Are You Sitting Comfortably?

YOU MAY not know it, but there has never been a better time for poring over the minutiae of European train travel. Or - if you are photographer Clynt Garnham - "watching pictures" from out of train windows.

Why? Because this month marks the 125th birthday of the Thomas Cook European Train Timetable, an encyclopaedic work vital to anyone prone to asking questions like: "Should we pass through Amiens? Or should we change at Ventimiglia for the train to Pisa? And does the train from Bydgoszcz to Olsztyn carry second-class couchettes?"

As someone who has spent much of the last 20 years trundling along the rails of Europe taking pictures out of carriage windows, Garnham has been much occupied with such matters. He is inspired by the thought that nothing ties Europe up more convincingly than its network of rail tracks, which extends from Spain in the west to the Urals in the east. "You can be looking out of the train in rural Transylvania at an old man riding a donkey," he explains. "And then you'll realise that you are travelling on the same network as the high-speed service from Paris-to-Lyon. Or Barcelona- to-Madrid. Or Oslo- to-Copenhagen. It's like watching moving pictures."

Unbroken journeys connecting different parts of the continent are still highly feasible. The Thomas Cook timetable lists Brussels to Moscow on page 60, Malmo to Budapest on page 74, Dortmund to Florence on page 81 and Moscow to Thessaloniki on page 92.

It's border crossings that give these trips half their flavour. The Berlin Wall may have gone, but travelling east can still produce a suitably sinister tone, with barking Polish passport officers bursting in at the very moment you have finally managed to nod off to sleep, followed - as soon as you think it is safe to turn out the light - by their barking Ukrainian counterparts.

But on the rails, you do not just cross geographical borders. Clynt has also seen the changes in our trains reflecting the changes in our lives. "Take a look at the modern French and German trains, with their on-board telephones, airline-style seating, and silent air-conditioning," he says. "And then take at look at the east-European trains - slow, noisy things with friendly closed-compartment carriages."

Though friendly, these old carriages are sitting ducks for modern criminals, who can silently gas the compartments one by one before relieving the inhabitants of their belongings - one reason for their demise in the western part of the continent. But further east and south, the closed compartments live on. There it is: the conspiratorial arrangement of inward-facing seats, the black-and-white photographs of Swiss farmhouses, the Formica- topped table that slides out from under the window, always sticky with last week's vodka-spill. And there of course are the multi- lingual commands, phrased (depending on the country) as warnings, exhortations or pleas - not to lean out of the window, not to drink the water in the toilets or use the toilet when the train is in a station.

Which is another good measure of how things are changing. On SNCF trains these days the toilets - as fragrant, clean and private as the boudoir of a French society lady - have toilet paper, soap and razor sockets. You have to go further east to find flushing mechanisms comprised of a string which releases the contents of the toilet straight onto the tracks below. As for leaning out of the window - in the modern trains the windows don't even open anyway. So just stay in your seat. And watch the pictures. !

THE JAN PIETERSZ EXPRESS, GERMANY-HOLLAND

08.16 Koln-Dusseldorf-Duisburg-Oberhausen-Emmerich-Arnhem-Utrecht-Rotterdam 11.25

THE VERDI EXPRESS, ITALY-SWITZERLAND

11.25 Milano Centrale-Monza-Como-Chiasso-Mendrisio-Capolago-Lugano-Pellinzona- Biasca-Faida-Airolo-Luzern-Sursee-Zofingen-Basel SBB16.46

THE BULGARIA EXPRESS, BULGARIA

08.30 Sofija-Mezdra-Pleven-Gorna-Ruse-Silistra-Giurgiu-Bucaresti Nord 17.22

THE OST-WEST EXPRESS, GERMANY-POLAND

19.36 Koln-Dusseldorf-Duisberg-Essen-Dortmund-Bielefeld-Hannover-Magdeburg- Frankfurt-(oder)-Rzepin-Pozan-Warszawa Central 06.27

THE RHEIN SPRINTER EXPRESS, GERMANY

06.35 Munchen-Mannheim-Frankfurt HBF 10.50

THE REMBRANDT EXPRESS, SWITZERLAND

15.55 Basel SBB-Zurich-Thalwil-Pfaffikon-Ziegenbrucke-Saargans-Landquart- Chur-St Moritz 20.53

LONDON-AMSTERDAM VIA HARWICH

08.55 London Liverpool Street-Harwich International Port-Hoek Van Holland- Rotterdam- Den Haag-Amsterdam CS 17.28

THE LISINSKI EXPRESS, CROATIA

01.15 Villach West BF-Rosenbach-Jesenice-Lesen-Bled-Kranj-Ljubljana-Zidanimost- Dobova-Zagreb 08.35

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits