Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Euro Train Dining Car

Or How to Avoid the Huddled Unwashed Masses in Style


Photo via Flickr by EURIST e.V.
I am one of those traveling fools who wants to have his seat and sit in it too.  But this is not so easy on the Euro trains.  Oh no. You need to book well in advance to get a good deal, then you need to reserve your seat.  Then they will assign you the wrong seat on the wrong train in a missing row of seats in a wagon that doesn't exist.  After they charge you extra, of course. Through the arguments with train conductors, conflicts with fellow passengers, standing in lines for refunds for botched seat assignments, I've learned one important lesson: skip the seat reservation.  Roll the dice.  You may as well, you get roulette-table odds on your seat reservations anyway. Best case scenario: there are empty seats on the train for you, for free. Worst case scenario: you don't buy the seat reservation, all seats are taken, and you get to sit in the dining car and spend that 10 bux on booze.

Your Seat or Your Cajones


I've made the train journey between Prague and Berlin at least 40 or 50 times for work (I'm a photographer, lucky me!) and no trip is ever the same.  On one crowded train, I had plunked my ass down in one of those ubiquitous Euro train compartments with the bench seats facing each other.  I didn't have a reservation on this particular trip, mainly because I was still bitter about how my last seat reservation had left me wandering the corridors aimlessly.  An older Spanish couple sat across from me, and from the get-go they were waving the arms and rolling the tongues.  I love Mediterranean types.  I gathered from my shitty high school Spanish and their body English (heh), that they were not sure of their seats.  The woman pointed to their tickets and their seats, and I understood that she was concerned about the reserved status of these particular seats.  I only heard the word 'cajones' and I completely reconstructed their entire conversation from the bottom up, as it were.

Photo via Flickr by fireboat895

"Husband, we are not in the right seats!

"Que?"

"If someone comes with a reservation, they will force us to leave!"

"They don't have the CAJONES!"

Enter: tall blond German man with square jaw and beady blue eyes, accompanied by a buxom blonde with Heidi braids, showing the couple his ticket for those exact seats.

"Entschuldigan sie, bitte, das is mein platz."

"QUE? CAJONES?"

The Spanish couple left. No cajones were shown or compared, but if you have the winds of the Blitzkrieg and the Holocaust in your sails, this will suffice. So getten sie fick aus mein sitz, bitte.


Roll the Dice: Skip the Reservation


I used to buy the seat reservation.  But after receiving reservations for a wagon that didn't exist, a row of seats that didn't exist, and/or seats that crushed my knees into garbage cans, I gave up on the scam. It's even worse when there's an empty fucking train. All of your reservation money went straight down the train toilet boghole onto the tracks.

Don't buy the damn reservation.  Just take a chance. Between Prague and Berlin, it's 5 EUR per seat, per person, each direction.  For that price, I'd rather pour that money down my gullet by way of booze in the dining car. Avoid the huddled masses. Pass the rolling bistro on wheels pushed by a person waiting to be put out of their misery, step over the 600 metric fucktons of luggage and sprawling hippie backpackers, pass the toilets, and you will see the light: the dining car.  The most romantic part of the train.  They've got those little globe lights on the tables by the windows—even in broad daylight.

Big Sir's Tip o' the Morning


Czech Railways offers dining car happy hours with nice discounts on food and drink.  There's a long list of the hours and train numbers of each train offering the discount, but this is confusing as fuck.  Rule of thumb: if you are on the train and inside the Czech borders, you get a discount.  Once you leave Czechia, the prices double.  So if you are leaving Prague on a morning train, you'll have to start drinking early to save money.  Even if you don't need to save money, drink booze from morning til night anyway, in or out of the dining car. You're on a Euro train.  This is not only totally acceptable, it is mandatory.
Photo via Flickr by miroslav.volek