Friday, 21 August 2015

Night Train To Munich.

Monday night last, lying on a rod hard surface in the dark, being rolled from side to side, asking myself: just how many times have I heard of a chain of train carriages leaving the rails? 

Hardly any at all, it’s highly unlikely. Still, it feels at this moment with the scream of metal on metal reverberating through my every sinew, and the alarming manner in which the train appears to be alternately lifting from its track on every hairpin bend, like a speed skater taking a curve, that it’s very likely. And this is a holiday remember. A HOLIDAY. How did I get here?

Rewind to a villa in Portugal last August, a discussion at breakfast. I’m asking Middle One what he’d like to do next year. I have a habit of doing this: spending the whole of the current annual summer holiday thinking about what the next one might be. I’m assuming Eldest won’t be coming with us next year, at his great age he’ll probably be backpacking around south-east Asia or something. And I’m thinking that two weeks in a villa without his older brother will be boring for Middle One and for Youngest, and a bit sad, for all of us.

“I’d like to see some some cities for a change,” says Middle One, "European cities."

Cities. Right.

“By train!” says Husband.

What is it with men and trains?

Cities by train. Okay. Mmm.

We’ve done trains with the boys before, twice. We put the car on the train and slept in a couchette going from The Netherlands to Croatia, disembarking at Trieste and driving through Slovenia. And then the next year we drove to Germany and put the car on the train from Dusseldorf to Livorno, on our way to Tuscany. It was exciting, and no more expensive than flying and hiring a car, and handy to be able to load up the car at home with everything we needed, and totally exhausting.

Imagine a family of five. Two of them adults who are no longer speaking other due to the enormous stress of travelling with three rowdy boys. Three of them, three rowdy boys who have been cooped up the back of a car all day. Throw in several bags of luggage and snacks. Put them together in a small, hot, noisy, metal cupboard overnight, one that is hurtling through the night as it sways from side to side… 


“Okaaay,” I say, “which cities?”

Middle One has a list: Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna or Salzburg, somewhere in Germany and Venice, which we saw briefly once on our way skiing but due to a cock-up involving British Airways, for far more briefly than we intended.

“Railbookers,” says Husband. “They’re fantastic. Talk to them, they’ll sort it.”

And so I did, and they did. They planned and booked the entire itinerary, all the rail tickets plus the hotels. And by the way it’s a given in our family that I organise the annual summer holiday and the rest of them just sit back and judge, giving the accommodation marks out of ten on arrival as I stand at the threshold trembling, like I’ve just sat some sort of exam. 

“Ok,” I say, “But only on condition we flop at the end for a week somewhere for a proper holiday, in a house, with a washing machine.” 

And I knew just the place.

Looking at a map of Europe, I decided that Paris would be too much, ditto Salzburg, they would have to be left for another time. And so it was to be Amsterdam for three nights, overnight on the train to Munich, stay there for two nights, through the Alps to Venice for a further two, eight days travelling in all. Then to a house in Italy where we’ve stayed before, which is my favourite place in the whole entire world and where we are now as I write this, as it happens.

So, to answer my own question, this is how I come to be on a train bunk in the middle of the night somewhere between Amsterdam and Munich, with my husband in the berth opposite and two of my sons on the berths above, being rolled from side to side like one of those hapless ball bearings in a game where you have to slot them into the holes.

I decide to give up on sleep. It will be easier not to try. What’s one night without sleep? I did it all the time in my youth. (Actually I didn’t, I was the one who always sloped off at parties reasoning that there isn’t a nocturnal inebriated/high discussion on earth about that bitch Maggie Thatcher that can compare with the unalloyed joy of slipping between clean sheet and duvet.) 

And that was when it happened, that was when the night train to Munich took an unexpected turn for the worst and a spray of vomit rained down on me from the heavens. Middle One was bringing up his lunch from over the edge of the top bunk.

Love E x

P.S. I called this Night Train to Munich because it sounds a bit like the song Night Train to Memphis, and then I discovered it's also a film.

Here's a view from the house, 2000 feet above sea level…

And did you know, a kilo of delicious home made takeaway ice-cream from our local bar - all different flavours - is only 13 Euros!



  1. Oh, I'm so enjoying your posts and this one has me travelling back in time to when I was 12 and being allowed to go to Austria by train on an exchange holiday. Way back then when parents had no qualms about sending their offspring to far flung places to stay with unvetted strangers and travelling escorted by heaven knows who. So I found myself on the night train to Munich sharing a compartment with a couple of giggly teenage girls and not a responsible adult in sight. What fun we had staying awake all night munching on giant Toblerone bars bought on the ferry and being ever so slightly scared at the border. Those policemen had guns... crikey! Happy memories. Eight years later travelling alone and looking a bit lost at Munich railway station I accepted a walking tour of the city by a very nice young man who started talking to me. Thankfully he was a brilliant guide, took me to the science museum and made sure I got on my connecting train. Now of course I look back in horror..what on earth was I thinking!
    Enjoy your washing machine and rail rocking free nights!

  2. Blimey. Child-rearing is so different these days, isn't it? Sending a 12 year-old girl on a night train to Austria? By herself? It would never happen now. Sounds great though. Thank you for your comments and for continuing to sign in and read my scribbling. I checked yours out by the way, love the focaccia! Home now. Oh to be back in wonderful Italy again! E x