Enter content here

EPIC - the European Policy Information Centre

 

EPIC EUROPEAN JOURNEYS

The following pages are a celebration of Europe in all its glorious diversity, and maybe ignite that spark of inspiration that gets you on the way to your own wonderful and adventurous journey. And if you are visiting from far-away parts of the globe, we hope this information might be useful in planning your European trip without following the beaten track offered by many guidebooks, blogs, and travel companies. Ours is a small continent, yet cramped with wonderful stuff, ready to be explored.

 

Our name is EPIC and some of the journeys suggested are indeed long. There are 4 posts on how to circumnavigate Europe: by car, by train, by ferry and by night train. Nothing (apart from your funds, as well as social or work obligations, I guess) can stop you from pursuing all these long journeys around Europe. You can even embark on a race around Europe (and tell us all about it; we will happily come up with a leader board). This surely would meet most people’s understanding of EPIC. But synonyms of EPIC also include heroic, grand, monumental, ambitious, or extraordinary. That takes us away from a definition purely focused on a time frame. You might want to take it slowly, spend more time in one place, and if you complete only a fraction of the circle, who cares? The experiences that you might encounter along the way could still be EPIC (as in heroic or monumental). There are also sections on EPIC hikes, all of which are long (and sometimes not so long) distance treks. There are also articles on EPIC drives on locations that would pass any Hollywood screen test, as well as some island hopping trips for those Mediterranean sun seekers. I will not offer a minutiae guide on accommodation, restaurants, or precise bus or rail timetables since the internet and several apps can do that so much better, so I am merely mentioning these travel support vehicles in the individual guides. The usual suspects including booking.com, thetrainline.com, rome2rio.com, viamichelin.co.uk, or alltrails.com will help you greatly in planning your own special journey. Hopefully, the guides might inspire you to get on the road (or train, or boat, or bike) and to soak up what Europe has to offer. And be sure to But before we kick off, here are some thoughts on why, how and where we travel to (please click on the link below). In short, be sure to engage in JOMA: the joy of missing out!

Andreas Staab

Essay. The Essence of Travel

circlebycar.jpg

Doing the European Circle by Car
 
Many people have embarked on one of the ultimate road trips and drove a big loop around the USA; a good 22,000 km (14,000 miles) or the equivalent of some 1200 hours of driving. And although I am sure they are out there, I do not know of anyone who has done something over here: driving along the perimeters of Europe. I got to work on a route planner and to my amazement ended up with 23,000 km, practically the same distance as a fully-fledged U.S. road trip. Tthe trip roughly can be organised into three sections: There is the northern European part, encompassing the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, as well as Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Driving through those states alone totals a good 6,000 km. Then there is the western and southern stretch from France to Spain, Portugal, and Italy. That is a further 8,000 km (up and down Italy alone is around 3,000 km). And lastly, there is the eastern European section to look forward to: some 9,000 km from Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, to Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The country count would be 27. That is a surprisingly comprehensive list and apart from islands such as the UK, Ireland, Malta Iceland and Cyprus,  the trip would integrate all European countries bar the microstates of Andorra, the Vatican, and Liechtenstein, as well as Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Moldova. 27 out of 45 European countries: This should – at least in my book - count as a truly EPIC European road trip.
 
Please click on the link below to access more information    

European Circle by Car

Europeancirclebytrain.jpg

Doing the European Circle by Train

Criss-crossing Europe by rail is a rite of passage, and over the years, millions of people have done it, most of them using the wonderful Interrail service which has been linking national rail networks since 1972. But this tour might not be on many people’s bucket list: riding around the perimeter of Europe (excluding the islands of Iceland, Ireland, the UK, Malta, and Cyprus) by hugging coastlines for as long and as close as possible. The journey takes you across 24 countries, although you would bypass the likes of Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, as well as Bosnia & Herzegovina. Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus also do not feature, as is Russia. Still, this is a monumental journey, requiring stamina, time, a considerable budget, and therefore might best be split it up into several stages taken at different times. But if you are the retired and/or affluent type with sufficient funds, why not embark on a trip that will take several months to complete. 

