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CityNIghtLine: The Night Train
We are standing on the platform of Zurich Central Railway Station waiting for the CityNightLine train. All my life I liked trains: so reliable and powerful with their compartments of solid wood and polished brass. My imagination goes further - red plush..., silk curtains, but I hold myself back - it is not a vintage train like in Wild Wild West movie; it should be more contemporary nowadays.
The train is coming. They say it arrives at the platform twenty minutes before its departure, and here it is at 8:20pm ( our departure at 8:42 pm). The name of train is Pegasus, and it looks nice - navy blue with golden CityNightLine written on the carriages. Pegasus travels Zurich-Amsterdam-Amsterdam-Zurich. CityNightLine has eight more trains: Komet, Berliner, Semper, Pollux, Donau Kurier, Orion, Vega, Aurora which travel across the Europe (to check destinations and timetables you can go to their website).
So far so good - the train is on time; boarding is announced. Twenty minutes are not a lot of time, and we start walking along the platform in search of our deluxe sleeping car ( there are also economy sleeping, couchette and reclining seat cars on CityNightLine trains.) Here it is; but the door is locked, and there is nobody inside or around. We patiently wait, five minutes passes, ten... suddenly a man appears in the brightly illuminated window of the sleeping car - we are trying to attract his attention and at last we are in.
We go along an empty corridor - are we alone in the whole car? It seems that we are. At last our compartment - four steps up? We need to go four steps up to reach it? And the doors are not made of wood and brass but some light gray plastic? Yes, I would say Formica, like on cheap kitchen counter tops. Impatiently, we open the door - everything made of light gray plastic; no curtains either, instead vinyl blinders. Oh yes, so much for Orient Express.
The compartment is spacious enough (approximately 70 sq.ft.) with two windows and two panorama windows, small table and two chairs in a lounge area. On the right we have two beds one over another. On the left, there is a storage area and a restroom with a tiny shower. Clean towels, clean linen, relatively clean in the compartment itself, but so boring. The best thing about it all was down duvets on the beds that to some degree reconciled me with this hospital like environment.
The conductor welcomes us with two glasses of Prosecco ( as promised on the CityNightLine site ) and a small bottle of red wine; bottled water and glasses were already on the table. After Prosecco we begin exploration of our compartment. Everything is there: lights over the beds and the table, toilet is functioning, water is running; there are soap and even mouthwash (as promised). The only problem is that it is cold in the compartment. We start dialing thermostat but all our efforts to raise temperature fail. The conductor assures us that it will be too warm when the train starts moving. As we find later this promise never comes true. In several hours it becomes a little warmer but I have to spend the night with my nose under the comforter.
Prosecco, long day and freezing temperature make us look for a "bar - and lounge car" as CityNightLine calls it. On our way to it I notice that there are not only compartments with four steps up, but also ones with four steps down, and I am glad that the we are not in one of those.
Passing through several cars we reach the restaurant. Half of its space is used as a bar which we do not need. But all tables (five or six only)are already occupied. I ask for a sandwich. Meanwhile, we look around - again, light gray plastic with a little brass (at last!), white table cloths on the tables, waitresses are friendly and smiling. With this friendly smile one of them tells me twenty minutes later that she has forgotten about us when I remind about her promised five minute waiting for my order. It does not have sense to eat it in a "bar - and lounge car" and we move back. Everything has changed - it is Basil. The cars swarm with passengers. The train, as I understand, is very popular there.
We do not even think about taking a shower in this chilling environment - a shower which CityNightLine is so proud of. The idea of rubbing against cold plastic walls dismays us. Instead, we go to bed and spend more or less quiet night. No need for observation windows. There is nothing to observe; it is pitch dark, and all we want is to get some rest. So, twelve hours of our ten day vacations are lost.
In the morning we get an advertised "rich breakfast," a really good one: sandwiches with cheese, ham and salami, tee, coffee, marmalade, cookies. But we eat it with a feeling of disappointment and waste of time.
The train stops. Al last we are in Amsterdam. What a relief to pick up our luggage and leave the train. Oh, I forgot to mention, the ticket price for this deluxe double compartment is €219 per person (breakfast included).