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IN AUGUST 2000 we travelled round Europe by Inter-rail - Here are a few notes with relevance to Manchester, taken from the impressions and experiences I gathered en route. "Eyewitness in Europe" - being paid to photograph and write about places all over the continent - now there's an interesting idea! But don't worry - to Eyewitness, Salford is as important as Salerno, and the same goes for Benchill and Barcelona, so the work in and around Manchester will go on.

MILAN is sometimes quoted either as a rival city to Manchester or perhaps a role model. I understand Simply Red leader Mick Hucknall has a pied-à-terre here.

Like Manchester, it's second only to a capital city, and is a centre of commerce, education and industry.

Comparing the two cities from a tourist point of view, I have to say that it's an unequal match.

Manchester has a venerable old Cathedral, but it's no York, Salisbury or Wells. The Milan Duomo, however, is a huge and breathtaking Gothic edifice with a majestic shape that's unique in Europe.

Milan has the Galleria Vittorio Emmannuale, an elegant and very large19th century arcade with designer shops, cafes and restaurants (including McDonalds). Manchester has the Arndale Centre - The closest thing to Milan's Galleria was Manchester's similarly named Victoria Buildings, badly damaged in WW2, and torn down.

Manchester has trams (constructed, by the way, in Italy), but they run mostly on railway lines - Milan's older trams date from the 1930's, running on the streets and preserving a look of the past that Manchester has mostly lost.

Milan's run down Stazione Centrale is a gargantuan creation of the Mussolini era, faded and magnificent. It makes Manchester's Piccadilly look pocket-sized by comparison, though maybe the new development work will do something to give Manchester's sole remaining major rail terminus the profile it deserves.

Milan's Castle recalls the Kremlin in scale and was once the residence of the Dukes of Milan. The closest thing to a castle in Manchester is the partially reconstructed Roman fort.

Perhaps it's best not to push comparisons between Manchester and continental cities too far, but in one sense perhaps Manchester can rival Milan: - choice of Italian restaurants!

BERLIN is a former home of mine - I lived there from 1979 to 1980, during the Cold War pre-Glasnost period. I lived in the West, but often visited the East.

All the views in this picture are in the former East Berlin, taken from the train from Brussels which is about to arrive at Ostbahnhof.

What have Manchester and Berlin got in common? In terms of population and land area, Greater Berlin is about the same size as Greater Manchester - but Berlin's central area is vast and open, while Manchester's city centre is quite small and lacking in open spaces.

Train window views of Manchester, from the Piccadilly to Deansgate viaduct, will follow, but I don't think I'll capture as many major tourist attractions in five minutes as I have here.

WOULDN'T IT BE NICE to wake up in a world where there's a direct high speed railway linking the UK's most important northern city with Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel?

Then we could arrive at Bruxelles Midi and see the reassuring message that home is only a five hour direct train ride away.

There were plans to extend the Eurostar service to Manchester, indeed, Eurostar trains undertook trials on the Manchester to Euston line prior to the opening of the tunnel. You'll still find the words "Le Eurostar habite ici" written on the side of a building at Longsight depot (photo to follow). But sadly the plans came to nothing.

It's sad to think of the economic opportunities that Manchester is missing out on because this important rail link never happened.

AND SO THE EUROSTAR high speed train arrives at Manchester Piccadilly after its five hour journey from Brussels Midi - In my dreams!

I've taken my photo of the London-bound Eurostar train leaving Lille Europe station and superimposed it on my photo of platform two at Manchester Piccadilly. The only discrepancy is the distance of the tracks below the edge of the platform, plus of course the length of the Eurostar train, approximately double the length of the platform visible in this picture.

Will the dream of a high speed rail link from Manchester to the Continent ever become a reality?

Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
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