Please click on the link below for further information

European Circle by Train

 
 
 
Doing the European Circle by Night Train
 

Looking at all night train operators and the services that are on offer 

it is now feasible to circumnavigate Europe by using mostly sleeper services. This not only saves time; it can also be supremely comfortable (unless you suffer from motion sickness or share a compartment with an apnoea sufferer) and can also be rather cost-efficient. Keep in mind though that most, but not all services are operational throughout the year. Prior booking is now absolutely essential, even when travelling outside the holiday season or during mid-week. The entire tour integrates some 14 night trains, and thus you might want to break it up into several separate journeys (to which I am alluding to later in this article). But it is perfectly feasible to do the whole loop in one go. An itinerary might look as followed (but please keep in mind that train departures are subject to change, so please check with the respective operators). 

 

For more information, please click on the link below.   

European Circle by Night Train

nighttrainphoto.jpg

Doing the European Circle by Ferry

This is mad. Possible, but mad nonetheless: taking public ferries (that means no commercial freight ships) from the south-eastern fringes of Europe to its north-eastern counterparts. The cornerstones of this monumental journey are Rhodes, Crete, Cork in Ireland, the Swedish port of Umeå, as well as Helsinki in Finland and the Estonian capital of Tallinn; a mere 24 days (should you decide to do it in a non-stop fashion; we wish you good look0.

For more information, please click on the link below. 

European Circle by Ferry

alpinecrossing2.jpg

EPIC Hikes: Alpine Crossings

There are numerous ways on how to cross the Alps on foot. The mother of Alpine long-distance treks is the Red Trail of the Via Alpina which covers 2400 km from Trieste in eastern Italy to Monaco on the Mediterranean Sea. There is also the pilgrimage-like ‘Dream Path’ (or Traumpfad in German) which starts in the centre of Munich and finishes 28 days later on Piazza San Marco in Venice; a total of 520 km. One must not omit the Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA); a whopping 900 km, 59-day schlepp from the Novena Pass in Switzerland to Viocene, not far from the Mediterranean sea. Those with less time on their hands ought to consider the classic short crossing along the E5 hiking trail from Oberstdorf in southern Germany to Meran in the German speaking part of Italy.  But the post highlights a far easier, less strenuous itinerary with the relatively new crossing from the Bavarian resort of Tegernsee to Sterzing (or Vitipeno in Italian) in South Tyrol. This long distance hike of 110 km can be completed in 7 days, using buses, trains, a rowing ferry (!) as well as a cable car to ease (and shorten) the journey. This makes it the most accessible of all Alpine crossings and is perfectly suited for the average and/or ageing hiker.

 

For more information, please click on the link below. 

Alpine Crossings

palatinate2.JPG

EPIC hikes: The German Palatinate

Amongst the top hikes in Germany, the Palatinate does not always feature prominently. This accolade is usually reserved for the Rheinsteig (a 320 km long distance trail along the valley of the river Rhine or the Rennsteig (a mere 170 km trek through the Thuringian forest. The glorious Palatinate region, however, often gets overlooked. This is surprising, as you will hike through sun-soaked vineyards and dense forests. The trail is a combination of two popular long distance hikes: the Weinsteig (literally wine trek) which meanders for 170 km in and out of the thick Palatinate forest. If you like trees (and lots of them), this is your place. At times, the scenery might just get a little too gloomy and claustrophobic, which is where the Mandelpfad (literally Almond path) comes in handy as a trail that gently makes its way for some 100 km along rolling vineyards and through pretty villages. All in all, the hike covers 90 km and can be done in about 5 days.

For more information, please click on the link below.  

