Leaving Prague late on the night of the 24th of April felt like saying Na shledanou (till we meet again) to a dear old friend. There will be some water under the bridge in the time I’m away and we’ll each have changed a little. I know I’ll be going back and it’s just a temporary parting. I said one extra goodbye to my apartment as I managed to leave my train tickets on the table. Fortunately I was still in the taxi and only a few minutes from home.
On the night train
I’ve never been a big fan of night trains but I’d like to think that I’ve come to terms with them over the 10 years or so I’ve been taking them. My advice is simple:
1. NEVER take the couchette option. Yes it’s cheaper. That’s because there’s six people in a space designed for maximum 3, lying on canvas cots. There’s always someone who can endure these conditions and get some sleep. He’s usually drunk, reeks of alcohol and snores like a demon. The sleeper car is a much better choice. No need (and often no option if booking online) to pay extra for the 2 person cabin (unless there are two of you) as the extra vertical space you get isn’t all that large.
2. Bring earplugs. Good ones. Your cabin-mates snore but worse than that trains make a lot of noises. Rhythmic noise might get you to sleep, unpredictable noises don’t.
3. Blindfold yourself. Might seem strange but changing lighting outside the train as it zips through stations or passes other trains plus cabin-mates switching on the light to go to the toilet is an annoyance you can avoid. Bring a sleep mask and you’ll stand a better chance of an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
4. Don’t be paranoid. But don’t be blasé either. You almost certainly aren’t going to be robbed. Each carriage has its own attendant and unless someone breaks into the train, they’re not getting in. Besides there’s a chain on your door and a lock that can only be locked from the inside. Your cabin-mates will all take the same precaution. If you’re worried, sleep with your passport and wallet.
5. Set an alarm. The carriage attendant will usually wake you around half an hour before your destination with an offer of a hot drink. Decline this offer btw. Just in case, set an alarm as well. That way you’ll have plenty of time to get yourself together, brush your teeth in the pitifully small washbasin and set out, blinking in the morning sunlight, to your final destination. Where there had better be a hot shower waiting.