• Germany's news in English
 

One month, 36,000 kilometres: Europe's Interrail champion

The Local · 29 Jun 2012, 18:04

Published: 29 Jun 2012 18:04 GMT+02:00

In a former railway station in Leipzig, Manfred Weis steps onto a stage to a round of applause. The IT consultant from Karlsruhe, Germany, is there to celebrate forty years of Interrail at an event organized by the Eurail Group. The applause is in recognition of his own contribution to the history of rail travel:

“I’m often asked how I managed to travel 36,030 kilometres by train in just thirty days,” Manfred tells the audience.

At the age of 18, Manfred bought his first Interrail ticket. He travelled on his summer holidays along with a few friends. During his travels he heard about someone who had turned train travel into a competitive sport, travelling 29,000 kilometres in one month.

“There and then I decided to beat that record. I started by contacting the previous record holder to ask how I could prove my performance,” he said.

Becoming world champion meant having to follow some strict rules: every train journey had to be documented with a signature from the conductor. A stamp from every town was needed in the Interrail pass book, as proof that he really had visited every destination.

The route was planned carefully to ensure that he would beat the record. Soon Manfred was once again travelling Europe’s train tracks.

“I didn’t reflect on it at the time, but it was a way for me to become independent. Meeting new people and getting around by myself made me grow as a person.”

Article continues below

Manfred holds the Interrail record to this day. As well as seeing more of Europe’s plaforms, cities and landscapes than any other person in so short a time, the journey awakened a new interest for him. Rail travel became part of his life.

“I like to see how the climate and the weather changes as I travel. When you travel by train you don’t just go from A to B, you also experience so much in such a short space of time.”

There’s no doubt that there are easier ways to travel long distances:

“But with the train you don’t have to be there hours ahead of time to check in and stand in line. And you don’t have to go far to get to the station. You hop on in the middle of one city and arrive in the middle of the next place. That’s freedom for me.”

The evening in Leipzig is not just a chance to mark the silver anniversary of his record journey, but also to recall the many memories that train travel has given him. Photos from previous trips show Manfred posing with friends he has met along the way. These are people who, like him, want to discover new places through train journies. He has stayed in contact with many of these people for many years.

“A great thing about trains is that you don’t have to make an effort to have fun and meet new people. You can sit in your compartment for the whole trip but still people come in and want to talk,” he says.

Experienced train travellers often create their own special daily routines. During his trip a quarter of a century ago, Manfred spent only four nights outside his sleeping compartment.

There was always lots to do, Manfred insists, despite the small dimensions of his living space. Eating and sleeping are as important to the journey as writing his journal and reading. Asked whether he ever got bored his expression is one of incomprehension:

“Look out the window, there is always something to see. The best bit is just sitting there and watching the towns and villages pass by,” he says.

Lots of things have changed since that first journey. There are more train lines and more flexible tickets. There are greater opportunities to travel spontaneously, which suits Manfred:

“My top tip to someone who has never done Interrailing before is to never pre-book tickets. It’s expensive, a hassle and is limiting. Being able to hop on a train on impulse is part of the freedom,” he says.

Manfred’s passion for train travel lives on to this day. But in contrast to his record-breaking trip, he now has both a wife and a son with whom to share his journeys. The day after the event they are standing on the platform at Leipzig station. To nobody’s surprise, they are each clutching an Interrail ticket. If Manfred has his way, it won’t be long until his son is soon doing a trip all by himself.

Article sponsored by Eurail Group.

For information on the InterRail Pass range and where to buy click here.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Migrants crisis
German media and celebs rally for refugees
A welcome party for refugees in Heidenau on Friday. Photo: DPA

German media and celebs rally for refugees

8 hours ago

Germany may have witnessed violent anti-refugee protests this week -- but the message from the country's media and celebrities is a loud and determined welcome for people fleeing the horrors of war.

