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Train travel across Europe.
Old 03-20-2015, 03:35 PM   #1
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Train travel across Europe.

This year's travel, (off in 20 days on the first trip, and in 216 days for the second), is taken care of, so now we're exploring options for the Fall of 2016.

First, (of many possibilities), is flying to Helsinki, (Finnair generally offers relatively cheap flights from Toronto), or one of the Baltic capitals (perhaps by Icelandair or Aeroflot), and gradually wending our way by train down to Barcelona.

'Idea', (and we only came up with it 10 minutes ago), is to travel light, and spend maybe a day or two at each stop enroute, (there's also the possibility, but we've never booked a sleeper cabin on a train, of traveling at night and using the trains as hotels).

So, rather than re-invent a useable circular object, we figured we'd throw it out and see if anyone's done anything similar, and if so, what tips they might have. (Keeping in mind that, by tomorrow, we might have a totally different idea in mind. )
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Old 03-20-2015, 03:49 PM   #2
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Night travel across Europe.

We took the night train (City Nightline) from Amsterdam to Munich last year. I wouldn't do it again. It just wasn't comfortable, and we were in the nicest berth offered. Also kind of cooped up in the berth.

Seemed like a great idea. Didn't work for us. It also can be expensive.

We did a sleeper to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada once, and that was quite enjoyable, especially the wild tundra scenery streaming by. Probably also because we spent plenty of time outside our berth and meals were in a dining car. But I remember the berth being fairly comfortable. I was also 15 years younger, lol!
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Old 03-20-2015, 04:10 PM   #3
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We took the night train from Monte Carlo to Naples. Also night train from Rome to Venice. And Venice to Paris. It was to save time, as we were still working.

We inquired about the private cabin, and it was expensive as I recalled, and we might as well stay in a hotel. So, we thought if one could sleep in an airplane coach seat, what would be wrong with a train seat which was even wider. Man, that frugal move was not a good thing. Same as in airplane seats, you can do it, but why makes it hard on yourself.

So, we took the couchette from Venice to Paris. It had 4 bunk beds, so we took 1/2 of the compartment, my wife on 1 top bed and I was on the lower bed. We were the only passengers that went all the way from Venice to Paris. The other 2 beds were occupied by passengers that went only part of the way. It was just like the military hot bunking. The passengers were given a fresh sheet to make the bed themselves though.

I knew to secure our stuff, so that nobody could grab our stuff and run off the train. Ah, all the memories...
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Old 03-20-2015, 05:44 PM   #4
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We're travelling light on our trip this summer - all carry on. A big part of this is the ease of getting the luggage on and off the trains. No hoisting overloaded heavy suitcases into the overhead racks or for that matter - up stairs at our vacation rentals... packing light (and renting places with washing machines) is the way to go.

We're doing 2 overnight trains with 4 person cuccette compartments. I've done cuccettes before with no problem. I don't sleep well on planes - but this was easier since you're actually horizontal. My first cuccette experience was 20 years ago travelling solo from Paris to Verona - I was in a 6 berth compartment with strangers - but I still managed to sleep for 4 or more hours. The last time was 8 years ago - 4 berth compartment with my kids and husband (so more private)... Slept well. We're going from Sicily to Rome by cuccette (internotte trenitalia train), then from Venice to Vienna, again, overnight cuccette 4 berth for the family.

It's not as nice as a hotel bed - but if you're tired it works just fine!
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Old 03-20-2015, 07:25 PM   #5
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The cuccettes look good to us.......(in 'the day' I've slept on twine mesh luggage racks from Iran to India.....and wooden seats, (3rd class), in Iraq, but the back ain't what it used to be)......from a cost perspective how's the comparison between having both a hotel room and a regular train seat as opposed to an overnight cuccette?

(DW could sleep through Armageddon, while I run through a series of power naps interspersed with periods of roaming around.)

Shower facilities available on board the train?

Thanks to the input thus far, we're envisioning a combination (the ratios yet to be determined) of hotel rooms/cuccettes/regular seats (there are some areas we'll definitely want to cross during daylight hours).......early times, we haven't even begun to compile a route yet.

