Monday night at about 10 PM, I arrived at the main train station in Prague. I located the platform for my train and approached it just as the train was arriving.
I was the first person on the car which worked out very well – I had time to get settled in before the crowd arrived.
I had a spot in a 6-bed couchette compartment booked. When I got there it looked like this:
As you can see, very small and cramped but gets the job done for an 8 hour trip. Each bed had sitting on it a shrink wrapped set of linens and a pillow so I made my bed. I was the bed on the bottom right (lucky to the be on the bottom).
Then I shoved my backpack under the bed and locked it to the ladder using a bike lock which I carry around. I also found a nice little nook in between the bed and the wall to put my wallet and passports. Each bed had a little pocket on the wall next to your head for these things but I preferred to hide them a bit more.
Then, I settled in and waited for other travelers to arrive. I was glad I arrived early.
Night trains are a classic European mode of travel. The idea is that you save a whole day because you’d be sleeping anyways at night, so you can just arrive at your destination and have the whole day ahead of you instead of wasting a day travelling. Business and leisure travelers would use them for long distances across the continent. You also save money on a hotel or hostel for that night.
Today, they’re becoming a little less popular due to high speed rail and cheap European flights. Both of these modes of travel can get you to your destination very quickly so people are opting to do that instead of the night train. Still, a ride on a night train is an essential (and economical) European travel experience and I was excited to do it. According to the schedule we would arrive in Krakow around 7:30.
Eventually the other five people in my room arrived. There was a group of three girls from England and another group of two guys from England – all my age and all leisure travelling around the continent just like me. I was happy to have people that spoke my language and also people in the same boat as me.
They started making their beds and I chatted with them for a bit. It was quite hot that day in Prague so the train was going to be sweaty. The air conditioning was blowing, but not very strongly. They were all a bit fidgety and worried about the heat. They kept trying to figure out solutions, as if we had any power over the situation. They decided that the a/c (“Aircon” in English English) worked better if we left the shade up, so we couldn’t close the shade. Luckily I have a sleeping mask to block out light.
I had moreso just accepted the heat and wanted to go to sleep. Granted, I was on the bottom bunk and they were saying on the top it was way worse, so really I don’t have too much room to judge.
But they complained about that heat for a good half hour as we pulled away from the station. The guy on the third bunk above me decided to try to sleep on the floor. He literally set up his sheets on the floor. I silently rolled my eyes and fell asleep. I woke up maybe a half an hour later and surprise, there was nobody on the floor anymore – he had made his way back up to his bunk. I fell asleep again.
The next time I woke up the train had stopped. A small crowd was forming in the hallway to figure out why – talking and waking me up. Particularly a large French-speaking group – and apparently whispering is not possible in the French language.
I knew that at some point the train split in two. One part headed to Warsaw while our part went on to Krakow. So that’s probably what they were doing, splitting it up. It was 4 AM, I just wanted to keep sleeping. But for some reason everyone else thought that they needed to wake up and act like there was a problem. My English roommates joined in the commotion. I took a bathroom break.
After about a half hour we started to roll again, right on schedule. It was all a normal part of the train ride. Finally everyone else shut up and I went back to sleep.
I woke up first, around 7, removed my mask, and saw the forests of Poland out the window.
We arrived shortly after. In spite of all the interruptions from restless passengers, I was decently well rested.
I brought my bag to my hostel in Krakow, only a short walk away. It was not yet possible to check in, way too early. But they held my luggage so I dropped it off and took a self-guided tour of Krakow (a wonderful medium-sized town).
I enjoyed my night train journey all in all, in spite of the complainy copassengers. A very interesting way to travel and it saves time and money. I hope to do it again.