2019 Ends, 2020 Beckons

“A postponed journey means a very special future opportunity.”

So say I after having to cancel two booked trips last January, which have now been re-scheduled for early 2020.

More of those later, what about the trips actually undertaken in 2019?


A late February stay in our central Athens apartment so we could visit family & friends was made extra special as my regular travel buddy Hamish joined us for a long weekend.

We have all experienced the Greek capital’s finest on many occasions before, so instead paid a visit to Lycabettus Hill to take in the interesting little chapel of St George and the stunning view of Athens across to the Acropolis and out to Piraeus and the Aegean.

Athens View From Lycabettus Hill

Athens View From Lycabettus Hill

On the way down we hopped into St George’s Hotel, venue of our year 2000 wedding reception. It was the first time in nineteen years that Athenian Mrs Wilbur, my best man Hamish & I had entered the building. Memories immediately flooded back of our first dance, cutting the cake and my very poor attempt at Greek dancing!

A rooftop beer to witness sunset over the Acropolis was a fitting way to bring the day’s proceedings to an end.

Sunset Over The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Sunset Over The Acropolis

Next day we undertook a very pleasant 90-minute train ride to the coastal town of Halkiva. The train meandered through lemon groves and woods of pine before hugging the deep blue sea. The last part of the journey saw us loop around the bay to come to a final halt at the waterside station.

Our first port of call was the cliff top fort with its enclosed extremely pleasant ethnographic museum, before we retired to a sunny restaurant with a panoramic view.

Halkiva, GreeceHalkiva, Greece

A three-hour lunch and short promenade later, it was time to return to the capital.

A Book & A Presentation

May saw the publication of my book, ‘Wilbur’s Travels Part One – Travelling By Train Across The Balkans’ and my presentation of ‘The Railroad To Damascus’ at the Globetrotters Club in London. No actual travelling but plenty of reminiscing on epic journeys undertaken in my past.

Travelling By Train Across The Balkans, Book by Will Linsdell

Aleppo Station, SyriaAleppo Station, Syria


The birthday weekend of a very good friend saw Mrs Wilbur and I make our first proper visit to Scotland’s biggest city.

As well as the host of celebrations we also went to the fabulous Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, took high tea at the atmospheric Mackintosh at the Willow Tea Rooms and witnessed the architectural splendour of the Cathedral.

Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow

Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow

We took another train trip too, this time to Balloch, gateway to picturesque Loch Lomond, for a boat journey across and a stroll around the loch.

Loch Lomond at Balloch, Scotland

Loch Lomond at Balloch

Slovenia, Austria & Slovakia

In June, Mrs Wilbur and I undertook a train tour in three countries. We started in Slovenia’s splendid capital Ljubljana.

Not only did we enjoy the picturesque city laid out on the banks of River Ljubljanica, but were also lucky enough to visit during the city’s jazz festival.

Ljubljana, SloveniaLjubljanica, Ljubljana, Slovenia

With stages dotted around the city, there were plenty of very decent free concerts on offer. We also indulged in a couple of paying gigs to see the highly talented Mammal Hands and the amazing rabble of brilliant musicians who make up Snarky Puppy.

A side trip to the Adriatic resort of Piran was also very welcome. A very attractive coastal town with wide open squares, relaxing seaside cafes and some of the best gelato north of Italy.

Piran, SloveniaPiran, Slovenia

The train to Lake Bled was an enjoyable experience in its own right as we skirted through the Julian Alps past winding rivers, evergreen forests and brooding mountains.

Bled was for relaxing for two days with slow ambles around the lake, leisurely meals & drinks overlooking it, and more tasty gelato.

View of Lake Bled, Slovenia

Taking In The View of Lake Bled

Lake Bled, Slovenia

We did also take a boat out to Bled Island, home to an interesting chapel with its bell tower offering great views of the lake and surrounding countryside.

Bled Island, Lake Bled, Slovenia

Bled Island

From Bled we took another train further through the mountains for a night at the Austrian city of Klagenfurt. Much of the journey flanked the impressive lake Wörthersee, affording great views of much boat activity and small lakeside towns.

