At Munich’s Ostbahnhof train station, you’ll be greeted by the smells of Leverkase meatloaf and other Bavarian delicacies. Happily, the night train to Zagreb is already waiting at platform 12 for him, ready to depart. The conductor of the Croatian railway company HZPP, in a mixture of German, Croatian and English, showed us to the sleeping car. After a while, the train begins to move southeast.
Having a beer with other passengers in the aisle quickly develops conversations about previous night train trips and upcoming destinations. On an airplane, this is a rare experience. At most, it would be a small exchange with the person sitting next to me.
The adventure begins: DW reporter Lisa Stüve in front of the night train to Zagreb
On night trains, the journey is part of the travel experience
Conversations during the journey make it clear again and again that it is this different way of traveling that makes night trains so special. Sara, a 37-year-old from Belgium, whom I met while traveling, told me that she likes that night trains take a long time to get to her destination, and that she can feel the distance of the journey.
Sarah isn’t the only one enjoying the leisurely journey. At present, night trains are not a mass phenomenon and there is still a lack of attractive routes and offers both domestically and internationally, but the idea of taking a train in the evening and getting off the next day is a great way to rest and stress. It is experiencing a Free Renaissance and is gaining more and more fans. Matthias Gastel, railway policy spokesman for the German Green Party, envisions a Europe-wide night train network that would largely eliminate intra-European flights.
Ivana Cubelic, Head of Corporate Communications at Croatian Railway Company HZPP, said: After two years of lockdown, people are hoping to catch up on travel, according to the German Travel Association. Awareness is also growing.
Inconvenient to travel at night when crowded
We meet a family from Berlin heading to Albania. Parents Bianca and Thomas tell us that at the breakfast table there was a heated debate about the pros and cons of travel in the age of climate change. He was a member of the “Fridays for Future” movement that he started, and advocated traveling by train.
Ismail from Amsterdam, who has been traveling since 8am, explains his decision to take a night train: If you want to travel with them, you have to comply. ”
Expansion of the rail network
My plan is to board in Munich in the evening and disembark in Zagreb in the morning. From there, take a bus to the Adriatic coast of Croatia. The distance from Munich to Zagreb is just under 550 kilometers (342 miles). A one-way ticket from Munich to Zagreb costs €80 ($80). For simplicity, I booked the ticket directly from the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). Wid and Johannes, travel buddies from Weimar, complain that they have to be very skilled to book tickets. They say many people are frustrated with the complicated booking system and give up and use cars.
The European night train network is set to expand and expand over the next few years, as will compatibility with international bookings. German rail operator Deutsche Bahn works with European partners and participates, although it does not have its own wagons. Over the next few years, 13 more major European cities will be accessible by night trains. The Berlin-Brussels and Berlin-Paris routes are scheduled to start in December 2023.
The railway continues to expand its network as night trains become more popular
climate friendly alternative
Passengers agree that demand will continue to grow for night trains to Zagreb. Alex, from Bonn, who is traveling to Slovenia with friends on a hiking holiday, says Deutsche Bahn needs to do its homework, better advertise its services and promote night trains as a viable alternative to flying. increase.
Ecologically, the advantages of traveling by train are clear. If the route from Munich to Zagreb is covered by rail, about 20 kilograms of CO2 will be generated per passenger. According to the online calculator EcoPassenger, it’s 130 kilograms by plane. But as we all know, people don’t choose to travel for ecological reasons alone. Despite various climate debates, air travel between major European cities is often cheaper than traveling by night train. After all, air travel is subsidized, and the kerosene tax and his VAT are abolished on cross-border flights.
Not very luxurious but nice to wake up to: breakfast on the night train to Zagreb
travel is part of the adventure
It’s not just your carbon footprint that is significantly reduced by traveling by train. Also, night trains offer a more comfortable and pleasant travel experience than flights.
On the way to Zagreb, I was lucky enough to have a six-passenger compartment all to myself. After two weeks, when the carriage is full, the sleep experience proves to be less than romantic and comfortable. .
Looking out the window on the way to Zagreb early in the morning, you will see picturesque meadows surrounded by impressive mountains. Breakfast is basic with croissants and black coffee. It removes the last fatigue from my limbs.Arrive in Zagreb a little before 9am
My destination is the Adriatic coast of Croatia. The trip was an adventure in itself.
Walking from the main train station to the nearby bus station, the city seems deserted this Sunday morning. For the final leg of your trip, take a bus to the coastal town of Zadar. After another 3 hours, you’ll be rewarded for a journey of around 17 hours by diving into the crystal clear waters of Croatia’s Adriatic Sea.
This article was originally written in German.