• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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:

Story continues below…

“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
VW to pay US suppliers $1.2 bln over Dieselgate
Volkswagen model vehicles on a dealer lot in Bedford, Massachusetts, USA. Photo: Cj Gunther/Picture Alliance/DPA

German auto giant Volkswagen has agreed to pay US suppliers $1.2 billion to settle claims emanating from the "Dieselgate" pollution scandal, the firm and suppliers said late Friday.

This Week in History
75 years since one of Holocaust's worst massacres
Photo: DPA

On Thursday, German president Joachim Gauck spoke in Kiev 75 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

Six things you need to know about troubled Deutsche Bank

Shares in Deutsche bank plunged on Friday morning, dragging down other European banks and markets worldwide. Here are six things to know about Germany's biggest lender.

Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,789
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd