Here is a handy assistant for planning a train trip in Europe

train has arrived in station. photo by arihak

If you have decided that you want to explore the old continent, you must forget one thing: flying. The best way to experience European countries, cultures, landscapes, and people is to stay on the ground. Travel by train is an enjoyable and relaxing method to move from a destination to the next. Distances, especially in Central Europe, are relatively short, although distances from the Arctic Europe to the southernmost Mediterranean countries are long.

But before you enter a train station to start your journey, tickets must be booked. I discovered a handy tool for doing exactly that: a map of train routes that shows you the destinations you can reach within a given time.

Instead of browsing and searching train timetables, Chronotrains lets you specify maximum time (from 1 to 8 hours) that you want to travel, say, from Paris. The online service then draws up a map that displays the furthest destination you can reach within the time you specified.

chronotrains map, screen capture

Once you have discovered a connection that suits your overall plan, you can purchase a ticket as well. Chronotrains throws you to Rail Europe or to another ticket shop where you can pay and get your ticket.

chronotrains map, screen shot.