Wörthersee, Austria


Klagenfurt itself was well worth the stop with its impressive architecture and flower strewn traffic-free squares.

Klagenfurt Dragon Symbol, Austria

Klagenfurt’s Dragon Symbol

Our next train took us to the ski resort of Semmering high up in the Austrian Alps.

Semmering Train Station & Railway Hotel

Semmering Train Station & Railway Hotel

Refreshing mountain air inspired us to do some alpine walking, before it was time for the next train journey. This was a special one, the iconic Semmering Railway to Vienna.

We opted for the slow stopping train and were rewarded with some wonderful views along the way. Thanks to Europe by Rail for the idea. What they do not know about iconic rail travel in Europe is not worth knowing.

On The Semmering Railway, AustriaOn The Semmering Railway, Austria

Having only ever visited Vienna in the winter before, we saw it in a whole new hot & sweaty light. 35 degree temperatures made exploring uncomfortable, but this did not stop us having great fun.

We bought a tram pass and just zipped around for much of our first full day, hopping off when we wanted for snaps & refreshment.

Vienna Tram

Our whole trip had been predicated on going to see talented Canadian jazz musician Diana Krall in concert at the beautiful Wiener Konzert Haus. Diana didn’t disappoint with a dazzling performance.

Wiener Konzert Haus, Austria

Wiener Konzert Haus

Culture didn’t stop there however, as we managed to secure tickets to go and see Aida at Vienna’s stunning opera house. We had been before in January 2005 to see The Barber of Seville, but were pretty excited having never seen Aida before. Again we were treated to a gem of a performance.

Aida, Vienna

Vienna Opera House

Vienna Opera House

The final act of our summer trip was to go to Bratislava, the nearby capital of Slovakia just an hour away by train.

Bratislava is often described as a mini Prague and the compact old town certainly scores highly in the aesthetics stakes.

Bratislava Tram & Castle, SlovakiaBratislava, SlovakiaBratislava, Slovakia

We waved goodbye to the Slovak capital from the Danube as we took a boat trip back to the Austrian capital. A windswept experience but great fun.

Leaving Bratislava On The Danube

Leaving Bratislava On The Danube


Business trips to the Czech capital in July & October rekindled my love for the majestic Bohemian city. I first fell in love with Prague in ’92, but it fell out of my favour in 2007 due to the unbearable crowds and stag/hen parties.

These most recent trips enabled me to walk many miles through its cobbled streets to bear witness once more to probably my favourite city in Europe. Love is forever it seems.


My third consecutive visit to the Fringe was its usual hoot. We have decided that 2020 will be a lay year though to preserve the fun for future years.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival


Our annual visit to the capital of romance was reserved for our anniversary at the beginning of September.

We stayed in uber cool Quartier Latin on the Left Bank. It was our first visit since the devastating fire at Notre Dame and indeed it was sad to see the great cathedral so badly stricken.

Fire Damaged Notre Dame de Paris

Fire Damaged Notre Dame de Paris

It was mighty hot weather wise and we made a pledge that Paris would be reserved for winter/spring in future. Despite this, Paris can never fail to deliver and we managed to see more of the Latin Quarter than we had ever managed before, including our first visits inside the Pantheon and the Church of St Séverin.

Pantheon Exterior, Paris


Pantheon Interior, Paris

Pantheon Interior

Pantheon Interior, Paris

Pantheon Interior

Quartier Latin Cafe, Paris

Quartier Latin Cafe

Quartier Latin Market, Paris

Quartier Latin Market

Sofia & Helsinki

A couple of business trips saw me spend a couple of days in Bulgaria and a whole week in the Finnish capital.

Sofia is not my favourite place and aside from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral there is not a lot else to see in my opinion. I stand to be corrected Sofia fans.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

I spent the best part of a week in Helsinki and liked it a lot. Commuting to work each day by tram was a great experience and the fun continued when my big sister Jackie joined me for the weekend.

