November 18th, 2009

Stupid Google Maps tricks. (Originally stupid railpass tricks.)

Long ago, one of my friends and I were sitting in Liechtenstein--he was getting his Ph.D. there and I was visiting him--and as a thought experiment we tried to figure out how many countries we could transit in a 24 hour period, by train. This was kind of appropriate: that European trip was one of the ones where I was trying hard to see just how many trains I could ride on a two-month Eurail Youthpass. (Answer: a lot.)

Using my copy of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable, we came to the conclusion that one could leave northeastern Italy and cross Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium, finally arriving in Maastricht, Netherlands, all within 24 hours. There was enough slack in the schedule we came up with that it might even be possible to start in Yugoslavia, if the connections were with you.

As it turns out, someone did it, more or less the way we thought:

According to

"The greatest number of countries travelled through entirely y [sic] train in 24 hours is 10, by Aaron Kitchen on 16-17 February 1987. His route started in Yugoslavia and continued through Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, arriving in Germany 22 hours and 42 minutes later."

We also discussed whether it'd be possible to transit the same nine countries by car in the same period.

We never did get a chance to try, even after he got an old beater of a French car. But now, many years later with the help of Google Maps I have an answer Collapse )

Snow in Beijing.

A video from Janek Zdzarski:
and a gallery of photos from Huang Jiwei:

Thanks to Jeremy Goldkorn and to Joel Martinsen, both at Mr. Martensen mentions that Mr. Huang 'prefaced [his photos with] a quote from the poet Yin Lichuan, "When it snows, the northern capital becomes northern peace," a line that plays on the capital's current and former names: Beijing (北京) vs. Beiping (北平).'