Buzz grows over Poland Nazi treasure train
Ksiaz Castle in Poland, around where the treasure is fabled to be. Photo: Drozdp, via Wikimedia Commons

Buzz grows over Poland Nazi treasure train

13 hours ago

Poland's deputy culture minister has claimed to have seen a ground-penetrating radar image of the alleged Nazi train that has set off a gold rush, adding that he is 99 percent sure it exists, while other sources claim the treasure has already been found.

Migrants crisis
Mass pro-refugee rally held in Dresden
Photo: Oliver Killig / Picture Alliance / DPA

Mass pro-refugee rally held in Dresden

16 hours ago

Thousands of people took to the streets of the German city of Dresden on Saturday to welcome refugees, an AFP journalist at the scene said, following a string of violent anti-migrant protests in the region.

Migrant crisis
Austria refugee tragedy suspects appear in court
Screen shot from video by Andi Schiel

Austria refugee tragedy suspects appear in court

1 day ago

Four defendants were to appear in court in Hungary on Saturday over Austria's migrant truck tragedy, as a "horrified and heartbroken" UN chief called for international action to end Europe's refugee crisis.

German court: Ban on refugee demos must stay
Anti-refugee demonstrators carry a sign accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of being a "traitor to the nation" this week in Heidenau. Photo: DPA

German court: Ban on refugee demos must stay

2 days ago

Update: A German court on Friday night reinstated a ban on rallies in an eastern town hit by violent anti-migrant protests, overturning an earlier decision that found the restriction to be "illegal".

Footballers gone wild
Neuer's 'glass palace' angers idyllic village
Tegernsee is a famous beauty sport. Photo: DPA

Neuer's 'glass palace' angers idyllic village

2 days ago

Villagers in the picturesque Bavarian region of Tegernsee are bristling at World Cup-winning Germany goalkeeper and Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer's plan to build a huge glass villa on the shores of their beautiful lake.

Interview
'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'
Canadian composer and performer Owen Pallett. Photo: Brian Vu

'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'

2 days ago

The Local speaks with Oscar-nominated Canadian musician Owen Pallett about performing at legendary Berlin club Berghain - and just why the world's artists are so fascinated with the German capital.

Germany name squad for crunch Scotland match
Liverpool's Emre can has been called up to the Germany squad to face Scotland and Poland. Photo: DPA

Germany name squad for crunch Scotland match

2 days ago

Liverpool's uncapped defender Emre Can was on Friday called up to the Germany squad for the world champions' forthcoming key Euro 2016 qualifiers against Poland and Scotland.

How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears
How will life for Brits in Germany change if the Brexit happens? Photo: DPA

How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears

2 days ago

Greece is the talk of the town this year. But in 2016, it will be Britain questioning its EU membership. The referendum outcome could be life altering for many Brits living in Germany.

Honest senior rewarded for handing in €12,000
An 87-year-old pensioner found the cash in the bin. Photo: DPA

Honest senior rewarded for handing in €12,000

2 days ago

After throwing away €12,000 this week, a landlord in North Rhine-Westfalia thought he'd made one of the most expensive blunders of his life. But the money made it home safely, police said on Friday – and all thanks to an honest pensioner.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Weekend of anti-refugee violence shocks Germany
National
Half of Germans 'have had sex in their car'
Society
Deadly stew spooks home vegetable gardeners
Politics
The man who brought two Germanies together
Features
Where to get your culture fix in Cologne
Education
Fairytale world of Brothers Grimm brought to life
Rhineland
Thieves leave 1,000 open beers untasted
National
Way to some Germans' hearts is through their wallets
National
Germany's biggest challenge: European refugee crisis
Travel
Where to get your adrenaline pumping in Germany
Technology
Could thieves hack into luxury cars?
What to watch out for when snapping your lunch
National
German lefties through history
National
The fight over prostitution heats up
National
Merkel: migrants, not Greece, are the real challenge
Features
How I explained the Queen to the Germans
Education
Why Germany does 'back-to-school' traditions better
National
Germans are ‘not how foreigners think’
National
A mum and daughter reunite 70 years after WWII
Sport
Bra stops bullet in hunting mishap miracle
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
Business & Money
Start-up helps new Berliners short cut bureaucracy
National
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after the Second World War
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,967
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd