Let's escape the unusually dreary Bucharest weather.. another night train adventure is waiting!
I've been on the Satu Mare night train as recently as last July. If you didn't follow along for the ride back then and are curious about this train, the scenery on the route and the sights of the cities of Carei & Satu Mare, check out the thread below.
And yesterday I took a long but beautiful train ride from Turin all the way down to Sicily. First on the high speed train to Milan, then on the night train to Sicily.. which goes on a ferry to cross the Strait of Messina!
Goodmorning from Torino Porta Nuova station! Today I will take two exciting train rides, so get ready for some cool train content and a lot of gorgeous Italian scenery from the window.
This terminus is Turin's main station. Interestingly, it's on a direct axis to the old Savoy Royal Palace just 15 minutes walking to the north. Turin's second main station is the more modern Porta Susa just a short distance away.
Just like all other main stations, Turin has a Freccia Club, basically a Trenitalia business lounge which can be accessed with certain Freccia loyalty cards or with an executive class ticket. Inside, you find free coffee, soft drinks, cookies and a quiet space to wait.
Goodmorning from Turin! It will be two busy days ahead as this city is so full of top class sights and museums that it's hard to cram in everything.
First stop: Palazzo Madama, with some fine surroundings, art and all kinds of religious objects and porcelain. If you visit at least 3 museums it's well worth it to buy a two day Turin card for free entry. Green pass is necessary to visit indoor spaces & they're strict about it.
From the top floor there are decent views over central Turin.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in lovely Prague, meeting up with old friends, exploring some Czech Art Nouveau beauty and making a fun day trip by train to Olomouc. Little thread!
The Hotel Central where I stayed is an Art Nouveau masterpiece designed by Friedrich Ohmann and built between 1899 and 1902.
There are still some stunning architectural details inside the hotel, although I'm not so sure about the modern glass seating platform in the old theatre hall (pic 4). The old Art Deco bar has been rebuilt as fitness centre as well.
Bucharest Airport on summer mornings is sheer madness. Huge queues at check-in almost everywhere, a long wait at security, and of course no fast track lane. Esp. when flying low costs like Wizz Air, or TAROM & other SkyTeam airlines, you are well advised to come 3 hours before.
Fortunately no queue at my check-in desk! Passport control is madness, but fortunately I know a shortcut. Bypass the queue on the right side, and you end up at automated e-gates which barely anyone uses! Time to relax now in the lounge with a coffee, tracking my incoming flight.
I'm on this Qatar Airways A320 to Sofia, a so-called 5th Freedom Flight (flight between two countries, neither of which is the airline’s home base). Normally I'd take the train, but as part of this trip is for work it's not convenient (would have meant leaving a day earlier!).
Bună ziua from the Dacia, the international train linking Bucharest with Vienna. It's not too crowded, air-con is working. Perfect train for another little domestic trip, as I will get off before we reach the Hungarian border.
After all these years living & travelling to/from 🇷🇴 I finally have the pleasure of a proper CFR @_DiningCar added to my train. Friendly service, fresh salad, filling mixed grill cooked in the kitchen. By no means haute cuisine but I approve! Bottle of white for €6 is nice too.
Great scenery, Boney M.'s 'Rasputin' playing on the dining wagon radio. The proper way to travel, really.
Bucharest Gara de Nord. Time for another train trip across the country!
I'm on the 6.45pm overnight train to Satu Mare in the north-west of Romania in a private sleeper. The train hasn't even departed yet and the starion board already shows a 15 minute delay - quite typical for CFR in the summer and I expect more delays on the long way north!
After a tiring work week, let's make a little day trip out of the city again. This time I'm on a little Transferoviar train to Slanic, which seems relatively empty compared to the packed trains going to the coast.
We have departed!
The first 50 minutes or so is the railway line to Ploieşti, the main south-north axis out of Bucharest on which I have travelled too many times for it being anyway near exciting. Let's just pretend It's Tuscany and my yuk Starbucks coffee is Italian, and it gets a bit better.
Of course, there is a lot of unfair competition (subsidised aeroplane fuel, high costs for rail) - and I'm sure part of it will be tackled by the EU with their 'new green deal'. A level playing field is important, and basic infrastructure is one of the most important gov tasks.
I just hope that it won't mean that this will remain the benchmark to which aviation is being brought back (with punitive taxes) while train travel remains expensive. One of the main EU benefits has been the ease of travel, breaking boundaries, making it affordable to all.
Just to show the scale of the massive #floods in western Europe, here you have the confluence of the rives Our and Sauer (which forms the 🇱🇺 🇩🇪 border). Left, the picturesque view in normal times. Right, a picture made by a family member just minutes ago..
The water level in the River Sauer (called Sûre in French) was 608.1cm at 11.30am. To put it into perspective, the vigilance level is 350cm and alert level is 425cm.
Elsewhere in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate the situation seems to be even worse. In Belgium it's also precarious - with even a city as large as Liège now being partially evacuated.
Time to fly again! Destination: Russia. Otopeni Airport is rather empty apart from some disappointed North Macedonia fans heading back to Skopje on a Wizz charter. Unfortunately no Air France for me today (une autre fois, ma chère compagnie aérienne) but a TAROM flight to start.
