What is it like to travel from Rome to Vienna by night train

  • Night trains are back on track as an alternative to air connections criticized for CO2 emissions
  • Most flights are not remembered, but many of life’s night trains are permanently etched in your memory
  • There’s chuckles, laughs, sometimes a song, and always, really always, somewhere a champagne cork pops out
  • However, the equipment of the compartment itself is rather deplorable from the point of view of aesthetics and comfort
  • More interesting materials can be found on the Onet homepage

At dusk, strange things happen in the crowded hall of Rome’s main train station. In fact, everything on the outside points to a night’s rest, but inside the persistent nervousness persists. A railway employee has just explained that the number of the platform from which the night train to Vienna will depart is will be shown at the earliest fifteen minutes before departureand, according to experience, even for ten minutes. It sounded like it was speaking to fairly bright, but not quite hopeless, students.

Roma Termini Station, a 32-track terminal accessible only through security gates, is visited by half a million passengers daily. Most of them are used to the cruel practice of keeping the actual platform a secret for so longhow it is possible.


Photo: Alexandr Medvedkov / Shutterstock

Termini Station, Rome

Inexperienced travelers who gather in front of the boards at 6pm during rush hour have dilated pupils for fear of having to sprint straight to the train, combined with elbows, lots of excuses and even more swearing† And then the miracle: the caravans of suitcases on wheels do not collide at all, the choreography of a thousand feet miraculously ends before the actual train.

Champagne corks pop out in the sleeping car

As we walk through the sleeping car, our eyes fall on the numbered compartments: here businessman on the phone, there is a young family with a childNext to Asians visiting Europe, then an elderly couple unpacking a bag of provisions. There is chuckling, laughing, sometimes singing, and always real always a champagne cork pops out somewhere, which is usually a ritual of middle-aged women traveling by night train.

When the loudspeaker asks you to respect the curfew from 9 p.m., suddenly it becomes clear what this travel party looks like – children on a school trip† We have not developed a trace of indifference to ordinary travel by train or plane. Instead, the feeling of doing something special and waiting for the lights to go out to be lulled sleepily to their destination.

Swing would probably be a more accurate term, but the willingness to reduce the nuisance of overnight train travel is surprisingly strong. However, the equipment of the compartment itself is rather deplorable from the point of view of aesthetics and comfort

Equipped with bench-shaped seat cushions, which the coach manager will later fold and unfold into a sleeping bed, it can carry up to three people. The plank beds are of Franciscan modesty, the pillows are there, but they collapse like a souffléand the thin blankets are just an alibi, but not to keep sleeping passengers warm.

It’s all the more inconvenient that the air conditioning switch only gives you a choice Arctic climate for polar bears or subtropical heatwhile blowing a smell of burnt rubber into the compartment.

Night train as an alternative to flying

So it is better to lie awake and listen to “radio plays” live. Partition walls only create the illusion of privacywhich provides only a visual barrier, but no sound insulation. Women talk on their cell phones for hours about crises in their relationshipsslamming doors and wooden hangers clattering against the wall with each harder swing of the train, along with the ratatam-ratatam of the wheels, create the soundtrack to this journey.

Sleeping car in the Nightjet train

Photo: nightjet.com

Sleeping car in the Nightjet train

And until recently, successive countries have liquidated the night trains one by one. Deutsche Bahn abandoned them in 2016. Meanwhile, sleeper train travel is being hailed as a climate-friendly alternative to airline short-haul flights

Austrian railways are pioneering all over Europe and have been introducing since December last year new Nightjet connections to Paris and Amsterdam† Private railway companies are planning more night train routes, for example the Czech Regiojet, which aims to connect Prague to Amsterdam and Brussels via Dresden and Berlin from 2022

French start-up Midnight Trains looking for a hotel on rails with private chic cabins, an onboard restaurant and a cocktail bar from Paris to twelve places in Europeall the way to Edinburgh, from 2024. The once-dreamed network of night trains is being reborn as more and more people want to save the climate while sleeping† At least that’s how they explain it to themselves.

Train journeys are unforgettable

Becoming the green hero by doing nothing sounds tempting. But are you really investing more money and much more time in transportation, not necessarily guaranteeing a good night’s sleep, just to clear your conscience and reduce demerit points on your personal climate bill? This is something everyone should think about for themselves

There’s more to this nighttime adventure, though – because feelings are at stake. Because if you dig your mind, you come to a clear conclusion: most flights are barely remembered, but many of life’s night train journeys will be permanently etched in your memory

For some, it was an Interrailtour trip in their youth, when to save on hotels, they financed a sleeping trip through the Czech Republic and felt very insecure in a car that it had to be locked to protect itself from thieves

For others, a second-class multi-person sleeping compartment on the Indian Howrah Express remains deep in their minds. About a hundred complete strangers got ready to sleep together, unpacking blankets and toothbrushes, substituting themselves for a pillow of coats, scarves, and bags. at some point the last whisper faded and was replaced by a chorus of snorers

Still others mention the overnight train journey to Thessaloniki, which cost less than two packs of cigarettes, and in which the night proved like coals in the window that it can still be really dark in Europe. Not to mention movie classics like “Murder on the Orient Express” or “Invisible Man,” whose scenes on night trains have become a staple of pop culture.

The conductor puts you in a good mood

No other form of travel can be compared to this, and certainly no plane flight. Night trains and flights are as different as love and romantic movies† If you just want to get there somehow, you can be quickly transported by plane, but if you really want to travel, you have to take the train, preferably at night.

And when the conductor congratulates you the next morning with the words: “See, you didn’t fall out of bed. I told you not!’you can only be in a good mood.

That he later serves the same obligatory breakfast set – a pale imitation of a sandwich, jam from a plastic box and coffee that tastes like a descaler – no longer matters compared to other intense experiences.

A happy ending is an inevitable part of the magic of an overnight train journey. Once you get there, all you have to do is wait for the day in an exciting city – and for many consecutive night train journeys.

Austria is the leader

The Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has been expanding their Nightjet services for years with sleeping cars and couchettes. From mid-December, a total of 20 routes will be offered, 13 of which will be through Germany. For example connections from Munich to Rome or from Berlin via Wrocław to Vienna

The Nightjet wagons are much more comfortably equipped than the old wagons that Deutsche Bahn had in use until 2016, when the night trains were stopped. ÖBB focuses on even more comfort: from 2023, a new generation of Nightjets will hit the road, with mini cabins for individual travelers and private showers and toilets in standard and deluxe compartments.

In addition, ÖBB operates nine EuroNight train connections with partner railways in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. DB does not have its own sleeper trains; the only trains on offer are the ICE and IC trains, which also run at night.

Between the North Sea and the Alps

From May 2022, the private train Alpen-Sylt-Nachtxpress will run between Sylt and Salzburg or Basel up to four times a week, with benches and more comfortable sleeping cars with bathroom.

Train and car

For travelers who want to use their own car at their destination, Train4you offers from May 2022, among other things, car trains with sleeping cars and couchettes. from Hamburg to Munich, Verona and Villach and from Düsseldorf to Innsbruck and Verona. There are also night trains from Basel and Munich to Binz on the island of Rügen.

The night train Snälltåget takes about 19 hours from Berlin via Hamburg and Copenhagen to Stockholm. On the Interrail website you can find many other night trains on the continent, such as the Santa Claus night train from Helsinki to Lapland or the Intercités de Nuit from Paris to Toulouse or Briançon. Europe’s longest night train connection, the 39-hour Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Moscow route, will not be offered again until December 2022.

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