Please sign in to post.

Day trains vs overnight if my reason for travel is to see mtn scenery

I'm planning a one-month see-Europe-from-the-train-window trip for April. My main goal is to take scenic train rides, esp through mountain scenery. I'm trying to decide whether some of the long trips around Eastern Europe that I'm thinking about might be done overnight because I would not necessarily be missing wonderful scenery. One reader suggested that Budapest-Brasov/Bucharest is one such trip I could do overnight. I'd love to hear from other more seasoned travelers about such point-point trips as: Prague-Budapest Krakow-Prague Berlin-Krakow Bucharest-Sofia Budapest-Sofia
Sofia-Beograd, Zagreb, or Ljubljana I am well aware some of these may not even be long enough to be practical overnight. I'm only asking right now for comments on the value of taking such trips during the day to SEE stuff vs the usual advantages of overnight trains instead. Thx in advance...

Posted by
40 posts

Several years ago I took an overnight train from Prague to Krakow, then another from Krakow to Budapest. The trains were not as good as those in western Europe, but these routes seemed to be reasonable choices for overnight. Obviously, since I didn't do it in the daytime, I can't quite tell you what I missed, so perhaps someone else can help out there. However, I did choose these overnight routes because we'd been told they were less scenic than, say, Austria or France. And the cities themselves were terrific.

Posted by
306 posts

Thanks, folks. This is very helpful advice. And buhlieve me, I know how bad I-95 is in SC! I've done all of that route I care to for one lifetime!

Posted by
294 posts

We took the train from Berlin to Krakow on Nov. 9, 2011. I'd rather get a root canal. We left Berlin at 1005 and arrived almost 2 hours ate at 2215. No food car just a cart that ran out. The train would just stop in the middle of nowhere. No one would get on, no one would get off. No announcements were made. I know they are doing major work to get ready for Euro 2012 but locals we talked to seemed to think this was normal. My wife is afraid of flying but at the end of the day she said she would risk it next time.

Posted by
5365 posts

I do not relish more than say 6 hours on train or ferry. If more, I look at a cheap flight, the time I save has value then. The only advice on overnight trains is if you are a sound sleeper, then it can be a good option. Otherwise, plan on a mostly sleepless night, possibly affecting your attitude the next day. If flight is not an option, rather than taking a 10 or 12 hour train ride, I pick some spot midpoint or near evening, get off, have a nice dinner, see some sights I did not plan on, sleep in a bed, then move on in the morning.

Posted by
306 posts

Thx again. John, That's good data on the Berlin-Krakow trip. Too bad it was such a bummer for you both! I'll bear that in mind. Paul, In fact I DO sleep well on trains, all things considered. I never sleep straight through even at home, so if I roll over and peek out the window when I sense we're in a station, that's all right. Given how many times I have to get up to "go potty" anyway, only once or twice would be a good night for me! Back to the planning... Tom

Posted by
143 posts

I don't know, I'm such a train buff that even a bad train trip is a good train trip. Was on a steam train that broke down in the mountains of Southern Colorado once, and we sat there all afternoon. Loved every second of it.

Posted by
4637 posts

Scenery worth looking: Prague-Budapest: nice forested hills, meadows, river and then steep valleys, many tunnels- it's between stations Chocen and Brno. Then mostly flat. Krakow-Prague: nice hills between Zabreh na Morave and Chocen. Berlin-Krakow: mostly flat. Around Sofia: high mountain scenery. All travel through former Yugoslavia is mostly scenic worth your time at the train window. Budapest-Brasov/Bucharest: through Hungary and part of Romania nothing much but around Brasov, Sinaia when it goes through the Transylvanian Alps first class scenery.

Posted by
12400 posts

Tom, My experience may be a bit dated. I did the Krakow-Berlin route (opposite from your direction) in July 2001. Got on early in the morning, prior to 0700. It's a ride lasting a bit over ten hours but direct, no need to change trains as you would (twice), such as going from Berlin-Gdansk (Danzig). Admittedly, it is a long haul. But I liked it, the landscape of Upper Silesia starting at Katowice (Kattowitz/Oberschlesien) and Lower Silesia (Niederschlesien) when you reach Wroclaw (Breslau) I found interesting. You'll recognise the names of the stops along that route the train makes. Would I do it again, if I were going to Krakow...yes. As a day r/t from Krakow, I would suggest seeing the chateau at Pszczyna (Pless/Oberschlesien), south of Katowice. Get there by noon, you'll have five hrs for the viewing the chateau/Schloß.

Posted by
12040 posts

The Balkan mountain chain in western Bulgaria is quite impressive. If you want to see mountains, do your Sofia legs during the day. I don't remember if the train was going from Warsaw to Krakow or Krakow to Prague, but I recall seeing an impressive view of the Carpathian mountains from a train somewhere in southern Poland. The mountains were in the far distance and if it wasn't a clear day, I wouldn't have been able to see them. Most of us have found little advantage in taking night trains. It's just too hard to get a good night's sleep, and you end up needing to nap during the day. Finally... visibility in April is not always ideal. You may find some of the mountain views obstructed by a grey haze.

Posted by
5365 posts

I'm glad you sleep well on a train. Just wanted to post the warning. I have seen more than once on this board someone go with the advice to book an overnight train, under the impression that it is a hotel on wheels gliding you to your destination. Unfortunately, many regret it, but on the other hand, some love it, so more power to them. I am with you though on Mountain scenery, no way would I want to sleep through a trip in the Alps, and will even tolerate a longer train ride for that route.

Posted by
306 posts

Thx again, one and all. I'm getting the impression that except for possibly Bulgaria the scenery isn't an overwhelming reason to take day trains. But I'm also well aware of the pros and cons of night trains in general. Oh well...back to the drawing board. I've still got 7 weeks to think about it all! In the end, I may still just leave it till just about when I walk onto the platform and start looking at the day's departures!