Thursday, December 6, 2012

Was it a “once in a lifetime”?


Not the ‘going to Paris’ part.  Without having any hint of some sort of “grand scheme” at all,  I’ve actually ended up being there a few times.   Besides,  I’ve learned to never say “never”.   When I left Paris in December of ‘78,  and then spent the night there on the way through to Germany in the spring of ‘79,  I figured I’d never be back.  Life took a few turns,  and going back to Europe never seemed to be something that was “in the cards”.  

However,  skip ahead a bunch of years, (well, decades really) and this last excursion was the fourth time we’ve made a trip there since coming to Europe.  Only once from Vienna though,  the first three times were by car from the Netherlands.

Who knew?

Which brings us to the ‘getting there’ aspect. 

It’s called the “Eastern Realm” (Österreich,  or Austria in English) for a reason.  We’re just about as far east in Europe as you can get.  Not that long ago,  there was this communist country called Hungary not that far away, just behind the “iron curtain”.  So driving to Paris?  Yikes.

You’ll recall the trip we took a few weeks back to Salzburg by train?  It was pretty darned awesome.  Sooo,  not wanting to drive all the way to Paris from Vienna,  which would be like driving from our front door in Burlington to,  oh I don’t know,  Woodstock,  New Brunswick,  we figured it would be “an adventure”  to go to Paris by train.  

The mantra was,  “I don’t have to drive”.   It was something that I repeated quite frequently.  Oh, and of course,  I do seem to recall we did say, “Well, it’s an adventure”  at least a couple times.  Maybe more.   Best to try and remind ourselves just what the hell we were thinking.

I mean,  we could have flown,  but Travelling Companion sees the insides of enough airports such that,  we just figured we’d give the whole flying program a pass.   We’ll be flying home to Canada next week.   That’ll do.

The bloom is definitely off the rose when it comes to flying.  Really.  There’s a little bit of excitement there for me at least,  when the plane is first taking off.  But if I happen to look over at Travelling Companion,  she usually has her eyes closed.  I don’t think she’s napping.

The rest of the experience is pretty much a huge pain in the ass.  


So, the train to Paris program is a two part deal.   There’s the “Railjet”  that leaves Vienna and heads for Munich.   Then,  there’s the “City Night Train”,  that takes you on to Paris,  after you’ve spent the appropriate time cooling your heels at the Munich train station of course.  

Let me just clarify something.   The train from Vienna,  isn’t really from Vienna at all,  but has originated in Budapest,  and then is going to separate in Salzburg.   This little snippet wasn’t immediately evident to me until we had been on the train for a little while and the conductor proceeded to explain how we were in the wrong car.   What?   

Ya …see,  it’s a long train,  and the back half,  which has its own engine there in the middle,  is going to separate from the rest and stay behind.   Um,  that’s where we were sitting???

That other part up there,  five cars ahead,  is where we needed to be.


So,  the countdown began,  for me anyway,  until we got to Linz,  where we hustled off the train, luggage in tow, and hoofed it forward the appropriate amount.  Of course,  as luck would have it,  the first open door in the section of train that was going to then proceed on to Munich was in First Class.   So that meant we still had to schlep ourselves even farther ahead to get to where we needed to be.   But we were at least on the train. No sooner had we clambered aboard of course,  but the train was already moving.   The “stops” are not very long.  It’s usually two minutes, which is exactly why we dove into the first open doorway.  *phew*

The rest of that segment of the trip was fine.  Nicely relaxed,  we had our sandwiches,  something to drink and chilled out until the end of the line in Munich.  No need to jump off and try to find the proper half of the train in Salzburg of course, since we had already done that little deed.  Didn’t need that grief. 

By the way,  the “Railjet”?   Very smooth.   I think it’s the airbags.   The “City Night Train”?   Well….we’ll get to that.


The train station in Munich is huge.  Something like 32 platforms,  along with connections to regional trains as well as the Munich subway system.  It’s a fairly typical European train station.  So much different (and better,  hello?) from what we have in North America,  but don’t get me started.  

The big difference though between train stations and airports,  (with the glaringly obvious lack of trains in the later and planes in the other, smart-ass)  is the difference in clientele.   Well, not so much the clientele,  but moreover,  the “hangers-on”.   There are always scuzzy looking individuals just hanging around at a train station it seems.   Most of them are panhandling,  or possibly meeting up after attending a protest rally.   Particularly entertaining was watching one of the panhandlers try to put the bite on the group of protesters.   It didn’t go well.  Not sure about that thought process.  But then,  maybe there’s not a whole heap of thinkin’ in the first place.

