Our First European Sleeper Train Experience

We had our first overnight train experience from Vienna to Zurich.

With the Eurail pass, you have to pay to reserve a bed for the overnight trains. We were also told to make reservations as far in advance as possible as trains fill up quickly and only a certain number of seats are set aside for Eurail pass users.

When we arrived in Prague, we made a reservation for the overnight train from Vienna to Zurich for four days later.

Well, four days later, we were not in Vienna. We were in Munich.

We had heard from people in our hostel that Vienna was just another city and they liked Munich better. So when we decided to stay there for four nights instead, it meant having to take a five hour train to Vienna before even getting on the overnight train.

We took the train to Vienna early in the morning so that we could get it over with and have some time outside, walking around before getting on a nine hour sleeper train.

When we arrived in Vienna, we found out it was a national holiday day – Corpus Christi. Everything in the entire city was closed except Starbucks, McDonalds, KFCs, Burger Kings and a few local spots.

Literally everything else was closed.

This is seriously our luck.

So we spent the day walking around the fabulous palaces in the city before posting up at a little bar right on the river. We sat there for a few hours enjoying the scenery until we decided it was time to move again.

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We headed back toward the train station in search of food. We stopped at one little spot and had some drinks and appetizers.

When Chelsea asked for a vodka cranberry, the waitress had no idea what she was saying. Finally I pointed to it on the menu.

“Oh, Wodka cranberry! Ah, I could not understand you with your accent. You must be American,” she said.

“Also, both of your teeth are so white. Probably because you no smoke.”

We each ordered an appetizer and she told us it would be way too much food so we should share one.

We did and guess what, it wasn’t enough! We really are fat Americans.

We felt like she would judge us so hard if we asked for more food so instead we shlept on looking for a new place. We had zero luck. Our only options were American fast food or really expensive local spots.

We admitted defeat and headed to the Vienna train station to wait for our train that was leaving in three hours.

Three hours in any train station is absolutely awful. Three hours in a train station where everything is closed except McDonalds and Starbucks is even worse.

A McFlurry, some fries and two hours later and we were still there. It got really creepy after dark. Everyone stared at us like they wanted to rob us. A creepy man came up to Chelsea while I was in the bathroom and kept calling her his “friendly follower Carol” and tried to kiss her. She tried to put her backpack on the bench to separate them but he just moved to her other side. She kept ignoring him but he wouldn’t let up.

When I came back, he kept telling me he was security and it was OK. He tried to kiss my hand and I almost decked him. I’m a New Yorker. I wasn’t taking his crap.

At 10:40 p.m., we finally boarded our train. We were in a six bed sleeper car, the cheapest bed option there is. You can also get a regular seat but for an overnight train we decided to splurge a little and get the bed.

The room was insanely small! We were on the top bunks, of course, and we couldn’t sit up straight in our beds without hitting our heads. Only one person could fit standing up between all the beds.

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The beds were literally slabs of wood nailed to the wall. They were covered in carpet and you got one sheet and a tiny pillow. They also give you a blanket that smells like wet dog. Lovely.

I used my scarf as a blanket instead!

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We brushed our teeth in the train sinks and headed back to our beds. The couple in the two bottom bunks stayed up for awhile talking and I turned the lights off on them. I was tired and this was a communal room. After almost a month of hostels, I’ve learned that people are going to be loud or rude at any time of day so you should, too.

We didn’t have any creepy, old men in our cabin so that was a plus! We were sure we were going to have really weird men who didn’t speak English who would take us. But we had two German guys around our age and a German couple in their late 20s.

The night wasn’t that bad surprisingly. I expected to feel a lot worse when we got to Zurich. Sure, it wasn’t my best night sleep since being here but they did give us free breakfast! It was two huge rolls, jam, butter and a coffee! I love coffee. Any kind. Free coffee especially! So I was a happy girl.

We then had to get on another train, and transfer, to get to Interlaken, where we were staying.

It was our longest travel experience yet.

Our lesson in overnight trains was spend a little extra to get at least a four person bed instead of the six. Six was a bit much for us.

When we arrived in Interlaken and made our reservations for our overnight train to Croatia, we purchased seats instead of beds to save $20. So much for splurging on 4-bed cabins!

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