time for my train to Florence; luckily, I was able to book a spot on the night train.
After my first train journey of the trip (and my first time on a DeutscheBahn ICE train) from the Frankfurt Flughafen Station to the Munich Hauptbahnhof, I had a couple of hours to pick up some bratwurst and ride around the U-Bahn. I boarded City Night Line Train 485 for the 9:00 PM departure. The ride through Bayern and up into Austria was breathtaking. Though I didn’t get to see the mountains during the day, as I had originally hoped, there was something magical about riding through the night with the snow on the ground and lights sparkling in the distance – this was probably the closest to the Polar Express I’ll ever get. The tracks winding through the mountains south of Innsbruck were especially nice, and I loved watching trucks barreling down the highway that paralleled the tracks into Bressanone. I arrived at Firenze Santa Maria Novella at 6:20 the next morning, exhausted after staying up for most of the night watching the scenery.
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The video below has some Google Earth flyovers of the route.
My first stop in Guatemala City was the great railway museum. The 25 cent admission gave me access to a selection of old locomotives (including a couple built near Swarthmore), coaches, other miscellaneous rail vehicles, and historical photos.
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