A Conversation for Travelling around Europe by Train - a Guide to Inter-Railing
Titania (gone for lunch) Started conversation Feb 7, 2003
This entry brings back many happy memories of Inter-Railing - I used to do it a lot before I turned 26 - and I've actually done it a couple of times after that too...
The sense of freedom is wonderful - you just fill in where you want to go, and you can change your mind along the way - and in the old days one pass covered a *lot* of European countries!
...and it will certainly leave you with a whole bunch of memories and stories to tell your friends - but most important of all to bring with you on the trip is common sense - it'll take you a long way...
Santragenius V Posted Feb 8, 2003
Yes, indeed it does - such as two Danes sharing a 8-person compartment with a Spanish family of 8 persons on the night train from Madrid to Barcelona.
The extra thing that made it "very special" was that every time the two smallest kids were finally asleep, the older kids wanted seatings rearranged. So they did, and the small kids took another half hour to get back to sleep. And then the older kids...
But we (the other Dane happens to be the one whom I am currently married to) surely have a story to tell
And interrailing was just so and lots of fun, excirtement & experiences
Titania (gone for lunch) Posted Feb 9, 2003
Heh - that reminds me of a trip I made from Luxembourg (the city) to Paris - at first I had a 6-person compartment to myself, meaning I could stretch out across 3 seats - but somewhere along the way it was invaded by two Africans (one male, one female) with lots of luggage and big drums and other instruments enough for a whole orchestra - I didn't have enough room left to stretch out my legs, sitting upright...
...or that time when a friend and I visited Istanbul, and decided to spend our last moneny on yet another night in the cheap hotel - so we didn't have any money left for food other than a few bottles of mineral water and some stale pretzels that we bought before leaving (they turned very stale over night in the night train) - the family we shared compartment with felt sorry for us and shared their food with us - we didn't understand them, and they didn't understand us - languagewise - but we didn't need to!
...or the time in former Yugoslavia (when it was still one country) when we shared compartment with some very big and burly Serbs (big enough to make the compartment seem rather crowded) - they bought us beer, and I managed to open it so that it sprayed my face and my glasses with beer - oh how we howled with laughter! Warm beer... (it was a very warm summer's day)
And as we prepared to get off at the next station, the big guy with bushy eyebrows and big black moustache sitting next to me described very dramatically, using sign language, how it was breaking his heart to see us two beauties leave, and then he got down on his knee and proposed to me! At least I think that was what he meant - miming(?) a ring around the finger!
...or the time when we tried to find a train from Beograd to... to... Kardeljevo, I think it was (nearest railway station to Dubrovnik) - when we finally found a train, it was just 1st class wagons. We looked at each other, and shrugged, agreeing that we'd better take this train or we'd never find another one, and also hoping that the supplement wouldn't bee too expensive (which it wasn't)...
...we got a 6-person compartment all to ourselves, with comfortable seats, which we stretched out across and feel asleep (taking our shoes off first, of course, not having slept much the night before) - but there seemed to be a lot of people bursting into and out of our compartment all the time - asking if we would like breakfast (seemed to be included in the 1st class supplement), leaving and returning with breakfast, asking if we would like coffee or tea, leaving and returning with hot beverages, a lady dragging in a vacuum cleaner to vacuum the carpet...
No, hold it - that wasn't the train to Kardeljevo - the Kardeljevo train is another story! It was a *very* local train, stopping *everywhere*. First stop: 2 houses, 10 , 1 cow - next stop: 3 houses, a donkey and 5 - next stop: well, you get the idea I think - no cities, not even villages. The seats were wooden with plastic covering - and it was a very hot day, making your trousers rather wet where they touched the seat...
The toilet door was broken, so that you had to hold the lock in place with one hand while you were in there - and it's the first and only time I've seen a what-we-in-Sweden-call Turkish toilet onboard a train (hole in the floor, no seat)! No handles or anything to hold on to - picture this: One hand to hold the lock in place, one hand grabbing the washbasin to maintain your balance in the swaying train - and no lights, as my friend discovered when the train drove into a tunnel...
