Saturday, September 27, 2014

Overnight Train Travel Part 2 (1976 to 1996)

I returned to Europe in the (Australian) summer holidays of 1976-77.
After some time in London and visiting friends by train in Bradford and Oxford, I again caught the night train to Paris.  However the Aussie dollar had fallen and I had a mortgage so I sat up and alighted from the train at Dover, onto the ferry and back onto the train in Calais.

During the week In Paris I made day trips by train to Chartres and Normandy.  Then I travelled by day train to Toulouse and from there on day trips to Carcassonne and Perpignan then on to Avignon for Christmas Day and back to Paris.

After a day trip to the Loire Valley I travelled overnight in a couchette from Paris to Nice for New Year’s Eve.  New Year’s Day saw trips to Monaco by bus and Cannes by train and then I again took a couchette for an overnight trip to Rome.

Basing myself in Rome I took 2 long day return trips to Naples. On one day I toured Pompeii and the other day I climbed Mt Vesuvius. Most of the way on foot as I kept missing buses.

Leaving Rome, I travelled by train to Florence, took a day trip to Pisa and then on to Venice.

I had a memorable trip to Innsbruck. I caught the train from Venice to Verona and had reserved a seat on the express to Innsbruck. On arrival in Verona I found the express had been cancelled so was refunded my booking fee. I used this to buy some Morning tea, I had got rid of all my Italian lira. I boarded a slower train and the conductor said “Quo vadis?’ It was some of the small Italian I knew. I answered “Innsbruck” and he said “Non”
He took me along the corridor to a map, pointed at the Brenner Pass and said “Chuiso, neve” ‘Closed, snow’
He directed me to catch a branch line train up the mountain. I am unable to discover this line today. Perhaps it is closed. It may have been a rack railway. I only remember waiting at the top for about 3 hours for a train down the other side.  The snow was waist deep and I had no cash, only travellers cheques so was starving by the time I finally reached Innsbruck. How wonderful is the Euro for travel these days

I used day trains to travel to Vienna, back to Salzburg, on to Munich (yet again), Heidelberg and Frankfurt to connect with a flight home.

In 1979, late August/early September, I went to a conference in Melbourne and travelled both ways in a roomette on the Southern Aurora. So sad that it was discontinued a few years later. It was comfortable and the dining car provided a good dinner and breakfast.

In 1980 I again returned to Europe. After visiting a Greek Island, I travelled by train from Athens to Patras and boarded a ferry for 24 hours to Brindisi in Italy travelling on deck in a lounge chair. However I again took a couchette to travel by train to Milan.
This was followed by day trains to Lucerne then Geneva. However from Geneva I travelled in a couchette all the way through France to the Spanish border.
In those days an Australian needed a visa to enter Spain so it was necessary to alight and pass through customs at the border (possibly Perpignan) then I caught a local train to Tossa de Mar on the Costa Brava.  Searching today I find that while there are no overnight trains from Switzerland to Spain, there are also no border formalities. There are no trains now to Tossa de Mar but I may have transferred to a bus but I usually avoided that.

After 3 nights in Tossa de Mar I travelled to Barcelona about 2 hours away and after a night there I again was in a couchette to Madrid. I remember sharing with a Swiss family. Three nights later another train in a couchette took me to Paris. That was memorable because I shared with a Japanese man, a Frenchman and possibly a Spanish man. Any conversation involved the Japanese man speaking to me in English, I translated into French and that was translated into Spanish??  then reversed. 

The rest of my trips were in Day trains to Fribourg, across country to Munich then Oberammergau for my first attendance at the Passion Play then by bus on the Romantic Way as far as Rothenburg where I stayed the night then the next day caught local trains to Cologne. Then I went to Amsterdam and back through Brussels to Ostende for the ferry to Dover and train to London. I travelled north by train to stay with friends in Bradford. Back in London, I flew to New York. I caught a train to Boston but flew from there to San Francisco and home.

I did not leave Australia for the next 17 years. Summer holidays were also the bushfire period when I did not want to be too far from my house.  I was also busy paying off my mortgage and establishing a garden.

In May 1982, as mentioned earlier, I sampled the new XPT train with my mother to Orange and Dubbo.

In September 1984 I travelled to Coffs Harbour for a weekend conference and took a sleeper in the North Coast Mail and returned also in a sleeper in the North Coast Express. Neither train runs now. I again went to another weekend conference in Coffs Harbour in 1995 but went up in the Brisbane XPT sitting up and arriving about 1am.   I returned in the Grafton XPT on the Monday having obtained a day off work.

In October 1996 I went to Melbourne for the week and travelled on the XPT both ways. I did return in the Overnight Sydney-Melbourne XPT which does not compare with the Southern Aurora. It is necessary to share a compartment with a stranger and  meals are in take away boxes, best to have dinner before departure.

 In 1997 I returned to overseas travel, to North America

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