Train Review: Berlin Night Express, Berlin – Malmö
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Despite multiple flights between Berlin and Copenhagen daily, several of them cheap as chips (on both low cost airlines, such as Easyjet) and on Air Berlin and SAS Scandinavian Airlines, the trusty Berlin Night Express runs every night from Berlin to Malmö (and back), crossing the Baltic Sea by ferry. To be fair, not all travellers (at all) are taking this train with the aim of going to either Copenhagen or Malmö: instead, they continue from Malmö on Swedish Railways’ (SJ) good, and fast, network to other Swedish destinations, including to Stockholm and Gothenburg.
The train departs Berlin at 2231, arriving Malmö the following morning at 0801.
Always just loving to travel by train, RASK honestly wished that this journey had been much more comfortable than it actually was…Read on for RASK’s honest review of the Berlin Night Express.
The new-ish Berlin Central Station is a destination in its own right; Europe’s largest – and also one of the most comfortable and fascinating, the “Hauptbahnhof” is a veritable “transport city” full of shops, travellers, commuters, homeless people, offices – and trains.
Trains seem to criss cross the terminal on all sorts of levels (literally) – with a number of tracks buried deep in the bowels of the station, and others running “up in the light” under the canopy of thousands of glass squares.
I arrived to the station about an hour prior to departure – but I really hadn’t needed to, as the train only trundled into the platform shortly before departure (by shortly, I mean ten minutes before). I bought some snacks in a small supermarket and decided to board the train.
Upon boarding, I was immediately struck by two impressions: it was very hot and very cramped. I’d decided on the train last minute, and only a couchette (rather than a sleeping car) was available – and these couchette cars have six beds in each compartment; not particularly luxurious or private.
However, while the passageways were narrow, the compartment was not nearly as bad. It was small, but well laid out; on each neat and clean bed, linen and a plump pillow had been placed – everything very clean and actually rather inviting. On the small table (shared by all passengers) were multiple Tetra Paks of drinking water as well as some papers to be filled out (to be handed to immigration by the train staff so as to avoid waking us up in the middle of the night).
I stored my bag on the baggage rack high up, right under the ceiling, and laid down on my bed. The compartment soon filled with other travellers – some more chatty than others; I much enjoyed my long chat with a Swedish journalist, in the other lower bunk, across from mine.
With typical Teutonic efficiency, the train soon trundled into the tunnel at the end of the platform, only to appear on plain ground once somewhere in Berlin’s suburbs. As it was very warm, we kept the window open. Soon, the train speeded up and the landscape passed by quickly outside.
A very friendly conductor came to check tickets; he was typically Scandinavian – very informal and friendly; and even though my ticket apparently was not valid (I’d printed off a wrong ticket!), he trusted that I was not just a blind passenger. Very nice indeed.
By 2330 I was ready to call it a night, and tried to get to sleep under my sheets. Alas, the heat was quite unbearable – and although I was very tired, it was almost impossible to get comfortable.
Things, however, got much worse once we got on the ferry at Sassnitz; although we made it onto the ferry without any of us (I guess…) barely noticing, the heat was just way too much to handle. There is no airconditioning – and on a hot deck on a ferry, in a compartment with five other passengers, it was downright uncomfortable. It was only due to my exhaustion that I managed to fall asleep.
In the wee hours of the morning, the train got off the ferry (in Trelleborg) and rolled towards Malmö – and in order to make transfers “nicer”, the train stops right outside Malmö for an hour or two so that the arrival of the train to Malmö fits with other trains’ departures. Oh, how I’d wished that we could just get to Malmö already!
When we finally started rolling again, the conductor announced a timely arrival to Malmö Central Station 15 minutes later. When the train pulled into the platform, I said goodbye to my new Swedish friend, stayed in the couchette until everybody else had disembarked, and got dressed. I was very tired! A quick and easy train change at Malmö C and I was in Copenhagen half an hour later.
I’d usually really try to go by train rather than plane – and Berlin Night Express could have been a much more comfortable journey had I 1) done the journey in the dead of winter (so that the air conditioning issues wouldn’t be a problem and 2) upgraded to a sleeping car. I will ensure that I do both next time! While I was very happy to make a new friend, the quality of this train experience does not warrant the price (compared to flying). The couchette arrangement will unfortunately not be a RASK recommendation.
- BEDDING CONFIGURATION 6 beds to a compartment
- HIGHLIGHT: Being able to sleep my way between two of Europe’s most exciting cities (Berlin and Copenhagen, that is…)
- LOWLIGHT The lack of airconditioning; inexcusable if you ask me…
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