It's hard-wired into us that long-distance travel is generally by car and plane, so when I imposed my personal flying ban I thought I was doomed to holiday in Bexhill forever. Although we have folksy warm feelings about trains, they are rarely considered a serious possibility for long distances, so I wondered if they could provide a feasible alternative to the plane. Whereas there are infinite ways of buying a plane ticket, I wasn't sure where to buy a railway ticket to Austria. Fortunately, I was recommended Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.co.uk), a one-stop European train service that does the hard graft for you.
The cheapest option to Klagenfurt was £277, but as I didn't want to be dead on arrival I opted for my own couchette at £369. This doesn't sound too bad until you compare it to Ryanair, which flies to Klagenfurt from 29p! These sort of cheap flights are the fastest-growing cause of climate change and are only possible because the aviation industry pays no tax on the fuel it uses. Thus airlines and airports continue to grow while ignoring their environmental responsibilities. Unfairly, the trains get no such perks.
One hopes that, the more people that choose trains over planes, the sooner they will begin to offer a more competitively priced service. After all, at one time mobile phones, organic food and computers were prohibitively expensive but mass popularity eventually brought prices down.
My epic journey started at 5.40pm on the excellent Eurostar. Sixty-nine per cent of visitors to Paris choose it over the plane, which shows how popular an efficient, fast train can be. From Paris I took a clean and compact sleeper to Munich and, soothed by the train's regular rocking motion, I slept like a top. Things were only marred by a grim female guard, freshly graduated from the Rosa Klebb charm school. She didn't have knives in her shoes but I'm sure she would have loved some.
I changed at Munich, arriving at Klagenfurt at 2.30pm. Door-to-door the train journey took 22 hours, compared to six hours if I'd flown. Although the train was slower, I had the joy of seeing spectacular forests, mountains and deep ravines. It was just as well I was travelling to a health centre as by now I was exhausted, and the Mayr (www.golfhotel.at) was just the place to recuperate. The clinic bases its cure on recreating a healthy digestive system. Our colons are the root of good health and when overloaded by stress, late dinners, too much fruit and not enough chewing, foods ferment in our colons causing toxicity and poor health.
On arrival I had a thorough consultation with the doctor. He says, like most patients, my stomach and colon are enlarged, I am exhausted, run down and must rest. It sounds very alarming, so mindful of doctor's orders I'm going to turn in early. Let's hope I survive so I can reveal the secrets of my "cure" next week. Nurse! Where's my stretcher?!
The Mayr cure (08700 360 333); www.eurostar.com; Deutsche Bahn railways (08702 435 363)Reuse content