2. Where to go in Western Europe: Belgium, Netherlands, Germany
Let's try this (granted I still need to match all this to a calendar, and to my final passes, at some point):
London to Brussels via the Eurostar, then start winding up some through northwestern Europe. Go through Belgium and drink Belgian beer, then into the Netherlands—Rotterdam, Amsterdam, etc.
Maybe then I'll cut to northern Germany—Hannover and Hamburg, perhaps? Cut to Denmark, perhaps?
Matching this up to train routes is pretty easy. I photocopied some atlas maps we had of Europe, so I can mark away on draft routes. I lay out my map of the Eurail train and ferry systems, and can figure out what connects to where. Then it’ll just be seeing how feasible the route is in the timeframe I’ve got.
You know, to me this is just another form of writing and editing (a comparison I’m of course going to make, as a writer and editor after all). Coming up the expression of the initial idea: a 4-month trip to Europe, riding the trains. The route is kinda like writing a story, and then there’s the editing, the revising, the whittling down and rewriting—until there’s a little paper map in front of me, gray and white with lots of red lines showing the final plan for everywhere I’m going in Europe.