Train Review: City Night Line Night Train Berlin – Zurich
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
There is hardly a more relaxing and enjoyable way to travel than by train – and a journey on a night train is possibly the most delightful way to make the most of your holiday time: depart one amazing city centre in the evening and arrive to another in the morning.
Deutsche Bahn, German Railways, operates a number of so-called City Night Line trains on routes between several European countries. Among the routes are Amsterdam – Zurich, Cologne – Copenhagen and Paris – Berlin. We travelled on the City Night Line from Berlin to Zurich. Read on for our honest review of this journey.
City Night Line trains depart Berlin 2214 and arrive Zurich the following morning at 0917. All City Night Line trains depart Berlin’s imposing new railway station (the largest in Europe), so if you arrive early, there’ll be plenty of shops and activities to keep you amused while you wait.
Arriving to the station with little time to spare, we immediately made our way to the platform where the train was waiting. At the train door, tickets were checked by a friendly male conductor and we were directed to our compartment, a standard double.
The train appeared very well kept from the inside; there was barely a scratch or dent in the wall panels – and I was positively surprised when we entered the spotless compartment. As expected, it was very small – but space had been used ingeniously. There were two bunk beds – these convert to seats during the day, but as the train’s departure was so relatively late, the beds were already folded down and made up.
Behind the door, a washbasin and mirror were to be found and luggage racks made it possible to stow away the luggage without using valuable floor space.
The best feature, however, was the skylight above the top bunk – this made it possible to lie in the bed and look straight into the night sky.
With typical Teutonic efficiency, the train started rolling bang on time. Berlin’s suburbs were soon passing by outside and, as it was pouring rain, rain drops and the city’s lights coloured the windows. It felt so much better lying in a nicely made bed than standing in a check-in queue at Tegel airport!
The conductor knocked on our door to check tickets and to take our passports; this is a formality which ensures that passengers are not unnecessarily woken up at the border with Switzerland. The conductor also explained that toilet and a shower room were located at the end of the carriage. I went to check the shower out, and it was of a decent size and very clean. The door opens using a plastic card. The shower room was stocked with shower gel and plenty of hot water. Towels were also available – in addition to the towels placed in the compartment.
As it was getting quite late, we decided just to go to bed – and I luckily got the top bunk.
To this day, lying in that bed and looking into the dark blue winter sky remains one of my best travel memories. The sheets in the standard sleeper are of a much better quality than in a couchette – and they smelled fresh. The pillow was also very comfortable. During the night, I woke up a few times and looked out the window to see small German villages passing in the dark. Romantic and comfortable at the same time – fabulous!
With a knock on the door, we woke up to the conductor serving a small breakfast tray. We had passed the border to Switzerland, so the conductor served us our passports along with a small, but perfectly adequate, continental breakfast (with a croissant, juice, paté and a roll). He happily served coffee and let us know that we’d arrive on time to Zurich.
Less than an hour later, the train pulled into Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof. Well rested and with none of the stress of a plane journey, we’d made it from city centre to city centre both cheaper and with a much higher level of comfort than on a plane.
Travelling by night train is just wonderful, and this journey is possibly the best train journey I’ve ever had. There were limited facilities onboard the train (there was no bistro car, for example), but this didn’t really matter too much because of the late departure time.
The train itself was clean, quiet and efficient (how German!) and the compartment felt much nicer than I’d hoped (despite being called “Economy” by Deutsche Bahn) – although be prepared for cramped conditions. The beds were very comfortable and, possibly more than most night trains, the City Night Line feels like a hotel on wheels. However, comfortable or not, the ability lie in your bed and watch the passing scenery and the stars was just priceless. RASK will certainly seek out other City Night Line train journeys in the future.
- SEAT CONFIGURATION 2 bunk beds
- HIGHLIGHT: Lying in my bed watching the stars
- LOWLIGHT The lack of a dining car
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