A peaceful morning in Venice saves the day after a terrible night train ride

It’s 9 p.m. when the three of us walk down the railway station of Vienna. Our backpacks are loaded and we’re fifteen minutes early, so we rest at the platform against an ad sign about some internet provider. We sit on a glass floor, through which we can still see the streets of Vienna. It’d be a last glimpse at this city for a long while.

Even though Vienna is a beautiful city and we’ve enjoyed it incredibly, we’re very keen on going to our next destination. It’s as if we stayed here one day too long, which might be a feeling many travellers recognize. It’s hard to speak about it really, because saying ‘I should’ve left yesterday’ in such an incredible city like Vienna feels like something a spoiled brat would say. But it was there, that feeling, so there was no way of getting around it (harsh realisation that I’m a spoiled brat incoming).

The train has already arrived and it’s stationary right in front of us. We look through the windows as the staff is making the beds and putting together some snacks and water for every passenger to survive the night. We’re excited about this. We have been interrailing through Europe the entire time, but never has any of us been inside a night train before. We heard great stories in one of our previous hostels. Someone told us that, if you have some cool people to share a room with, these night train rides can be quite crazy and maybe even ‘lit’. He told us he was with some people who smuggled booze on board and they played drinking games all night. We looked at each other in awe, hoping to have the same experience he told us about.

When the crew is finished, they open up the doors for us. We pick up our bags and get in as one of the kind ladies is checking our tickets. The room we enter looks exactly the way I imagined it. It’s a big room – like those first class seats in movies that play in the 1920’s or 1930’s – except the couches were just plain old second class material. The beds were bunks that coud be folded out from the walls. There were three on the right and three on the left. A window with dark curtains should be good enough to block out the sun beams, if there are any.

Our spots are all on the left, so we are lying on top of one another. I’m in the middle, one of my friends is below me and the other one is above me. Up until this point, we’re still excited about everything, because we don’t know who our roommates are going to be and we’re stoked for our first train ride in the night. We do remark that the bunks don’t seem to be very comfortable – they resemble a crossover between a matras and the comfort of lying on a wooden door – but we’re optimistic and say: ‘that’s part of the charm’.

The boys in a night train

The train starts driving and nobody has entered our booth yet. We’re slightly disappointed, for we assume that we will not have any fellow travellers to talk to this evening. But we decide to stay up for a while and have some drinks anyway. A little later, the train stops and we see more people entering the train. Now we get it: we might still have a chance at an interesting group of new people, because the train is just picking up new passengers along the way. Yet, still nobody joins our little cabin.

At the next stop, we finally hear the door open up. A man walks in, must be about 25 to 30 years old. Excited as we are, we say hello, ask him how he is, what his name is and where he’s from – you know, the regular backpacker small talk. He just nods friendly and keeps saying ‘hi’. After an awkward pause, he just says ‘no English’. I try to speak to him in broken French and German, but he keeps nodding. ‘No understand’. Then, he puts his hand on his chest and says: ‘China’. That’s all the information we get from him. He then gets up to the top bunk and lies down, trying to go to sleep.

Now, you might say we’re a little disappointed, but up to this point, there’s still hope: there are two bunks left and who knows, maybe those people will have interesting stories or fun drinking games. We decide to just wait and see.

It takes a while before the next guests enter our cabin, but about thirty minutes later, the door finally opens up. Two men walk in, they both look Asian. They seem very reserved, don’t say a word and go to sleep straight away. NOW we’re disappointed.

So we decide to just call it a night and go to sleep as well, but the beds are terrible and the bumpy ride isn’t working either. Eventually, we’re lucky to sleep for about two hours, only to wake up by the sweethearts of the staff who prepared breakfast for us. As we’re eating, we’re sitting in a row on the lower bunk bed, looking at the three fellow travellers in front of us. They now seem to really have connected great. Apparently, they were all Chinese and they were now having the time of their lives, speaking Mandarin, while in the meantime we were merely bystanders of a story we so desperatley wanted to be a part of. I can’t say I’m not happy for them, but we can’t help but feel a little bit jealous of them, that’s all.

When we get out of the train, it’s about 7 a.m. and we enter Venice. It’s very early and we’re afraid of two things: how expensive everything is going to be and the huge groups of tourists that come here.

but to our great surprise, we discover that there’s hardly anybody on the streets. The city is only just waking up and we’re drinking a very cheap but really good espresso – something we all really needed after the night we just had. We then roam the empty streets and make our way to San Marco Square, which is also not that crowded at all. The line into the Campanile tower was no longer than ten minutes – which wasn’t long, considering it usually is about thirty minutes of waiting time.

Venice Gondolas

At lunch time, we have the best pizza we had in ages in a very abandoned pizza place. It’s run by and for locals, you can tell by the absence of anything touristy at all. It’s also hidden in an alleyway on the corner. The only thing I regret from that place, is that I haven’t remembered the name of it.

After lunch though, the amount of tourists are increasing and we see Venice the way millions of people have seen it: crowded as hell. We do some more sightseeing, but eventually we have to admit that it’s become so crowded that it’s not fun anymore. At around 4 p.m. we go back to the train station, on our way to Milano.

I don’t know whether or not this story was worth sharing with you, but all I can say is that if you want to visit Venice and see it in its purest form, go very early in the morning, you won’t regret it. I guess the moral of the story is: we had a terrible night train ride – something we’d high hopes for – but we were saved by the beauty of a peaceful Venice.

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