Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On the Train to Prague

While living in LA, we yearned for the ease of travel within Europe that living here would afford. We took a trip to Italy from LA in 2011, and the flight alone cost us thousands. We hoped that life in Berlin would mean brief, inexpensive stays in historic places, planned with spontaneity and on short notice. So far we've had a few weekend getaways, and this coming spring we'll be heading to London and Rome, respectively. But on the spur of the moment, we decided to take a trip for Valentine's Day. Prague has a reputation for beauty and is just hours away from Berlin by train, so it was a perfect fit. We booked the train and an Airbnb flat, and a week later we were on our way!

The train to Prague left from the Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) in the center of Berlin. It's an immense station, larger than most we've seen and very modern in design and architecture. It feels a bit futuristic to walk around inside of the echoing structure, as it has multiple levels rising up from deep below ground to high in the air, with many escalators moving in all directions and the constant swooshing sound of both city and regional trains. We often go through this station as a part of our daily life, and we always tempt each other with the prospect of just jumping on a train to Budapest or Amsterdam. They're just right there! So it was another wish fulfilled to go down to the lower platforms where the regional lines arrive, and board a big red train early on a Saturday morning.

It's been gloomy in Berlin for the past few months, so sitting by the window with the morning sun breaking unexpectedly through the clouds and hitting our faces as we glided out of the city felt glorious. We sat across from each other in a six-seat cabin. Most of the 2nd-class cars were composed of these cabins rather than open seating. If, like us, you don't pay extra to reserve a seat, then you have to hunt a little for a cabin with open spots. Fortunately, there were a few on this train.

The countryside between Berlin and Dresden was mostly flat and agricultural, with little towns here and there, and a few abandoned old industrial buildings. After Dresden, we followed the Elbe River through beautiful scenery and dramatic cliffs, and soon passed into the Czech Republic. Without a map we could tell we crossed the border because the signs outside and the train conductor's announcements changed to Czech (though the conductor continued to speak in German and English as well).

We rolled into the Hlavní nádraží (main train station) in Praha (Prague) in the early afternoon, ready for our Valentine's weekend adventure!

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