...and I think the tickets were really cheap, because some of the other passengers looked like bums, with shoes so worn that their toes showed - and everyone seemed to have rather bulky luggage, but not packed into suitcases, oh no - it looked like big bundles of tablecloths with the corners tied together, which were hauled through the windows, because the aisles were too crowded...
Santragenius V Posted Feb 9, 2003
...or the time when we went to Portugal and when we entered Spain on the way there, there was this small, old-ish man speaking only Portuguese and a minimal amount of French. He beckoned us into a compartment where we were just the three of us - in spite the train being quite crowded. That meant a seat row for him, a seat row for my travel companion & the floor (on a mat) for me - all stretched out, all sleeping very well.
He guarded the door until he was sure nobody would enter. Then checked with us where we were from and explained this to the border police at the Portuguese border so that we weren't unnecessarily disturbed.
At the same border station, where we apparently had to hold for a while, he offered us a cup of coffee. Gee thanks The it turned out that we were to go with him to the station cafe..... But he managed to let us know that the guy over at that table there was the train driver & as long he was also having coffee, we could relax as the train wasn't going anywhere before he got back on...
Such a friendly man
Titania (gone for lunch) Posted Feb 10, 2003
Ah - but then there are also the less pleasant but nevertheless interesting episodes:
I went to Istanbul by train with a friend of mine - in the middle of the night we were woken up by shouts of 'Visa! Visa!', doors opened, lights turned on. Still half asleep I tried explaining to the men in uniform that had boarded the train that we were Swedish - Swedes don't need any visa to visit Turkey! I tried English, I tried German, and a hodge-podge of French/Italian - but they insisted, and almost pushed us off the train.
Outside we discovered that the train had stopped inside what looked like a concentration camp - fences topped with barbed wires all around us, strong spotlights illuminating every corner, men in uniformation carrying what looked like Kalashnikovs (but I'm no expert) with growling German shepherds (dogs) pulling at their leashes - and a small building with what looked like two ticket windows.
Because we had been a bit slow in reacting, we ended up last in two very long lines, waiting for we did not know what... After 1½ hours of standing in line around 2-3 am we found out that the so called 'visa' was a date stamp showing which day you had entered the country - the kind of stamp many countries don't bother about any more - the kind of stamp that is the reason why the night train conductor gathers all the passangers' passports, so that the passport police can put stamps in them without having to wake everyone up! Not in Turkish trains, obviously!
Guess what - the passport control wasn't included in the timetable!
And on our way out of Turkey, it was the same story all over again - this time we were ready and rushed out, almost first in the line, being able to get back to bed pretty soon - but again, the control wasn't included in the timetable, and the train didn't manage to reduce the lost time, so passengers that were supposed to change train in Trieste missed their trains...
And that was also the (so far, knock on wood) first and only time I've been on a train with train robbers - there was this old lady and us two young girls in one compartment. Being rather experienced Inter-Railers, we carried all valuables in belts inside our shirts, with shirts firmly tucked into our trousers - but the old lady was sleeping with her next to her pillow (between the wall and the pillow, but still).
The train was standing still somewhere in (former) south Yugoslavia, in the middle of the night. Sleeping lightly, I thought I sensed some kind movement in our compartment - and the next moment I was abruptly jerked wide awake by a piercing scream from the old lady - someone had indeed entered our couchette compartment (not very good locks) and had snatched away her .
I felt sorry for the old lady, but at the same time relieved that she had caught a glimpse of the thief - it would have been a bit bothersome if I or my friend had been suspected... and the thief must have been a local, because he jumped off the train and ran off into the darkness.
Titania (gone for lunch) Posted Feb 10, 2003
Oh - and on my way home one year, I shared compartment with a group of Swedish pensioners - they told me how *all* the passengers on their sleeping train had been robbed in Hungary - and since no one had noticed anything, even when it was apparent that their luggage had been searched thoroughly, and everyone felt a bit in the morning, with and dry throats, the Hungarian police thought they had been using sleeping spray!
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