The current aviation crisis summed up in one picture. It seems like this airport cafe has been closed since the start of the pandemic with all that dust...
First flight: a short TAROM hop to Chisinau on an ATR 72-600.
After all the Croatian fun it's time to go home - by train. First up: the EC train to Vienna. To blend in better with the Balkan surroundings, the OeBB carriages even have quite some grafiti on them.
As the scenery during the first few hours is exactly the same as on the Graz-Zidani Most-Zagreb trains on the inbound, I won't post anything and just take a nap. Below is a thread what you can expect to see if you take this journey, in case you missed it.
The Slovene border guards are on it again at Dobova with thorough checks. They even kicked out my friendly Croatian compartment mate for not having a negative corona test - despite the fact that this is not needed for transit! Poor guy.. ~1 hour delay and counting.
Day 5 of the Croatia trip. After indulging in cevapi for dinner and bureks for breakfast it's time for some exercise. A bit of biking and swimming on the island of Čiovo it is for today!
Cycling the narrow roads of Čiovo..
Goal of the bike ride: this beautiful church on the cliffs above the water, which I would have completely missed out on if not for a great tip I got yesterday from a knowledgeable local. Absolutely stunning, peaceful location.
Day 4 of the trip and I'm off to Zagreb Airport for a rather unique flight. It seems it will be a gorgeous day for flying judged by this sunrise.
I will fly with Trade Air on a PSO route (Public Service Obligation, similar to the EAS - Essential Air Service - in the US). It's a government sponsored route linking smaller but vital places which would otherwise not be viable. But that's not what is unique about this flight..
What is special is the plane that is operating the flight, a Czech-made Let L-410 Turbolet. And the fact that I'm the only passenger on this flight!
Day 2, back at Warsaw Airport. The friendly people at my hotel (Four Points Sheraton Mokotow) were kind enough to make a breakfast bag w tasty sandwiches and even freshly made waffles as I checked out before breakfast service started. Coffee time now in the LOT lounge!
Bucharest Airport. Time for the next trip! 3 flights, 9 trains (of which 2 overnight) are to come in the following days. Passing through 8 countries in total -- if all goes according to plan that is as I'm testing corona entry/transit rules to the limit. Count me excited!
Frequent OTP flyers will be pleased to hear that e-passport gates are now installed and working for EU citizens! I for one was certainly happy to see this sudden improvement.
The #Embraer 175 which will fly me to Warsaw. These little planes (and LOT Polish Airlines in general) have grown on me in recent years. Comfy, spacious 2-2 seating, great customer service, great network across Europe. Not the most exciting airline, but amazingly reliable!
Fully agree. There's a reason why the French only banned a few flights to Paris Orly - and not those to Charles de Gaulle. Improve competition (and thus price) & point-to-point connections, which will automatically earn a huge rail share between city pairs (see Barcelona-Madrid!)
You may not win over all connecting pax - but you don't have to. Those travelling between 2 cities is already a good start & leads to less short-haul traffic. Curious to see how eg. Athens-Thessaloniki traffic will develop now rail is a viable alternative, as fast as the plane.
And frankly speaking, you'd be mad as a domestic passenger to opt for a flight here. Metro ticket to ATH airport €10 extra, check-in hassle, on arrival in Thessaloniki long bus ride in bad traffic to town, while city to city centre will be 3 hours by train! This is way to start.
What I hate most about flying during COVID: no online boarding pass w many airlines. Look at this queue for the @wizzair check-in desk running through the entire airport! Horrible experience, please bring back document checks at the gate where they should be.
This queue is like the old Tell Sell commercials: "But wait, there is more!" Utter chaos as well as the first Wizz flights (Paris, Charleroi) are about to depart and there are still people far out in the queue, w pax from later flights sneaking ahead.
Bizarrely enough, Wizz actually hired two security guards to watch over it all but it's still about the most unorderly queue I have ever seen, with dozens of sneaky queue jumpers creating chaos. And I've been to India..
Egypt, day 10. Back at Ramses station for the relatively short train ride to Alexandria. Why have breakfast in the hotel when you can have one with a view like this?!
The 8am express train to Alexandria is already at the platform 40 minutes before departure.
And the comfy first class carriage. Train is clearly in a better state than my previous one! Seats are comfy and in between the double windows you'll find adjustable blinds. The ticket in 1st class (AC1) is perfectly affordable at 130 Egyptian Pounds (7 Euro).
Egypt, day 9. Everyone knows the pyramids at Giza, w perhaps the Great Pyramid of Cheops the most famous. But did you know that there are dozens more in Egypt and Sudan? The Bent Pyramid (no points earned guessing why the name) for example is just an hour south of Giza. Gorgeous!
The Bent Pyramid is located at Dahshur. Here you can also find another whopper of a pyramid, called the 'Red Pyramid'. This 4th dynasty pyramid is 105 metres (344 ft) high and is built with reddish limestone stones - hence the name.
The step pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser at Sakkara is also worth a visit. Sakkara was the necropolis closest to the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.