30 October 2010

Voyage sans frontières

29 October 2010: our longest travel day so far (apart from our initial air flight from Sydney to Dubai). Travelling through three countries - Innsbruck in Austria, change trains at Zurich, Switzerland, and depart in Paris, France.

And absolutely no border formalities once you are inside the EU. No holding transit pens in Zurich; time permitting, we could have gone wherever we wanted.

There are subtle signs that you've crossed the respective borders. The train announcements change from being the Austrian Railways to the Swiss Railways welcoming you and the language priority shifts from German being the first spoken language (Austria through to the French border) and then all of a sudden, French has priority.

And only needing one set of currency makes travel in Europe so much easier than it ever used to be. If all this sounds like a revelation, it isn't really. It's just my first experience of being in more than one country in continental Europe, where in the past, most of my Europe travel has been via the UK, or a single country (out and back).

The EU website has some very good background on the evolution of the dismantling of internal border controls - the so-called Schengen area - for anyone interested in where you can go without going through border formalities.

On the downside, you can only submit your taxfree shopping forms when you depart your last EU port, which is generally fine, but for me, my last EU location is going to be in a small town called Kiruna in the north of Sweden, before I catch a train to Norway (not yet part of the EU, surprisingly).

So that will truly be my test of travelling without borders - arrival in Vienna in mid-October, departure in Kiruna in late December.

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