no matter where you go, there you are

Thursday, September 2, 2010

chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a choo-choo

I've already talked about train travel but have saved my discussion about night trains for its own post. I only took 2 night trains, Paris to Milan and Venice to Munich, but from each, I learned which ones to take and not to take next time I galavant around Europe.

I initially planned to ride the night trains in order to cut down on my budget, because I already had my train pass, and to also cut down on travel time. The Paris to Rome train was a great use of my travel time because instead of spending almost an entire day traveling from one to the other, I was in Paris one night and Italy the next morning. So it was a great use of time for that, but the 25Euro reservation fee didn't save me any money. In short, time savings, great! Money savings, not.

Venice to Munich, when looking back, was one I decided was not worth the time advantage for a couple of reasons. I didn't know when Anne and Lauren were departing Venice for Vienna so I made the assumption they would be in Venice through early evening. Instead, they headed back mid-afternoon so I had 7 hours to kill. Because the reservation fee of the night train cost as much as a hostel would have, it would have been a better use of my time to take an afternoon train to Munich then spend a night in a real bed. This wouldn't have added any time for me to see Munich but had I not taken the train I could have slept in a real bed and had a shower. And real beds are much better than train beds. And any shower is better than no shower.

The sleeping conditions weren't bad on the train, but they're not prime either. In the generic couchettes of the night trains, the cheapest sleeping quarters you can get on a train because they dont have seats, there are 6 beds. The beds are narrow bunks, 3 on each side, which can be folded against the wall while the botton can be converted into a bench for sitting. Not uncomfortable, but it gets cramped when the couchette is full, especially since the luggage space is really limited. Each person gets sheets, a blanket and pillow so its not a bad night's sleep, just crowded. In my Paris to Milan couchette, I shared with 3 other 20-30 year olds. On the Venice to Munich train I shared with a cute Japanese family of mother, father, 2 yr old and 6 month old. Though they had little kids and more people, I liked that train better. They offered to switch my bottom seat for the top which I graciously accepted so I climbed to my bunk and crashed, all alone in my own little "bunk" world. Next thing I know, the conductor is waking me because we are arriving in Munich, Germany. They are very good about waking you with enough time to orient yourself and get your shoes, luggage, clothing etc. together.

So there's my schpeel about night trains. It all depends on what the circumstances of your travel are and how much you're willing to pay, but they're a convenient way to get to one location to another far way without wasting a day where you could be sight seeing. And though a little small, its a bed, pillow and blanket so you can at least have a decent night's sleep.

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