But there's also the scenic way with the famous Transalpin Eurocity 163 that traverses the Alps from Zurich to Graz in Austria. This train, along with the other twice hourly Eurocity's, serves as an important link between all the ski areas in Austria as well as connects the various villages along the Arlberg and Tirolian passes. The 163 has the added advantage of carrying a SBB panorama wagon with extra large windows to take in the scenery. Coupled with an ÖBB restaurant wagon, you really don't mind the 6+ hours it takes to cross the mountain.
Despite this train being known for its tardiness, we arrived before schedule giving me enough time to visit the beautiful SBB lounge to grab a cup of coffee before finding my seat on the Transalpin.
As we headed east, the low, grey clouds hovering over Lake Zurich eventually gave way, revealing the tall peaks still covered in snow. As we climbed over the mountain passes, Spring reverted back to late Winter and the skiers I could see from the train enjoyed the bright sunshine, while I sat down for a delicious lunch in the Henry am Zug restaurant car.
In Schwarzach/St. Veit, the Transalpin meets up with the north-south Eurocity which connects such far-flung destinations as Frankfurt am Main with Zagreb or even further to Belgrade. Run by the Austrian Railways, this network of Eurocities spans most of Central and Eastern Europe; until the high-speed lines opened in the West, these Eurocities continued all the way to Paris and Amsterdam.
In Villach, near the Austrian-Slovenian border, the train is split, leaving just three wagons plus a locomotive continuing into Slovenia. This very short intercity hobbles along out of the Alps down into the plains north of Ljubljana. With a slight delay I made it to the capital of Slovenia at 18.30, a mere 22 hours after I borded in Amsterdam.
Despite being 10x longer than flying, I saw the flatness of the Netherlands slowly turn into the hills of northern Switzerland into the highest peaks of Europe before descending down into southeast Europe. Of course I could've took the fast route, but the romance of the rails, plus the amazing scenery, means I'd gladly chose the rails over crowded and unfriendly airports any day.