Friday, September 11, 2015

Day 29: Travel by Train

Over breakfast, Chris and I did some last minute planning for the weekend. We decided I would skip our morning walk together (a first!) so I could help the kids get ready.

Surprise! We're going to Prague!

There are performers on
the Bahns who play for tips.
This guy and his buddy played
"Oh When the Saints, Go
Marching In". We tipped.
We didn't know, until two days ago. We had been going back and forth on where to go. We had originally thought about Prague. But then we heard (from Chris' coworkers) that it was a very crowded place. We began to think about other places (Copenhagen, Kraków)? But then another conversation with Chris' coworkers uncovered that no, it's not overly crowded in Prague... and by the way, HotelTonight can get us a deal on a family suite in Prague. So, Prague it is!

Chris packed early this morning and left for work with just his backpack. I helped the kids pack. I packed. Then, the kids and I took our backpacks and the two rolling suitcases onto the M tram (and of course, we just missed one, so had to wait another 9 minutes... always stressful when on a tight schedule) then to the S7 Bahn to meet Chris at Hauptbahnhoff (Berlin's main train station).

Side Note: Hauptbahnhof train station is impressive. We had transferred here before, but never had we explored it's depths. The upper-level, where we arrived on the S-Bahn, is covered with beautiful glass windows all around, creating a sparkling, bright atmosphere. This is two levels above ground. The EC 176 train (Euro-rail) platform is located two floors below ground! Chris, having arrived earlier than we did (he didn't miss his train), found and texted the correct platform for us. So, we went down many escalators watching stores, markets, and restaurants go by (at least two Starbucks and two McDonalds). We had no idea it was this big!

Hauptbahnhof (looks like it's smiling... due to distortion of the panoramic photo)

Everyone was excited to travel by train. The kids had never traveled by train. I hadn't done so since... 1988? Train tickets were so cheap, we decided to travel "first class".  €80 per person (round trip!) for first class. Yay! So, yes, please! Our train had the engine car, about 5 regular cars, a food car, and then 1 first class car. We heard that it doesn't ever get full.

Chris figured out that the trains have a "2" on the side if it's "regular" and a "1" if it's first class. He found a digital picture of all the cars and how they were situated so you could know where your car would be. But we just looked at the train as it arrived for the car with the "1" on it. We then figured out the fact that some were reserved (we didn't see this option, next time, we'll try for this). There is a card holder above each section of seats, if there was a card with a name, it was reserved, so we had to search for four seats without reservations. And we found a "Family" set of four together (one set facing forward, one set facing backward with a shared table in the middle). Perfect! And bonus, no security when traveling by train! Take all the 4+ oz liquids you want! Scissors, nail clippers, yes! And no extra luggage cost, just whatever you can hoist above you!

Our car was the last car, which means you can take photos out the back
window when visiting the bathroom (left and middle)
Beautiful countryside speeding by (right)

The ticket-taker (what are they called?) came by after our first stop (the first stop was only 3 km away, so a super short trip) to check our tickets. We joked, if we're on the wrong train, do they just throw you out the window? Well, we don't have to find out, our tickets are good. Phew.

One must entertain oneself during a 4+ hour train ride. Venice read her book (start to finish) but refused to
be photographed reading (it's a sacred time, she says). Well, we snuck a few anyway.

Here's something I never would have thought about traveling by train... it's SUPER quiet. Not like an airplane where you have to turn your headphones all the way up or talk loudly in your neighbour's ear to be heard. No, it's so quiet, you can hear the man in the back snoring. And the mom with her toddler? You can hear her whispering answers to his EVERY question. I don't say this to complain about other people's noises, I really say this because I was so flabbergasted by how quiet it was. And it was a smooth ride too. The seats were comfortable. We all felt super comfy! What a nice way to travel! Of course, I have no idea how it was for the "others" not traveling first class.

Chilling in our seats (left). Taking photos out all the windows (right).

Oh, the BEST thing for the kids? No seat belts! They were super excited about this and were so happy to be able to sit however they wanted to. They also liked that they could get up whenever they wanted to (you can stand while the train stops, starts, heck, you can be in the bathroom while the train is going and stopping). They (mostly Xander) seat-hopped to get the best view when ever he wanted to.

Over 4 hours later, we arrived at our stop in Prague. We got off the train (that was the easy part) and then proceeded to figure out where to go. As we walked through Prague's main station (also large, but it didn't seem as large as Hauptbahnhf), Chris got out Czech korunas (not an easy conversion rate, at least not for me, at 23-ish czk to $1). Next task, to find a taxi. It was kind of hard to find where to go (and yet not hard, there were signs, it just seemed to point us to a darkened-underpass, which seemed creepy).

The main train station in Prague is also beautiful.

A taxi driver approached us as we came out of the station. Asked Chris where we were going. Talked to the driver "in front" and said to us the price. I did a conversion, and I thought it would be about $100. Well, we've paid $80 for our boat-taxi in Venice and $75 in Berlin to get to/from the airport, so I didn't balk at the $100. I thought it was a lot, but figured we had little other choice if we wanted to get to our hotel quickly. And we did get there quickly, in about 10 min. I thought that was the most expensive taxi, but turns out, I did the conversion backwards. It was more like a $12 ride (I had the conversion backwards and I heard the price wrong)... so now I'm thinking, "Damn, that was cheap (or at least correctly priced)!"

Our hotel room is amazing. It has an anterior room with the coffee, small couch and some closets. Then into a room with two twin beds, a chair, a table, and another couch. Then into our "master" room with a king bed, and the bathroom. They even left us macaroons and a bottle of champagne to welcome us! We're not sure why it was there for us... does everyone get one? Or did they know it was us (and by us, I mean Chris from HotelTonight?) Either way, what a nice welcome!

Xander in the lobby (left) and our "treats" waiting for us in our room (right)

The bad news is that our phones may be in trouble again. AT&T sent messages of overage. Chris did an online chat to figure out what's going on. Our plan ends in two days, so we're not sure why I'm getting messages that indicate I am not on the international plan. Turns out, I am, but it's just a warning. So Chris asks them to up the limit before sending a warning alert. And, he renews our plans so that there will be no gap in service. Should be all fine (foreshadow alert).

Where does one go for dinner their first night in Prague? An Argentinian restaurant, of course! It was in short walking distance and reported to have good food (so says our hotel staff). It was delicious. I think, a first meal in a long time, where I left in "pain" from eating too much. Yum.

Everyone gets an iPad to view the digital menu! (left) and We like the Coke bottles here (right)
We later came to find that it's not "Share a Coke with..." like in America, instead it's, "Kiss...."
and the "name" on this bottle isn't a name, but just "guy". So, Kiss a guy. Hmm, ok.

Off to bed with happy tummies!

P.S. We're rich!
In reality, less than $150.

1 comment:

  1. The train travel sounds wonderful. Such a great way to go.