We are thrilled to announce that we will be traveling with a Family Eurail Pass thanks to the very nice people at Eurail.com, who want us to write about how fun it is to travel as a family via rail. We’ll be blogging about our trip here, and I’ll be writing a few articles for their blog on Eurail.com. It is going to be rather different from the Eurailing days of my youth, when I lugged a single bag on my shoulders and went wherever the wind blew me. This one requires a bit more planning, but we’ve already discovered how spontaneous we can be.
Our original plan had us leaving from Paris and going to Switzerland, to experience the scenic train through the Alps. But when we discovered that the weather forecast called for rain on the day we planned the scenic trip, we decided, the very day before traveling, to go to Berlin instead. We went to the Gare de l’Est in Paris to reserve places on the night train to Berlin, giving us an extra day of sightseeing in Paris, which we were happy to have.
One of the greatest perks of having a Family Eurail Pass is that it provides First Class seats on any train that offers them. When I told the girls about this, they were thrilled, with visions of private compartments, porters, and dressing for meals in the dining car, so I needed to temper their expectations a little bit. Maybe we’ve watched a few too many old movies with them. Though first class train travel does not offer the same perks that, say, first class air travel does, it is usually much more comfortable and much less crowded than second class.
When we made our reservations for the night train, though, I assumed they would put us in a first class car, or in a 4-person couchette, at least. I didn’t even look at the ticket they handed me. I was just proud to have made the reservation in (mostly) French. So when we arrived at our train on Thursday night, we were surprised to find that there were six berths in our compartment, and that two were already occupied with people! This did throw us off a little bit, I’ll admit. We had had great plans for family card games across the bunks, and John and I had bought beer and snacks to share on the ride. But the berths are quite, um, cozy, and there’s really nothing to do there but lie down. Which is, I suppose, why our compartment mate had gone right ahead and made himself comfortable, flopping himself into his berth and unbuckling his belt.
The girls had claimed the top berths, though, and they were perfectly happy to lie down and read in their own upper-level lair. John and I stood loitering in the corridor, swigging beer from a bottle and eating mustard-flavored potato chips. It wasn’t what we had envisioned, but it wasn’t too bad.
Sleeping on a train is tricky. The sound and motion can sometimes lull you to sleep, but sometimes it can jar you awake, too. This train split at some point in the night, which was a noisy affair. At least there’s no passport check at the border in the middle of the night, as there was when I was younger. In the morning, the porter came to bring our hot drink orders as soon as he noticed we were up. A few people had gotten off the train at stops in the early morning, so there was an empty compartment where we could sit up straight to drink our coffee. We could have ordered breakfast on the train, too, but we decided we could wait until we arrived in Berlin at 8:30.
We all agreed that it had been a fine experience, all in all, though none of us slept particularly well. It was very cool to wake up in a completely new culture. We traded our “Mercis” for “Dankes” and went in search of currywurst in Berlin.
This post is brought to you by Eurail.com, who provided the writer with family Eurail passes. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.