A day on the train

Trip Start Sep 09, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hilton, Vienna Alstadt

Flag of Austria  , Vienna,
Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday, May 29th Train trip from Vienna Austria to Chur, Switzerland

Today we are traveling from Vienna, Austria to Chur, Switzerland. It is a journey that takes us the entire length of Austria.  You know, to me these countries look pretty small on a map of Europe, but let me tell you, when you are traveling by train from the northeastern most part to the southwestern most part, it is really far and takes a really long time. 

Last year we went from Brussels to Paris in no time flat.  It was about 400 kilometers, and it looked a similar distance between Vienna and Switzerland - well, maybe a little further - and that is what we used for our travel time guesstimate.   Soon we were to learn a very important lesson about the difference in TGV high speed trains and intercity trains going through the Alps.  One travels about 300 km per hour, the other about 30.  So, a 1 hour trip last year turned into a 9 hour trip this year!

We took a taxi to Westbahnhof to catch our train.  We left the hotel fairly early for we didn't know how traffic would be.  Fortunately it wasn't too bad and we got to the airport in about hour.  Judy wanted to mail some postcards, so we found the post office.  It wasn't too busy, so I mailed home some of the souvenirs I had collected. It was a couple of things I was able to remove from my backpack, so it was well worth it.  However, I am certain that everything else left in the backpack expanded to take up the newly vacated space.  I don't know how that works.  One of those mysteries of life - I take things out and it is just as full and weighs even more!

We already had our seat reservations so after our mailing chores were complete, we just needed to find our platform and wait. Fortunately, the wait wasn't long for the train was already there and we could go ahead and board since this was the origination of the train.  We had window seats in a compartment in first class, just like Harry Potter has in the movies.  We were all excited and hoped no one else would join us and we could pretend we had a private stateroom.  No such luck, one lady joined us in Vienna.  Well, that was ok; we figured she could join us.  However, at the next stop nearly one thousand - or more - people got on the train.  This train was going to Salzburg then Innsbruck, so it is a popular one.  It also continues on to Zurich.  So, we had three more people move into our compartment. 

We encountered some delays early on.  One delay occurred for seemingly no apparent reason.  The other was because someone was ill and an ambulance had to be summoned to take them to a hospital. So, both delays put us more than one hour behind schedule.  It would normally be no concern, but we had to connect to a Swiss train in Sargans Switzerland to continue our journey to Chur.  I think Judy was a bit more concerned about this than I was.  I felt fairly confident there would be other connecting trains for us.  If not, I have an American express card and a passport so all will be fine!

After Innsbruck the train cleared out.  We once again pretend we were rich and famous and had a private stateroom.  We had been traveling since 9:30 am and it was now 3:00 pm.  Looking on the map showed us we were just 2/3 through our journey.  By the time we decided to use the dining car, it was filled, so back to our seats.  We got to Sargans over an hour late, but there was a train to Chur every 15 minutes, so we had no problem at all!

The terrain got much more mountainous, no surprise there.  We were heading further into the Austrian Alps.  No snow on the mountains, but the train route was less straight and we were going even slower, which I was finding difficult to believe.  It was really beautify though.  Even though it was after 6:00, it was still broad daylight.  Apparently it stays light really late because it takes so long to travel in this region.  I am sure that is not the case, but it seems good.  It actually stays light to just before 10:00 and gets light around 5:00 am. 

Needless to say, when we got to Chur we were dragging a bit.  It was 7:00 pm.  We made reservations at a hotel solely on the proximity to the bahnhof.  After a day on the train we didn't want to walk far.  So, we get off the train and survey the situation.  We need to make reservations on the Glacier Express and find our hotel.   We think we can do two things at once.   Ask the ticket agent where our hotel was while getting the tickets. 

We got some of the last seats on the train, which really surprised us.  I guess the only thing that matters is that we had seats.  Most people start the Glacier Express in St. Moritz which is the starting point of the trip.  That would have added about 3 more hours travel time, so we picked it up along the way in Chur.  That is why there was close to a problem with seat availability.  Everyone else was already on board.

Anyway, it turned out our hotel was only about a football field length away from the train stations.  Yippie!!!!  We checked into the hotel fine.  It was cute and the service great.  The only small issue was the elevator.  There was only room for a person or a suitcase, but not both.  Well, not comfortably anyway.  So, we took turns - well everyone did.  I went up first and found the room.  Judy followed close behind.  The room was great - really huge not only by European standards, but by American as well.  Usually the hotels don't have much space, but this one even had a sitting area with a couch and 3 chairs!

Speaking of small hotels, the tiniest one I have stayed at was an Intercontinental in Zurich.  Now, the Intercontinental is the high end of Holiday Inn.  When I arrived there it looked great.  The lobby was all marble and brass and crystal chandeliers.  It was very nice.  There was a very nicely dressed staff, very professional.  The elevators were of normal size and all seemed very grand indeed.  Then, when the door to the elevator opens, you get out, and the door slams shut you have ventured into the twilight zone or alternate universe!  The hallway was dark, except for the neon room number signs!  It looked like the red light district in Amsterdam.  We walked down the hallway to the room, opened the door and immediately thought we had opened the housekeeping closet. 

This room was the smallest hotel room I have ever seen.  It contained two small twin beds, with about 8 inches between them.  One bed was against the wall and the other about 8 inches from a built in desk and bench.  The food of the bed was about 8 inches from the dresser.  There was only enough room to push one suitcase under the bench and place one at the foot of a bed.  We literally had to walk on the beds to move about the room.  The bathroom was the originator of the joke "it was so small you had to go outside to change your mind".  Anyway, I digress.

We walked to an Italian restaurant and had a great meal.  It was really chilly when we walked back, and it felt good to be in our room.  We only had time to find clothes for tomorrow and repack and get some sleep.
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