Sleepers, drunks and Prince: LJ – Paris via rail.
If you’ve never been on a sleeper train, this is what they look like, or more specifically, what the 23:42 D 296 from Ljubljana to Munich looks like:
This one’s a Croatian Rail sleeper, quite new, relatively comfortable, very clean. Much nicer than some I’ve been on.
But if your plan is to get a decent night’s sleep during your 6 hour and 35 minute trip to Munich, it’s probably not worth the surcharge. Just as I finally dozed off, I was brutally awakened by an Austrian policeman pounding on my door as we crossed the border about an hour after departure. The scene was repeated less than an hour later, this time awakened by a passenger who boarded in Villach and took the bunk below mine. Coffee wake-up was at 5:45, a big enough boost to greet the early morning chill in Munich at 6:17. In all, not particularly restful, despite the bleached sheets.
The 6:40 (EC 266) from Munich to Strasbourg was a pleasant, dreamy ride, much of it through flatlands and rolling hills, largely covered in early morning murkiness. The sun rose just beyond Augsburg, revealing even more misty rural fields without any signs of recent snow. Whiled the time away talking music with a student from Stuttgart as I recharged the battery on his MP3. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Purple Rain before 8 am. Also began reading Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow, where he writes, It snows only once in our dreams. I realized that I miss snow, and was hoping for a dream. Instead, I got a loud drunk who boarded in Baden Baden who continued the incessant theme of nap interruptus.
Spent about 40 minutes in Strasbourg –like many stations, under heavy renovation– just long enough to get thoroughly pissed off at the woman in Ljubljana who sold me my ticket. She didn’t add the reservation on the reservation obligatoire ticket for the 1604 to Paris Est, which meant forking over 52 euros for another ticket. (Anyone have any good experiences with getting refunds from Slovenia Rail?)
It began to rain as the train pulled out of Strasbourg, and the steady rain gently scratching at the windows didn’t end until we pulled into Gare de L’Est a few minutes after 4. Climbing out the metro at the Bastille stop and onto the busy Rue St. Antoine was invigorating enough to forget about how sleepy I was. The rain had stopped, the sun appeared briefly, and the sounds of a west African drum group lured me towards a delightfully frenzied café for a quick coffee, the best one I’d had in over 17 hours.