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Opinion

Opinion: Europe's roads, rails and waterways less traveled

There are plenty of convenient and comfortable ways to travel. But the novelist and journalist Carmen-Francesca Banciu prefers the journey.

During the summer holiday, Europe's most visited places are overwhelmed by mass tourism. Cities like Venice and Florence and islands like Mallorca and Ibiza suffocate under the burden of overpopulation in summer. Noisy tourists use up the water and jam up the sewers, and they leave thick clouds of exhaust fumes and mountains of garbage in their wake. The lack of restraint, the arrogance and disrespect shown by some tourists leave these places looking like scorched earth.

Why do people always want to go to where everyone else goes? And why don't they try new routes on their own? Why don't they seek their own discoveries?

Carmen-Francesca Banciu

Carmen-Francesca Banciu is a Romanian-German author and lecturer. She has lived and worked in Berlin since 1990 and written German-language books since 1996

I love being on the road. The journey is a holiday in itself. Almost all of Europe is within reach by train, bus or ferry - and at reasonable prices.

The island of Seydisfjordur in eastern Iceland, for example, can be reached in 57 hours from Hamburg using a train, bus and ferries. On the way, you'd have to stay overnight for at least a night in the north of Denmark. But this could be a special experience in itself. Imagine the adventures that could be had in the town of Hirtshals merely by missing the once-a-week ferry to the Faroe Islands!

You'd have to engage with the locals and ask for their help or hospitality. You'd learn about their lives and their world firsthand. They could learn about you. After all, the search for adventure in the wider world is often to discover more about oneself, through learning more about other people.

Asking questions while traveling - even when you already know the answers - is helpful to start conversations, whether it be in High German, Low German, Saxon, Bavarian, English or any other language, and with the help of drawings, hand movements, body language and the eyes. Gestures can sometimes confuse, but facial expressions are unmistakable and understood by everyone.

The all-embracing feeling of belonging might strike you. A deep connection could arise from what unites us: humanity. This could create a sense of mutual appreciation and responsibility for one another and the fate of our planet.

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Check-in - On the Elbe Cycle Route

Loving the journey

The flight from Berlin to Rhodes, in Greece, takes three hours. But what do you experience in those three hours except for the check-in and baggage claim? According to Google, you need about 36 hours for the same route by car. The 2,618-kilometer (1,623-mile) journey by foot over the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, with a ferry trip at the end, takes about 519 hours and would be easy with all of the technical support and travel information available.

In 1933, the young British travel writer and soldier Patrick Leigh Fermor packed his rucksack with a passport, a few maps, dictionaries, memorabilia, inscriptions, English poetry and a volume of verse by Horace and set off on foot for Constantinople. He was on the road for over a year.

According to Google, he could have made it in just 529 hours - less than a month. However, on the road Fermor fell in love with a Romanian princess and enjoyed life with her for a while. Sometimes they were in Bucharest, sometimes in Epidaurus, and sometimes in her family's castle in Wallachia. Had World War II not interrupted their idyll, Fermor, who died in 2011, might never have left.

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