Appreciate the input!
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Old 03-20-2015, 09:20 PM   #6
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Yes, showers are available on the overnight trains.

I would say don't try to do too much that pushes a hectic schedule and involves a lot of long distance train travel. An open jaw plane ticket can help here - fly home from a different city. My experience is that it doesn't cost any more.

Hotel versus supplement for sleeping berth is probably a wash, depending on choices made, of course.

I read things like - oh, you only need one day in Reims, or 2 nights somewhere else, or going far afield for multiple looooong day trips from Paris, and I just wonder what kind of travel whirlwind these people are going to experience?

Of course if you only plan to go to Europe once a decade, that makes a whirlwind trip more desirable I suppose.

We hope to go every year, and like to visit small areas at a time, and we like to stay in the area we are exploring when possible. I try to slow the pace - although it's still often a battle. Trying to get better at that.
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Old 03-21-2015, 05:32 AM   #7
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I would say don't try to do too much that pushes a hectic schedule and involves a lot of long distance train travel. An open jaw plane ticket can help here - fly home from a different city. My experience is that it doesn't cost any more.
In this instance our idea is to 'do' the Baltic states and then perhaps/probably hook up with a repositioning cruise out of Barcelona to Florida........the option of flying from, say, Vilnius-Barcelona isn't (yet) off the table, but the thought of sitting on trains and heading in a non-route-specific direction to Barcelona also arose.

We like/enjoy trains, and the thought of breaking the trip, here and there, for a day or so each time also appealed. It may not be viable from an economic/hassle perspective, but we thought "Hey, it's ~ 18 months away, so we have time to consider our options, (or to come up with others that may be totally unrelated)".
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:02 AM   #8
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Yes - breaking up the train travel and staying at places on the way is a nice way to do it. Distances aren't that far. 3 or 4 hours is a long leg - i.e. Can get you pretty far on a fast train.

Vilnius to Barcelona is pretty far though. Lots of popular destinations on the way. If it's cheap to fly Barcelona, you can always do train trips from there. Lots of great places not far from Barcelona including southern France.

It depends on how much time you have.
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:21 AM   #9
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Yes - breaking up the train travel and staying at places on the way is a nice way to do it. Distances aren't that far. 3 or 4 hours is a long leg - i.e. Can get you pretty far on a fast train.

Vilnius to Barcelona is pretty far though. Lots of popular destinations on the way.
Seems, (from cursory/superficial initial 'investigation'), we can get from Vilnius to Krakow on a bus/train combination, (perhaps the old 'market day' route involving livestock? ); more interested in riding the antiquated Soviet Union type trains if there are any still around, (and observing the scenery/life), than taking modern high speed types, (probably just as soon fly than do the latter).

(Thanks for all your input, it's much appreciated, even though this exercise might just be a diversion that never comes to fruition and we just end up flying......or going to India. )

(Noticed, before one of your edits, you mentioned Venice/Nice.....We'll be in Genoa (twice) this Fall, (taking the train from there to Marseille and back, with a possible layover in Nice......a place I haven't been to in 52 years.)
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:37 AM   #10
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I misread Balkans instead of Baltic, and so didn't realize how far north Vilnius was. I think I'd fly to Barcelona and do my train exploring from there.

I haven't been to Nice since 50 years ago when I was 5.

I realized in planning our France travels that Provence dovetails well with Barcelona, so we'll probably travel southern Spain and France together one trip.
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:46 AM   #11
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I misread Balkans instead of Baltic, and so didn't realize how far north Vilnius was. I think I'd fly to Barcelona and do my train exploring from there.

I haven't been to Nice since 50 years ago when I was 5.

I realized in planning our France travels that Provence dovetails well with Barcelona, so we'll probably travel southern Spain and France together one trip.
We'll be back in Barcelona next month......haven't yet been to the Baltic states, and would like to see the castles and old towns, so (if it ever materializes) next Fall's (possible) trip would see us 'training' into Barcelona rather than flying in and 'training' out.
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:49 AM   #12
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Must be tough having to visit Barcelona so often, LOL!
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:51 AM   #13
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The night trains are slowly disappearing across Western Europe. Mainly due to the high speed trains. You can now get from Paris to Barcelona in a direct high speed 6.5 hour trip.

