Trains are one of my favorite things about Europe. In the back of my mind somewhere I miss the convenience of having a car, I guess...but not really. I do miss being able to sing along to CDs in the car. But a car wouldn't help me in Freiburg, where I grocery shop for one person and can carry everything in one bag, and the grocery store is five minutes from my building. The freedom to drive anywhere at any time is gone, but trains make up for it by being so easy. You buy a ticket, you don't miss the train, you get in and sit down and hope you don't miss your connection. But there's nothing more to do, besides not let your stuff get stolen.
The train ride from Ljubljana to Vienna was relaxing--barring the moments where we worried that we secretly had to switch trains. We had a 6-person compartment to ourselves, so I sat facing Maraia one seat over and we both could stretch out our legs. We had enough food to last us all night (in case we couldn't sleep and there was nothing else to do), and so we ate and talked as Slovenia went by and the day came to an end. We saw castles on hilltops, an alarming number of small fires, not all of them tended (maybe it was leaf-burning day in Slovenia?), and eventually crossed the border into Austria. As soon as the signs switched to German, the ground switched to snow-covered, and we concluded that not only Italy had centrally mandated weather. Or maybe it had something to do with the Austrian Alps. (But Slovenia has Alps too!) Eventually we watched a movie on Maraia's iPod Touch, and I thought about how my brother should have given me his free one. The five hours went pretty quickly.
In Vienna we switched to the night train that would take us to Krakow. There was a fair amount of fear involved, because the guidebooks expressly told us NOT to take night trains to Poland, and one of the studetns in our program had his camera stolen from around his neck on one. But we had a private, 2-bed compartment, so we hoped we would be safe. It would probably lock.
It did. And wow, what a compartment we had. It was like a tiny motel room on a train! Two bunkbeds, a little closet, a counter, and a cabinet that included (complimentary?) prepackaged chocolate croissants and mineral water. There were four settings for the lights (one was off). We went to bed almost immediately, and I slept almost all the way 'til 6 am, only waking up twice. At 6:30 we arrived in Krakow and got to sit around waiting for things to open.
We're taking a night train from Krakow to Berlin on Friday, and it is a lot cheaper. Yeah, Vienna-Krakow was expensive, but we had no option besides private rooms, so we had to. It's probably the only time I will enjoy a night train that much. We'll be in a sitting car all the way to Berlin, with strangers and probably no locks. And two hours after we arrive in Berlin, we have to be on a plane to Spain...
Stress doesn't help make things go faster/better on trains (or really anywhere), so I'm going to try to enjoy being at least half-awake for an entire night, before getting on one plane and then on another one and then landing in another country whose language I don't really speak. (That is a key difference from in Poland, though, where I absolutely don't speak the language.) But I wish we had another private compartment.
1. Top bunk!
2. Closet, viewed from bottom bunk.
I guess that tall people wouldn't find this quite as exciting/comfortable as I did.