The Hotel on Wheels – The Night Train Experience

I’m Harvey, I’m a Final Year German student, and I’m also the Publicity Officer and German Editor! This time last year, I was en route to the wonderful little town of Tübingen, around 40 minutes away from Stuttgart, to start my year abroad.

I decided to take the easy option and fly out in September, and as Germany was gripped by Fridays for Future then, I decided to try out something greener than flying when the time came to leave – the NightJet – a sleeper train service managed by the Austrian Government with has routes right across Europe. A new route from the city of Innsbruck to Brussels, stopping in German cities like Munich and Cologne was announced in January, and as there was also a direct bus from Tübingen to Munich, I decided to try out this way of travelling for my journey back to Wales!

Night trains are a handy way of travelling long distances without losing a day of your holiday in an airport or coach. Lasting almost 22 hours – including a coach to Munich, then and a short stopover in Brussels to connect to the Eurostar service to London – it was certainly not the fastest way to get around, but definitely an interesting experience!
So, what’s it like on board? You can choose from a variety of sleeping options – a seat in a shared cabin, a bed in a shared cabin, a single cabin and some have deluxe cabins with a small en-suite. I picked a single cabin so I could have my own space (though this can be up to 100€ more than a seat!).

I was greeted on board by my wagon’s attendant, who spoke multiple languages (French, German, English and Italian at least!), and took me to my room. There’s not much space for a lot of luggage, so be careful what you bring – my suitcase didn’t fit under the bed, and the rooms are narrow to make sure the capacity is high, so it was quite a squeeze!

I was greeted with a welcome bag, which included earplugs, an eye mask, pretzels, sweets, water, a towel, slippers and wine – this was a really nice touch and a welcome snack after a long trip. The room also had a small washbasin with mirrors, a range of nightlights at different levels, and secure key card system, which the crew explain to you fully, so you can use the clean and accessible shared facilities without worrying about your belongings.

The ‘hotel-on-wheels’ experience continues with breakfast – you could pick up to 6 items, delivered around 90 minutes before your scheduled stop. There’s a wide variety of continental options, and unlimited hot drinks – I picked some bread, jam & Nutella, tea, orange juice and yoghurt.
The main event is of course the sleep! The beds were comfortable, if a little small, and as they’re movable, some may be tilted slightly. I also found the noise was a bit of an issue at times – the bed was quite low, so it was noisy at times as you were close to the track (This would be better in a higher bunk).

Breakfast came on time, everything was clean, and the staff were always happy to refill drinks, and solve any problems. An hour later, and after travelling 500 miles as I slept, I rolled into Brussels station, refreshed and ready for the next leg of the journey. I’d say the unusual experience was worth it and would absolutely recommend trying out a sleeper train if you’re travelling around Europe but don’t want to lose your days to travel!

Harvey Jones

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