My favorite thing to do when traveling is – play the "Next Train Game".
As a traveler it can become monotonous waiting for the train to so-and-so place at so-and-so time. I don't want to spend my time waiting to travel, I want to be traveling each and every moment I possibly can, and as a spontaneous and impatient person meticulous planning isn't for me! So, I came up with a little game to keep things fast paced and exciting.
The “Next Train Game” is my favorite thing to do. I turn up to the train station and get a ticket for the next possible train… quite simple really! Say there are a few trains which leave at the same time I flip a coin, or alternatively pick my favorite number out of the platforms which they leave from.
A few pros and cons…
To begin with the aspects that could be considered cons:
1. The next train could be quite expensive, if it is outside of the budget sometimes I have take the next affordable one.
2. It could take me to a completely random town or city which I have no idea about
3. It could mean I end up in a tiny and insignificant town where there is almost nothing to do
4. It could take me somewhere I have already been
And now the pros:
1. The next train could be quite cheap.
2. It could take me to a completely random town or city which I have no idea about – In my opinion this is the best scenario! Also listed as a con because someone may be a little more concerned with finding the attractions in a completely unknown place with no internet and no map – Oh yes, that’s another rule. No maps. But I think the next train game is a brilliant way to get to places you otherwise wouldn’t go.
3. It could mean I end up in a tiny and insignificant town where there is almost nothing to do – Again, many people may see this as a negative, perhaps a boring waste of time. But, I think it would be nice to see a small-scale residential area for a while, especially when I have arrived from a crowded city.
4. It could take me somewhere I have already been – More opportunity to find new and exciting things in an already visited place.
Playing the "Game"
When I arrived at the central station of Cologne the next train was almost immediate and went to Aachen – I nearly missed it whilst battling with the ticket machine, but climbed aboard. My phone internet wasn’t working so I was forced to resist the temptation of looking up any information about this mystery place that would of course be cheating anyway.
So. I was sat on this train trying to figure out how the Germans would even pronounce Aachen when after a 45 minute journey the conductor called out on the speaker that it was the next stop. The Germans do in fact pronounce the name in a way which sounds uncannily like a sneeze.
My usual tactic with this game is to leave the station and try to find high ground so that I can survey the skyline of the city and find any spires or towers and that’s usually my starting point. So I did this, and I was extremely surprised to see a collection of magnificent Gothic spires. Whilst trying to walk in this vague direction I found some lovely little bars and shops, and then a long road with lots of big shops – Aachen proved to be more metropolitan than I had thought upon leaving the quaint little station.
I slowly arrived at what is the Aachen Cathedral, or the “Kaiserdom”, which is in fact the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. It is stunning. And surrounded by very old and beautiful little shops and restaurants and countless buskers enhancing the slightly medieval atmosphere with great choices of music!
After walking around the outside of the monumental structure I went inside and was completely blown away by the interior which was covered in mosaics which came to life as the light sone upon them through the stained glass windows. I couldn’t believe that I would have missed this seemingly untouched beauty had I not played my little game! The magic of traveling like this is that I am forced to see places that aren’t necessarily in the mainstream to visit from the cities – other special places I have seen thanks to the next train game include Mechelen, Udine and Roccamare.
I recommend this to all travelers who enjoy the element of spontaneity and the unexpected, or those who simply can’t decide where to go next! You literally never know where it might take you.
Written by: Ocean Critchley
An art history graduate living in Venice, Ocean
is a spontaneous and impatient person who
loves to be traveling each and every moment.
Header – Wikimedia Commons
Body – Ocean Critchley