Paris to Barcelona by TGV train | Tickets from 59
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Old 03-21-2015, 09:02 AM   #14
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Must be tough having to visit Barcelona so often, LOL!
Leaving from Santo Domingo to Barcelona April 11, (14 day trip) $841 US (including port taxes) total for both of us (for an oceanview cabin.....interiors are even cheaper).....at those prices we can't afford to stay home!

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Old 03-21-2015, 09:24 AM   #15
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I don't think we will ever do another night train. Back when we were still working and vacation time was limited, it was a good way to save daylight time for sightseeing. Now in retirement, what's the rush?

Many Americans do not appreciate how efficient the public transportation in Europe is. Many of our friends still travel the way they do in the US: get a car. A car is a terrible liability in most European cities. With trains, we hopped on/off then took metros, buses, or the occasional taxis. Just wonderful.

We only got a car on a trip when I wanted to go down the Loire River to see the castles. A car is still a necessity to tour the countryside. And in our next trip to France, I will get a car to wander around Provence. We have been to Avignon, but there's more than that.
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Old 03-21-2015, 09:33 AM   #16
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Leaving from Santo Domingo to Barcelona April 11, (14 day trip) $841 US (including port taxes) total for both of us (for an oceanview cabin.....interiors are even cheaper).....at those prices we can't afford to stay home!
How can that be? Is there a way we can get the same deal year round?

Lemme see... $841 for 2 for 2 weeks, so that would be $22K/couple/year. Where do I sign up?

No more house maintenance costs. Not even food cost.

Do I get free drinks with that too
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Old 03-21-2015, 10:27 AM   #17
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Leaving from Santo Domingo to Barcelona April 11, (14 day trip) $841 US (including port taxes) total for both of us (for an oceanview cabin.....interiors are even cheaper).....at those prices we can't afford to stay home!

LOL! I guess you have to get to Santo Domingo.

DH wouldn't want to spend 14 days crossing the ocean. He's not crazy about large ship cruising anyway.
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Old 03-21-2015, 10:51 AM   #18
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How can that be? Is there a way we can get the same deal year round?

Lemme see... $841 for 2 for 2 weeks, so that would be $22K/couple/year. Where do I sign up?

No more house maintenance costs. Not even food cost.

Do I get free drinks with that too
Rumor is that this might be the last year for the Horizon with CDF......(we've already signed up for the final cruise of the season (Fall Med/Adriatic), and, possibly, the 'final cruise').

Seems....from the scuttlebutt on Cruise Critic...that the repositioning trip next month is all-inclusive, i.e. drinks too........pity we lost interest in drinking a couple years ago.
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Old 03-21-2015, 10:58 AM   #19
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LOL! I guess you have to get to Santo Domingo.

DH wouldn't want to spend 14 days crossing the ocean. He's not crazy about large ship cruising anyway.
We checked out trains to Santo Domingo but couldn't get a connection....so we'll have to fly out of Toronto via Atlanta.

Although, at ~40,000 tons, the Horizon is almost twice the size of the liners I traveled on in the 1960s, it's almost minute compared to some of the newer monstrosities......we like being at sea, but "No, thank you" to one of these ~150,000+ ton behemoths.
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Old 03-21-2015, 11:27 AM   #20
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As far as showers on night trains. I think it depends on the accomodations. Cuccettes on the italian trains do not have access to showers. You need to be in first class to get access to showers.

We'll just be ripe when we get off the train - that's ok. I'm traveling with boys and they seem to prefer to bathe less often.

We're only doing 2 overnight train legs... We were going to do an overnight ferry as well - but opted to go by train from Amsterdam to London.

In general - ferry trips have nicer cabins, with showers. We've done several overnight ferry trips - most recently from Naples to Catania.
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