Palatinate Wine Route

picos2.JPG

EPIC Hikes: The Picos de Europa 

As Spain’s first ever National Park, the Picos are often overlooked when it comes to serious high altitude hiking adventures in Europe. But with several peaks in the 2500m range, the area certainly is a match for its competitors in the Alps or the Pyrenees. The place is spectacular: scraggy limestone peaks, steep gorges, green meadows – a truly Alpine scene, yet enhanced by picturesque Spanish villages. Straddling along the borders between the regions of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León, the Picos offer some serious hiking challenges, chiefly among them being the Anillo 3 Marcizos trail, which connects several mountain huts in the national park at a distance of 114 km. At the other end of the scale, the area around the Covadonga lakes in the north-western part offer those of a less physically competitive disposition a series of shorter walks amidst spectacular surroundings. There is also a cable car in the centre of the National Park at Fuente Dé which gives you quick and convenient access to high altitude mountain scenery. But I would like to focus on a slighly longer loop: 24 hours of hiking spread over 5 days covering around 65 km.  

For more information, please click on the link below.   

Picos de Europa

aeolian.jpg

EPIC Island Hopping: the Aeolian Islands, Italy

A beautiful, almost effortless journey across these seven islands in the southern Mediterranean, with wonderful vistas, great food, pleasant beaches, and yes, a volcano that hasn’t stopped erupting for over 2000 years. 

For more information, please click on the link below 

Aeolian Islands

croatia.JPG

EPIC Island Hopping: Croatia

The Croatian coastline is the most beautiful in Europe. There. I said it: Stunning islands, cobble-stoned towns, vibrant cities, all set against stupendously clear-blue water. Every traveller to Croatia seems to have their most treasured island or favourite cultural sight, and after perusing some travel guides and websites, it becomes quickly apparent where the highlights are. Culture lovers head to Diocletian’s’ palace in Split, or the Roman amphitheatre in Pula. Island aficionados head for the glamour of Hvar Town or the more reclusive Vis. Dubrovnik - despite its Games-of-Thrones fame - still retains its magical beauty, while Zadar and Korčula make every list of the country’s top destinations. Yet, at least for me, moving from one mesmerising place to another is the big draw and I cannot think of a visually more stunning trip.

For more information, please click on the link below.  

Island Hopping in Croatia

mountainpass.JPG

EPIC Drives: Great St Bernard to Col du Mont Cenis (and back)

This is the impossibly scenic backdrop for car commercials. Alpine peaks, hairpin bends, juicy green meadows, and grand vistas. But your vehicle does not have to have a Vorsprung durch Technik to master these climbs. Just make sure that your brakes are in good (or rather excellent) working order and stay well clear of some rather sudden and steep drops on the side of the road. What a drive …. From Martigny in the upper Rhone valley of the French-speaking part of Switzerland, you climb the mountain pass of the Great St Bernard (2469m), crossing the border into Italy before descending along tight bends down into the Aosta valley and onto the Piedmont metropolis of Turin. Then it is back up again through the Valle di Susa and up the Col du Mont Cenis (2083m) before entering France and descending along the western Alpine slopes past Albertville and Chamonix, before once more entering Switzerland. This road trip comes in at just under 8 hours of driving, covering 300 miles (500 km).

 

For more information, please click on the link below.  

EPIC drive mountain passes

montenegro.jpg

EPIC Drives: The Montenegrin Loop

For a small country of merely 600,00 people, Montenegro packs quite a punch: Podgorica, was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1979, and the re-building of the country’s capital has not been considered by many as an unqualified success, but nightlife, food and drink can’t get much cheaper. Driving north towards Nikšić and you will enter a sparsely populated, mountainous and rugged area offering a proper end-of-the-world feel before descending towards Kotor with an atmospheric, walled old town, located at the end of Kotor Bay, Europe’s southernmost fjord and a truly jaw-dropping sight towered over by steep and brooding mountains (hence the country’s name which translates as black mountain). Your final stop is Budva, the main seaside resort, with attractive beaches, a beautiful old town and plenty of casinos (should you have any travel money left to spend). On the way back to Podgorica, you might want to consider a side excursion to Lake Skadar. I strongly recommend extending the trip slightly to take in Dubrovnik in Croatia, and above all, a small section of Bosnia & Herzegovina. You thought parts of Texas were isolated? Try this area.

 

For more information, please click on the link below.  

Montenegrin Loop