• Germany's news in English
 

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

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
How Germany will deal with the leap second
A scientist works with an atomic clock at the Federal Physics-Technology Institute (PTB) in Braunschweig. Photo: DPA

How Germany will deal with the leap second

Germany's top time scientists are ready to spring into action in the dead of night on Tuesday, inserting an extra second into the clock while everyone else is asleep. READ  

German unemployment hits historic low
Photo: DPA

German unemployment hits historic low

German unemployment remained at historically low levels in June as the recovery in Europe's biggest economy remained on track, data showed on Tuesday. READ  

Greece crisis
Chorus grows for Grexit as midnight strikes
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras preparing for an interview on public television on Monday evening. Photo: DPA

Chorus grows for Grexit as midnight strikes

Hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel's announcement on Monday that she remained open to further talks with Greece, an increasing number of politicians in Germany were calling for Greece to be gently ushered out of the euro. READ  

Greece crisis
Germany's Greeks look anxiously homeward
Antonius Chantzaras in his kiosk. Photo: DPA

Germany's Greeks look anxiously homeward

As crisis engulfs their homeland, members of the Greek community in Germany look anxiously homeward and reflect on how the crisis is already traveling back to Germany. READ  

Women's World Cup
Semi-final clash with US 'like a final'
Germany coach Silvia Neid. Photo: DPA

Semi-final clash with US 'like a final'

Ahead of Tuesday's semi-final clash against the Unites States in the Women's World Cup, Germany coach Silvia Neid warned that her team would not be relinquishing their status as the world's number one team yet. READ  

Germanwings co-pilot buried in silence
A man walks past a makeshift memorial to the Germanwings flight 4U9525 victims in Düsseldorf airport. Photo: DPA

Germanwings co-pilot buried in silence

As the co-pilot who steered Germanwings flight 4U9525 into the French Alps in March was buried on Monday, the authorities prepared to unveil the first steps they will take to improve air safety. READ  

Feisty mum attacks kids with pepperspray
Photo: DPA

Feisty mum attacks kids with pepperspray

A 20-year-old mother attacked a group of children with pepper-spray on Sunday believing they weren't being considerate enough with her own child. READ  

Tunisia terrorist attack
Second German confirmed among dead
Photo: DPA

Second German confirmed among dead

UPDATE: The Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday that at least two Germans were killed in the terrorist attack in Tunisia which took the lives of nearly forty people. READ  

Boy sues classmate over sore bottom
Photo: DPA

Boy sues classmate over sore bottom

A 15-year-old boy from Hanover is suing his classmate after he pulled a chair from underneath him as he was about to sit down. READ  

Two refugee home 'attacks' in as many days
Police guard a refugee home in Freital, Saxony. Photo: DPA

Two refugee home 'attacks' in as many days

Two planned refugee homes have gone up in flames in two days in suspected arson attacks by far-right groups. In both cases the homes were still unoccupied and no injuries have been reported. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
Politics
Follow our LIVE blog as Europe holds breath over Greece crisis
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
National
German restaurants among world's best
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

6,715
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd