I came across a news item on trains the other day. It stated that the NS (Dutch Railway Services) has gained a new record for trains being on schedule last year. While I was still in University, I had to go by train daily, and I’ve had many moments of frustration while doing so because of the trains simply not following their schedule. It used to be a huge nuisance, until I took a four week train trip across Eastern Europe with a friend.
We decided to go by train pretty much because we didn’t have any other options. Both of us didn’t have a drivers license, and I tended to go crazy on planes, which is not charming at all. So we took off one early Saturday morning, to go to Slovenia first. All good, had to switch trains a few times, but nothing unexpected, because we had that part planned out pretty well. We arrived in Slovenia after approximately 14 hours (which is, by the way, literally a pain in the ass time to be on a train!), and decided to stay there for a couple of days. After a day or two, we wanted to take a daytrip to Zagreb in Croatia, which is only a few hours by train from Ljubljana. All good again, until the part that the train had a breakdown of some sort, and didn’t cross the border into Croatia. Luckily, we were feeling adventurous, so we crossed the border by foot. At the time, that felt really awesome for some reason. After we crossed the border, and ended up on a small road, we started to look for the train station. After being questioned by the police -up until today no one knows why they stopped us- we finally found the station and continued our trip. Again, all good, and Zagreb was lovely!
A few days after that, we decided to continue our trip and go to Bosnia. We were supposed to take the same train to Zagreb, as we did last time, and switch to a train for Sarajevo there. No problem there, unless the train would break down again, but we guessed that they probably don’t break down that regularly and left. We had to switch trains somewhere in the middle of nowhere again, but there was some time in between them, so we just hung out and admired the nothingness. And the cows. After quite a bit of waiting, it seemed that the train we had to get, had a delay. When you live in The Netherlands, a delay is usually not longer dan 15 minutes; enough to be late, but not ridiculously late. Well… Guess what? In Slovenia, they last for at least an hour. I guess anywhere before that would just be marked as “in time”.
After quite a wait, a train to Zagreb finally arrived and we got on it. Once in Zagreb, it turned out we’d missed the connection to Sarajevo. Dutch as we were, we just figured to take the next one, since we’re used to having 4-8 trains to one place every hour, which is great because you never have to wait long for the next one. But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, in Croatia they don’t groove the same way. Not just a little, nooooo, they have a groove of their own: The next train to Sarajevo would leave the next day, meaning there was only one train going there every freakin’ 24 hours!
And that was just the first week of our trip… But this wouldn’t be a good story if there weren’t any morals, so here goes:
– If you’re ever thinking of taking a train trip outside of the European Union: DON’T. Their unscheduledness isn’t even the worst part of those trains. Their smell is.
– NS really isn’t that bad (unless there’s snow out there). They’re just ridiculously overpriced.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little rant ;)