I mean,  if there’s a group of five of them sitting there with loose tobacco,  papers for rolling,  with only a small coffee in front of each of them wearing clothes that I wouldn’t wear to a dog fight,  what would make you think they’d give up any money?  Or that they had any?  Mind you,  that was in Paris,  so maybe there’s a different “Gestalt” in Munich.  I didn’t really notice.  Bums is bums.


So we had some time to kill in Munich.  About an hour and a half. 

There had been a later “Railjet” out of Vienna on Wednesday evening,  and at first I thought I had made a mistake by not taking that later train,  and then not having so much time to kill.   Well, I used to think that the trains in Germany ran on time.   Not any more.  It was just as well that we had time to kill,  since each and every leg of the journey ended up arriving late,  and you DO NOT want to miss that night train.  

The worst offender was the night train back to Munich from Paris,  which got in FIFTY minutes late.  We missed our connecting train, and had to then hang around and wait for the next one.   I thought the conductor dude said “fifteen” at first,  so I made him repeat it.   I think somehow the technology and complications of the systems has gotten the best of them,  since on that occasion there was a rail car parked in the wrong place in either Augsburg or Metz.   I don’t remember which.



Outside above,  where the platforms are. 

Inside below.  Much warmer.  It was cold in Munich.





Anyhoodle,  since there’s only so much room on the reader board,  they don’t post departing trains until something like 20 minutes before their departure time.   This of course makes T.C. nervous,  which was the reason why I decided to take the photo.   It’s the one that goes through to Amsterdam.  I know, it’s hard to figure out.  But you’re just sitting there reading this,  not fretting over what the hell train you’re supposed to get on.

Whereas you simply get on the Railjet (assuming you’re in the proper section of the train *ahem*) and hopefully find a seat that isn’t reserved,  the “City Night Train”  is completely different.   The number of the car, as well as the number of our cabin was clearly marked on the ticket.   Much better that way.

With the exception of squeezing down the narrow hallway and then squeezing into the tiny cabin,  it’s almost like checking into a hotel.   Well,  except that the conductor gives you a little briefing on the light switches, the wake up call and asks whether you’d like tea or coffee with your breakfast.   Yes,  you get “breakfast”.


The pluses and minuses of booking a double berth in the night train?  On the plus side,  you’ve got your own little cabin.   On the minus side,  you’ve got your own little cabin.

I took the top bunk.  


T.C. somehow thought we slept side by side.  *pah!* Ah, no.


The first order of business was to try and figure out what the heck to do with our two suitcases,  since there was no room in front of the bed/bunk/seats.   I didn’t at first figure out that they would indeed fit under the seat,  so I had this bright idea I’d try and shove them up above.  What I didn’t realise was,  if you push on the top bunk just a certain way,  and it didn’t help that the train was moving out of the rail yard at that point either,  then the darned thing is going to try and flip up on you.   You have to lock it into place to get it to stay there,  but just the same,  I haven’t heard T.C. laugh that hard for a long,  long time.   

If I’m not handsome,  at least I can be “handy”.  Or possibly entertaining.


See,  it flips up.



I’m already getting somewhat long winded here,  so I’ll leave you with this brief video that I shot from the back of the train on our return trip.   Don’t be fooled by how smooth it seems.




I’ll try and elaborate tomorrow.


Don’t play on the tracks.


Thanks for stopping by.




  1. We've made many trips from NB to Montreal on the ocean..and always had a bedroom...try fitting two adults, luggage and one kid in there..good thing we all loved each other...looks like you had a great trip!!!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful fun trip on the train, keep enjoying .

  3. The thing I most remember about our train trip from Munich to Paris was the stop at the French border and the officials coming through checking our passports and visas. Your trip sounds a lot more exciting than ours was ;-)

  4. That train is going pretty darn fast or so it seems. Wouldn't want to drive a mile in that kind of winter landscape. makes me shiver just by looking at your video.

  5. You sure put a lot of adventure in your adventures!


Well, I've been getting too many spam comments showing up. Just a drag, so we'll go another route and hope that helps. So, we won't be hearing anything more from Mr. Nony Moose.
I guess I'll just have to do without that Gucci purse.