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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Night(mare) train

We must be nuts. We have had many an odd train experience in the US and abroad, but apparently we fail to learn.

This particular train runs from Warsaw to Budapest overnight, or the reverse. I tried for months before going to find out if this was a good idea. The info I found on the rail sites looked good. They imply a first class six-berth compartment you can get for just two people if you are willing to buy the whole thing.

We tried to do that but only got half, three berths, one side, and there was no private restroom. In fact there were no bathing facilites. There was one restroom on each end of the car, but in different places (one in the vestibule, one in the corridor) so that in the middle of the night, I tried several times to get into a locked utility closet. Then I would give up and go to the one on the other end. The restrooms ran out of toilet paper several times a night because they would only put in one skinny roll at a time. The flush didn't always work, nor did the sinks.

Of course the agua was non potabile so we had to use bottled water for everything in the compartment, where we had a sink that also chose when and when not to work.

There was no restaurant car, not even a snack cart. All we got was a pre-packaged chocolate croissant and coffee for breakfast. Luckily, we had that enormous meal back in Warsaw that afternoon, and we had trail mix with us, and while waiting on the platform in Warsaw, Joyce got potato chips and I got chocolate covered nuts to add to the trail mix. And of course, we're not going to starve, like, ever. But it was simply not what we expected and certainly not what we paid for. Compared to the beautiful trains between Warsaw and Cracow, it was a rolling slum. We were thinking more along the lines of the Orient Express, or maybe the Trans-Siberian. Forget it.

The compartment was already made up for two when we boarded around 8:30 at night, which was fine, but it was never made up the next day so we could sit comfortably. Each berth had one, tiny, thin pillow, although we were able to add the seat cushions which were not in use for the sleeping configuration. The only way to get the extra luggage out of the way was for me to sit in the top bunk to grab it from Joyce (who was holding it over her head, just barely high enough for me to get hold of a strap) and then heave it nearly up to the ceiling. If you were short, or weak, forget it; you were sleeping with your luggage.

A couple of glimpses of our luxurious accommodations:

Sometimes the train went so fast around curves we were levitated out of our berths. Other times it stopped so abruptly we were almost flung out. Lots of adventure and discomfort, no sleep. And when we arrived at Keleti Station in Budapest, there wasn't a porter or even a cart the entire length of the platform, which I honestly believe was a quarter mile long from the last car, where we were, to the doors leading outside.

You can fly in either direction in about 20 minutes. Don't take this train. Since it's a night train, you won't miss seeing anything, I promise.

Oh, by the way, we went theough Slovakia. Here it is.

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