So I am currently sat on a stationary train on my way from Liverpool to Milton Keynes for a wedding this weekend. Unfortunately there is a man standing on a bridge near Rugby threatening to commit suicide. We’ve been here around 30minutes and apparently a negotiator is now on site, but hasn’t convinced the poor guy down yet. Am I worried about being stuck on a train for a number of hours as we quickly approach 11pm on a Friday evening? No. Am I upset for this poor guy and his family – absolutely. I hope the situation resolves calmly and he can get the help and support he needs – I hope I never have to experience what he must be going through.
Anyway, that said I now have some extra time on my hands, so it seems an apt time to reflect on some other interesting European train journeys I have previously encountered.
So where to begin?
Paris. My first overnight train experience. The Paris – Venice train is a long trip, taking around 11 hours if I remember correctly. We opted for a six birth mixed sleeper cabin. It’s one of those situations where you never really know what to expect. You can read review after review, blog after blog, but until you have actually slept on that train (or not, as the case may be!), then you can’t really know what the experience will be like for you. I foolishly chose the lower bunks, in my head I thought we were closer to the ground, didn’t have to climb over people to get out etc. I thought I was making a sensible decision. What did I learn from this journey? Do not pick the lower bunk.
The lower bunk is made up by folding down the train seats you sit on for the daylight part of the journey. Not a problem in theory, until you realise you’re not going to bed until all 6 passengers have decided they want to. I also think they were narrower, or definitely on some sort of slant because I ended up holding on during the night, wondering if the train driver had taken some sort of off road route – apparently not. Oh and you know I said I chose these bunks because we wouldn’t have to climb over anyone? Correct we wouldn’t, but they would certainly climb over us, as they got off the train 2 hours prior to its arrival in Venice. Brilliant.
So the long and short of it, this is a bumpy, long, tiring journey. I didn’t sleep much, but I am sure the lower bunk was the reason. However the view coming into Venice on the train was pretty spectacular. It was a fun way of getting between the two cities and probably more comfortable from a higher bunk!
Next up has to be the Zagreb-Ljubljana train. This slow, old train was an experience to say the least. We sat down next to an Australian couple and cross checked with each other we were on the right train going in the right direction. It was dark and no body spoke English – and being the ignorant English traveller I didn’t speak Croatian or Slovenian either. The seats were comfortable and as the train ambled away, I was looking forward to a bit of shut eye before arriving late night in the Slovenian capital. Around 40 minutes into our journey there was a massive bang which was accompanied by a flash of light from a spark outside, followed by the carriage slowly filling with smoke. Again ourselves and the Australian couple exchanged a concerned look. No one was moving, there was a lot of chatter in Slovenian, and the ticket officer walked through the train, speaking broken English told us everything was fine, he didn’t know what caused the smoke, having not seen the spark, and the driver is just going to carry on. We made it to Ljubljana. Somehow. Ha. No seriously I have no idea what happened there, and spent the remainder of the journey bracing for a train derailment as I had convinced myself we had either lost a wheel, or the breaks had failed!
And finally, to end my train memoirs, my favourite experience of my interrailing journey – the Prague-Berlin train. We hadn’t reserved a seat, and didn’t really know which train we were going to get on, but having arrived at the station and seeing a train bound for Berlin was leaving in 10minutes, we decided that was probably suitable. However there were no seats, and it was a long journey to stand. The only option was to get a seat in the restaurant cart, the catch being you had to buy something, and not just a coffee then style out the next 5 hours trying to make Guinness book of records for the longest a hot drink can last, no you had to buy something every few hours and food as well, not just drinks. This sounded like it was going to be an expensive seat reservation – book in advance people! Nevertheless I sat down in the restaurant cart and picked up the menu. The waiter came over and politely informed me it was ‘happy hour’. Happy hour in a restaurant cart, well I never. This basically meant there was 50% off of everything on the menu as long as we ordered within the next 30 minutes. So we ordered starter, main, dessert and drinks and asked for the food to be staggered so we could enjoy it – apparently this was fine as long as we had ordered before the end of happy hour! Result. The food was amazing, and I spend the next 3 hours slowly making my way through it whilst reading a book in a very comfortable armchair style seat, watching the world go by. After we decided we had definitely milked the restaurant cart we paid up, an amazingly low fee of 20 euros for both of us!, and headed back to the main carriages for the final part of our journey, and found 2 spare seats!
Update – I am still stuck at Stafford, the free hot drinks are being handed round so this may be a long night, but I hope you have enjoyed my train memoirs, it was quite enjoyable relieving it actually! If you are headed out interrailing this summer then email or comment if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you. I will hopefully get some more posts up soon about my route, tips and tricks so watch out for those!