My First Overnight Train


I awoke and turned over to gaze out the window. The white sky flashed by and my breath was quickly stolen by mountains and dark evergreens wrapped in a morning fog.

I was in Austria after a overnight train from Florence. Fallen asleep in one country and woken up in another.

I had loaded onto the train in Italy, the first in my sleeper car of six. Although I had been a little premature in my arrival (an hour early in my nervousness), it was good to be first in the compartment as it quickly dissolved to chaos. As a single, female traveler I was in an all-female car. However the compartment was very small for six people and their international luggage. My bags wouldn't fit under my bed. The overhead racks required me to climb the ladder with my luggage and the staff were still checking tickets the door. So my small bag went under the bed--albeit halfway under--and my bigger bag behind the ladder. I took the folded sheets and blanket on my bed and made it.

Once I had stowed my stuff, the other passengers arrived. All at once they tried to situate themselves and their stuff. The train started moving before they got settled and soon bags were stacked behind the ladder and laying across the floor. I watched them struggle and jabber away in German and Korean from my bed, laying down. I was laying in bed already simply because there was no place for me to stand my bed was much to close to the above one to sit in.

After what seemed like ever, the other girls and women settled in. It was still relatively early so some talked or ate snacks. A staff member came around to collect our tickets and check on us. I made a trip tothe train bathroom, that was small, but relatively clean. Upon returning, one girl turned off the light, closed the door, and locked it.

Next came trying to fall asleep. I guess I thought I would be lulled to sleep by the rocking and repetitive shudder of the vehicle. I tossed on my bed (actually quite comfortable) kept up by the lights at every station, the sound of one girl's phone as she played some game, and the nervous thought that I was going to sleep among complete strangers. From what I could tell only one spoke English, and I felt like they could raid my bags or something while I was unconscious. I can say now that on a sleeper train, it is literally just mutual trust that keeps you with your possessions and your life. It's like everyone is hoping they aren't among a thief or serial killer, so no one has any time to steal or murder.

That is mostly an exaggeration, yet it was the train of thought that kept me awake for a few hours. Eventually, I nodded off and slept--until border patrol knocked at our door at six in the morning asking for passports. After being cleared we were all up and started to freshen up. (Note: this is when the line for the bathroom is fifteen minutes long.) Breakfast was included in the form of a surprising fresh kaiser roll with jam and coffee. Then I had an hour or two to pour over the details of my Workaway in Austria and watch the amazing landscape outside my little window.

As we got closer to the end of the line I packed my bags and pulled them into the hallway. The very kind staff came around to pull bags from overhead and rearrange the beds into seats. Finally, we came a stop and I set foot in Vienna, ready to board a regional train and get to a real bed.