Not the Orient Express

To get from Krakow to Budapest, we opted for an overnight train.The trains in general seem to poke their ways from Poland through Slovakia and into Hungary.  In Krakow, I noted a cluster of street signs showing distances to major cities in Europe, and Budapest was listed at 290 km away, about 180 miles.  Driving would have been quick, and if we left at 6:00 in the morning, we could have taken a six hour bus ride.  Any train ride was going to be 10-12 hours.  Rather than getting into Budapest at 10:00 p.m., we elected the evening departure/morning arrival option.

This train, the Selisian, back tracked to the Czech Republic, into Slovakia, touched briefly in Austria, and finally got to Budapest.  The equipment was a bit less polished and less contemporary than that on the German and Czech lines.  It was clearly functional but showing signs of wear.

 A few days ago I made snarky comments about Amtrak service.  In one aspect, Amtrak surpassed the Silesian–it had bigger sleeper compartments.  We climbed aboard about 9:30 and barely managed to stow our suitcases and bags. Besides sleeping, the compartment offered little space.  And since the train lacked a bar car or bistro car, we climbed into our bunks. There was a small sink in far right corner, the only amenity.

The bed was firm, or rather, quite hard, the pillow minuscule, and the comforter, comfortable. Lights out before midnight, and we settled in for long night of clacking rails, swaying berths, and odd sounds and noises.  Not a fast or direct train, this one stopped often. No other travelers climbed into our sleeper car, so we had no disruptions from clanging doors or hushed whispers.  In fact, on our car with about 12 compartments, only 3 seemed to have inhabitants.  And since the train was electric, at each stop, the car was completely quiet.  I enjoyed the sounds, the swaying, the frequent moments of high speed, but I and Nancy both slept fitfully.

We arrived in Budapest about 9:30, 12 hours after climbing onto the train, a bit tired, feeling rather grubby in yesterday’s clothes.  The shabby Budapest train station looked about how I felt, rather tired and run down, with a bit of grit and dirt.

Waiting until our hotel room was ready, we wandered around for a bit, down half a block the a major basilica, St. Stephen’s,

and then down to the Chain Bridge for a first glimpse of the Danube.

2 thoughts on “Not the Orient Express

  1. Joe & Nancy: another small adventure with the overnight train. I recall those wonderful train rides we did when mom was traveling with we “earlier” kids. The ones in Germany were great, v comfortable compartments with the seats turning into cozy beds, swaying of the car & the “clacking” of the rails. Sadly, it seems like a bygone era now. I have heard that Amtrak does a v nice service thru Canada and over the Rockies. Should put that on my bucket list.


  2. I don’t remember any train rides in Germany. Did we take one from Bremanhaven to Frankfurt? Otherwise, I cannot recall any long trips. Some trains in Europe do still have couchettes, six or 4 person compartments which can be transformed into berths, a bit more solid than hanging hammocks. Like bunking with strangers. It’s not Amtrak through Canada but Canadian Rail. If you take it, book on the north side, heading west, for better views of the Rockies once you get into Alberta. Across Manitoba’s plains, each side is probably the same


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