This train ride features Eurocity, Intercity and Regional trains
By Don Heimburger
Photos by the author
My travel plans had taken me to Prague, and I wanted to visit the medieval town of Goslar, Germany near the Harz Mountains. I had time to get there, and opted for a seven hour train ride so I could relax, unwind and see the scenery. Besides, trains are magic, and it’s much more fun to see the countryside from a train than it is from 30,000 feet up in the clouds.
Leaving my Prague hotel early morning, I take a short tram ride to a subway, and 15 minutes later walk up into the light of day where Prague’s Holesovice train station awaits me.
My particular concern is that I can’t read a word of Czech: Nada. Rien. Nichts.
FINDING MY TRAIN
Waiting in line at the station to check the status of seating on my Eurocity train leaving at 6:40 a.m.—that’s correct a.m.—a man darts in front of me. I can’t even say “excuse me” in Czech. And I can’t get much information that I can understand from the railway clerk, who sends me to another office down the corridor.
Prague train platform
But I eventually learn that EC 178 (Eurocity) to Berlin is on time, that I likely won’t need a reservation in addition to my first class ticket, and that I’ll need to wait a few more minutes before I go out onto the platform. Once I make it to the platform, people stream out a few minutes before the train is due in, and once the train is stopped, they all board relatively fast. You have to in Europe, or the train leaves without you.
I noted that the departure/arrival screen in the station–-not a large board like in most major European cities–was very small, and that there wasn’t room for more than several train listings at a time; perhaps not many intercity trains come and go from Prague.
The car I sit in features good, comfortable seats–there are two first class cars, and I’m next to the on-board restaurant car. At my first class seat, tables fold down from the seat in front (like on an airplane), the chairs are adjustable, the windows are large in width and height, there are foot rests, and there’s luggage space above the seat. I could cross my legs and not block traffic as I sat in the aisle seat.
As the train pushed through Prague and into the countryside, I could tell me were accelerating, and the engineer was using his electric locomotive to give us “the juice.” I suspect we were doing at least 100 mph at times.
When meal time came—enough of the menu was in English, with the help of some of the German I know—that I didn’t starve.
Restaurant on the train
There were plenty of beverages available from coffee, lattes and espresso, to tea, wine and beer. Or you could order a Pepsi Cola. Other foods available included croissants, cheeses, sandwiches, soups and a vegetarian plate.
Berlin train station
CHANGE IN BERLIN
At the new Berlin train station, I had 18 minutes to hoof it to track 13 from track 7 (on a different level of the station)…and the conductor told me and the schedule in my hand called for me to change levels in the station. From there I boarded an ICE train (Intercity Express) for Braunschweig, Germany and with a 26-minute wait there, I had plenty of time. From there a Regionalbahn train took me to Goslar, arriving at 2:08 p.m., right on time.
A big part of the trip is its predictability; you can nearly always count on Rail Europe trains to do what they say they’re going to do. And it’s fun riding, and watching the little towns, the historic castles and rivers fly by outside your window.
For more information and to get your ticket for an overseas train ride, go to www.raileurope.com.
Let the journey begin.