Bear Park Lake, Helsinki

Bear Park Lake, Helsinki

We walked miles and did a load of activities that you can read about on my blog. The highlight was undoubtedly the military island of Suomenlinna. We spent hours on the island just a short boat ride from the capital. Stuffed with naval history, it made for a brilliant if exhausting day out.

Georgia & Azerbaijan

This was my big trip for the year with Hamish. We first flew to magnificent Tbilisi via Istanbul, made a side trip to Borjomi for the magical train ride to Bakuriani and then took an overnight train to Baku.

Whilst in Baku we toured the area and took two overnight trains there and back to the isolated city of Sheki.

It was a great 10 day tour which I have blogged about at length on this site. Both countries should be in your ‘to visit’ list if they are not already.




Salzburg & Krakow

As the year drew to a close Mrs Wilbur and I made a couple of Christmas themed trips.

First up the Austrian birthplace of Mozart. Salzburg is the city of music and for us it is undoubtedly also the city of the festive season. It’s Christkindlmarkt is second to none, lifting the spirits and setting you up with mountains of Christmas spirit. The elves certainly work harder here than in most places!

As well as just wandering the city’s golden streets, we took in a beautiful classical concert at the Mirabell Palace and of course partook of hot chocolate and Sacher torte at the Hotel Sacher cafe. Bratwurst & gluhwein in the market were also compulsory!

Salzburg, Austria

Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, AustriaSalzburg, Austria

We also made a lovely train trip to the stunning lakeside ski town of Zell am See, where we took the cable car up into the Austrian Alps to witness some ski partying!

Christmas Spirit 1 Humbug 0

We chose Krakow to spend the season itself. Last Christmas had been traumatic due to illness and bereavement so we decided to push the boat out this time.

The medieval Old Town Square is given over to a Christmas market, the gorgeous St Mary’s Basilica hosts a spiritual midnight mass and there are several seasonal classical concerts like the one we experienced inside the Church of St Peter & St Paul on Christmas Day itself (click SILENT NIGHT to see for yourself).

St Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland

St Mary’s Basilica

Midnight Mass in St Mary's Basilica, Krakow

Midnight Mass in St Mary’s Basilica

Not to mention the traditional 12 course feast we consumed on Christmas Eve!

It must have put me in a great mood as I even forked out £50 for Mrs Wilbur and I to have a ride around in a horse and carriage!

Riga from 2016

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn From 2005

February will see me tick Liechtenstein off my European gap list with a one night stay weekend visit with Mrs Wilbur & Hamish.

April sees a Brussels weekend with fellow rail travel enthusiasts and authors such as Matthew Woodward & John Blower. We will be visiting the Train World Museum and touring the European capital by ancient tram. If you are interested to join us on the trip please let me know in the comments section.

September should bring a very special journey. My friend Poll & I have booked a trip from St Petersburg to Beijing on the Trans Mongolian route.

Trans-Mongolian Train Route

It was with Poll that my train wanderlust first started with an interrail trip around Europe in 1987. 23 years later we will be doing many more track kilometres (8,256 to be precise) and travelling in 7 different time zones.

The longest train journey is scheduled to be 55-hours long, approximately double our ’87 record when we travelled from Narvik in Norway to Nice in Southern France using three different trains.

October will see a return to Edinburgh as our friend Chris has a milestone birthday. We plan to do a scenic train ride whilst there too.

I hope to fit in a June trip with Mrs Wilbur too, though the need to surrender passports for the Russian & Chinese visas means that this will require some careful planning.

We will probably therefore stick to Europe with a Romanian train tour a possibility. We have also  talked about a visit to Rhodes to celebrate twenty-years of marriage (Rhodes is where we got engaged in ’98) and possibly Malta to see friends (and to tick off one of the last three European countries I would still be yet to visit, leaving just Andorra and San Marino to go).

Timișoara, Romania

Timișoara, Romania – A Possible 2020 Destination

Stop Press – I have just heard I am off to Bratislava again, this time for two days in early January on a business trip!

That’s it blog wise for this decade! Whatever your own travel plans are for 2020, I wish them to be fabulous or you.

Happy New Year everybody!

%d bloggers like this: