Sunday, 13 July 2014

18 hour train journey Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Zagreb. Interesting, varied and exhausting

Started with a fast taxi ride across Berlin to reach the Berlin Sudkreuz station where I picked up the Prague train. I then found that this was the sleeper from Amsterdam and I slipped into a vacated compartment, stretched out and slept for 3 hours so catching up on my lost sleep from my very early start.

From Prague I was sharing a compartment with a Japanese music critic who lived in Vienna and a family from Montreal: a young couple who had an adopted Chinese girl. They were on their first trip to Europe. We all used our electronic gadgets; the critic was enjoying classical music on his phone and three of us had iPads. The Canadians were visiting friends and had brought caseloads of maple syrup. I enjoyed the very varied forest outside Prague and I remembered the steep and endless hills of Bohemia from cycling there in 1990. I enjoyed getting out at Prague and photographing the station. The scenery after Prague then flattened out into the Danube flood plain with huge wheat fields, all with ripe yellow plants.

I changed trains at an uninspired modern interchange, Vienna does have a huge new hauptbahnhof which looked like Reading station. But the train to Zagreb was elderly and looked as though it had been doing the Vienna Zagreb run for decades. Here I shared a compartment with 3 Americans and 2 Austrians, one a young chiropractor who got down at Graz and a middle aged woman who got down at Leibnitz. The scenery on the Vienna Graz section was breath-taking, we climbed up through forest with Alpine rocks and peaks, mountain cows grazed at impossible angles on the slope. We then had interesting views of rivers and churches in Slovenia.

The Americans were a couple and a young friend who were using all their holiday for a European trip. They were staying in hostels and moving on couple of days. The two men were engineers working on building gas and oil pipe lines and clearly loved their work.

The last two hours to Zagreb were very long and we had our tickets checked endlessly. Very glad to get here and to have a nice hotel to check into. The World Cup final was in the last stages as I arrived but I was too tired to watch but I did later wake up and had to check the score.

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