Friday, October 9, 2015

Train Ride through the Alps

This morning, we were due to get off the ship and begin the next leg of our journey: a train ride from Venice to Germany.  We asked for the latest possible disembarkation time, and were given 9 am.  This wasn't ideal because our train didn't leave until nearly 2 pm, so we had to find something to pass the time...WITH all our luggage.

Before getting off the ship, we got omelets from the Lido breakfast bar.  Ya know, I may not remember how to cook by the time I get back home!!

We ended up with a credit on our account since my illness prevented us from going on 2 excursions, so I went to spend some of that - I got a coffee from the Explorations Cafe upstairs.  We relaxed for an hour before walking off the ship with all our stuff.

We used the Venice "People Mover" again, which took us just across the water from the train station.  We went inside and figured out how that process works; I'll say more on that in a minute.

After we knew what was going on, we went back outside to the Grand Canal, found a cafe to waste time in, and sat and watched the boats pass by while eating and drinking some limoncello (MMMMM).  We ordered a shrimp appetizer with olive oil and lemon that was so simple and fresh.  Then we shared a prosciutto, mushroom and mozzarella pizza.

Me at the cafe, all our luggage was piled just to my left...classy.

Our view from the cafe

After wasting an adequate amount of time in the cafe, we went back to the train station.  I learned a lot about European train travel on this trip:
  1. Train stations are completely open.  You can walk into one and right up to the train platforms without ever showing a ticket, nor are there any security checkpoints.  
  2. You have to pay close attention to the arrival/departures board, as your train's platform sometimes won't be announced until 5 minutes before the train LEAVES.  So then, you run.
  3. Compared to flying, train tickets are very cheap.  We paid about 75 Euros ($80) per ticket to travel approximately 340 miles to Germany.  We paid extra for reserved 2nd class seats, so it could have been done more cheaply.
  4. The conductor doesn't come through the train right away to check tickets.  On our trip, we made it nearly 100 miles before he came through our car.  At that point, I sure hope you were on the right train!!  OR...I hope that all these people on the train even have tickets!!
So, we easily found our reserved seats and settled in for the 6 hour ride to Munich.

We sat across from each other, and conveniently had power outlets for the phones.

The ride was gorgeous.  In Italy, we passed a lot (LOT) of vineyards and apple orchards, as well as cute little towns.  The terrain progressed from vineyards with hills in the background, to vineyards with mountains in the background, to hilly towns with big mountains in the background to simply BIG mountains ....  the Alps.

The view near the border of Italy and Austria.

A quaint Austrian town.

The Alps with snow.

The train ride was scenic, and a nice change of pace from all the flying we've done lately.  However, once we got to Northern Italy, a large group of people came onto the train, including a large group (maybe 60-65) of migrants.  They were all young men, I'm not sure where they were from, but they were speaking an Arabic-sounding language and were pretty dark-skinned.  And they smelled bad. 

They boarded the train and spread out through the train, taking any empty seats, and Chris's seat next to him was empty.  So one man sat there.  On occasion, the men would group around each other and talk in low voices.

Beginning when we crossed into Austria, the border patrol came through our train car 3 times checking passports and asking questions.  These men had no passport or other ID, only train tickets.  The Austrian border patrol asked these men about ID, but once they found out they didn't have any, they moved on.  I suppose that as long as they weren't getting off the train, they didn't have a problem.

At the very first German station, armed German polizei came through the train cars and thoroughly searched passports.  They asked us why we had no European stamps (we had been herded through Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport and never were stamped), and inquired why we were going to Germany.  All these young males, though, began whispering just before the polizei came through, and left their seats and moved to the front of the train.  We were delayed at that first German train station about 10 minutes, as they escorted all those without passport off the train and load them en masse onto large busses.  We saw one man detained on the ground, with a knee in his back as we pulled away from the station.

Now those are all the facts.  Personally, I felt somewhat endangered and unsettled.  I'm not sure Chris did, but really.  There was NO security.  Anyone could bring on an UZI and no one would know until he started shooting.  This happened in Paris a month ago!  We felt so uneasy, Chris had me stay with our luggage while he went up to the food car to get us dinner.  These men had nothing.  Some carried a small backpack, many had the same one, so they had been given them at some point in their trip.  They had no ID, we don't know who they are, what watchlist they're on...nothing.  Bottom line: I didn't feel overly safe, and while I'm glad we experienced the train ride, next time I'll fly.

We arrived into Munich East (Ostbahnoff) at about 8:20pm.  Our hotel: Marriott Residence Inn was about 3 blocks away from the station.  We walked there, checked in, settled and relaxed...excited to see some of Munich tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. I agree with yummy limoncello! And I would not have wanted to be on that train either! Creepy!