Trip in the nutshell:
Distance: there 1976 Km, back 2146 km
Types of transport: bike, train, ferry, foot, Strassenbahn, bus
Changes: 10 (4+6)
Costs: almost 1.5 times more than the airplane
Time: almost 46 hours there (from door to door), and 48 hours back, including 30 hours of actual travel
Countries: there - Germany, Austria, Italy, Albania; Back – Albania, Italy, Switzerland, Germany
Tip in more details:
I was waiting for a pretty long time before this trip actually began. Together with my boss we booked the tickets at the beginning of August. And this day came. I woke up as usual at 6 am extremely worried and excited! At some points even my hands were shaking (honestly saying I don’t know why!). However, I know why, again it is DB (Deutsche Bahn – the “best” railway company). There were delays due to some construction works already at my first connection! Really??? But after speaking with my friend and finally packing everything, including extra bag for food, I could keep calm! Double or even triple checked: passport, tickets (a lot of them), money (not so much), a charger (the most important thing that any modern person should have) and let the trip begin. The watch showed 12.30 p.m. And firstly, I went by bike, as I preferred to take it instead of a bus because I didn’t want to rely on the public transport. Surprisingly, the first train was extremely full and I had to ride in the middle of the wagon. The train arrived to Cologne almost on time (10 minutes doesn’t count at all!). There I had a 1-hour transfer and decided to reply to all my friends and family members.
The next train to Munich arrived and a lot of people were getting in as well; firstly, I entered the wrong cabin and it appeared to be a problem as others were confused as well and thus the path was blocked. Finally, I took my sit after letting the person on it out and could breathe normally, despite the 300 km/hour speed. Only then I realized that I probably took too much stuff for 10 days (including my laptop and my camera), and that my salad for the dinner started to leak;) As there was Wi-Fi, I checked my laptop and decided to read something, as I didn’t take a paper book (apparently it was too heavy). However, it didn’t last for a long time as my eyes started to close and I fell asleep, probably as a consequence of the lack of sleep and stress. When I woke up, I noticed that there was another person already sitting next to me. I continued checking the internet and for one moment looked out of the window and was astonished with the view. The sunset was gorgeously lightning the horizon and on the other side almost the full moon started to appear. And here I reminded myself that the purpose and intention of the trip was to enjoy the view outside and use less electronic devices.
In Munich I was expecting to meet an acquaintance whom I haven’t seen for 3 years, and it was really kind of him to arrive to the train station only for 50 minutes to spend this time with me. The next train was to Padova (Italy), it was called a night train. What is the night train? The one where you can sleep (if you have 35 euros for the place reservation), the cabins are small, there is no light and you should follow the night regime from 21.00 till 8.00. And all this information will be given to you by a super loud speaker. The people in my cabin where nice and calm, tired and desperately wanted to sleep. There were 2 guys travelling as me with Interrail and an older man (most probably Italian) that offered me a banana, but I refused, probably it was not so kind. And I needed to get out at 5.20, so an early wake up for everyone. Goodnight!
I can’t consider the night in this train the best experience in my life, perhaps my co/travelers as well, as we were woken up around 2 a.m. for the tickets check once again. After that everyone started to find the best position to sleep again. I had some nightmares and suddenly when I woke up because of one of them I saw the Padova station. It was mine but the watch showed 4.40 a.m., 40 minutes before the scheduled time. That was extremely surprising, so I packed quickly and got out of the train. It was super early, cold and dark. When I reached the station, the first thing I thought of was to find a toilet, but apparently it was closed till 6.00 a.m. I thought it could be difficult, my body said that I had to invent something. In this situation my brain was still sleeping, but I figured out I could return to the train which was still on the platform. I told that I had forgotten my hat, the conductor asked “Head?” I replied that the head maybe as well. The strategy worked and I could get into the train again.
After washing my face with a cold water and getting alive again, I went to explore the city. I didn’t know what to expect and had no idea except one. The friend of mine, who was living there, had sent me the postcard earlier this year. So, the goal was to find the place on the postcard. The city was empty and sleepy, but it was even more impressive this way. Only the cleaning staff and random people were awake. As I didn’t have a map, I was following my intuition and just wandered around. Of course, I chose the wrong direction to the city center. I realized this when I saw some sign. But I still had around 2 hours, so I was not in a hurry and went towards the main touristic attractions. I must admit there were more of them than I expected, thus I decided to leave them for the “next time”, as the city impressed me a lot with its atmosphere.
When I returned to the station I noticed that there was going to be a strike of Treniltalia (Italian railway company) workers, but fortunately for me, it was going to start in the evening. I went to McDonalds which was open only from 6.30 a.m. and took some coffee into my thermos (sustainable living in all the aspects of life). However, it was a bit hard to communicate, English is not a common language there, but at the end the woman understood me. Thus, happy to drink something warm (I took a latte and it actually tasted like just milk) I bought some food for the trip and entered the train.
My last and the longest connection was from Padova to Bari, from where I had to take a ferry. The train was going pretty fast and I couldn’t read or check anything on my laptop (internet is only in some Italian trains), especially driving backwards for 9 hours. Hence, I was eating, doing my German, sleeping, waking up, looking out of the window at the view of the sea. And repeating again. We were riding across the coast line for a pretty long time. The train was getting full and people next to me were changing. I looked at them very attentively, trying to realize what they were doing in life, where do they go etc. Sometimes when you are bored, you do that.:)
Overall, the journey went pretty fast and I arrived to Bari. The first glance at the city – a resort with a lot of police and Russian/Polish speaking people, close to the sea, with ancient architecture, narrow streets and the smell of the freshly done laundry that was hanging everywhere in the old town. I was walking (still had 5 hours before my ferry’s departure) with my eyes and sometimes mouth open, checking every available corner.
Since it was my first time travelling by ferry, I came earlier (3 hours in advance!) and that was a good idea, as I needed to check-in anyway. With some difficulties in communication I understood that it was somewhere else, and had to go there by a shuttle bus. Good to know for the future trips. But, in general, it was fast and I quickly returned to the port, checking my social media as I was bored again. Because there was another ferry to Dubrovnik, the line was huge, literally enormous. We stood for almost 2 hours before getting through the passport control. In the queue I met one person from Albania who asked me about the population of Ukraine after seeing my passport and was shocked with the amount of 43 million that I told. In comparison, in Albania there is only 3 million people (I just read that in the Wikipedia; sometimes I like to travel to different countries without knowing about them nothing at all…) This man even asked me to help him with the baggage. At the passport control the Italian guard was laughing and saying ‘Oh, Ukraine! Privet! Kak dela?’
Finally, I had to embark on ferry, but where to go? I was a bit lost again, walking and complaining to the person who was checking the tickets that it was a long waiting time. I went to the ferry and tried to find my room, but apparently it was closed. I had a single bedroom with a toilet and a shower (fancy). After asking for the key, honestly I was surprised and happy that I could sleep normally that night. But before I walked around the ferry, checking the outside and sending last messages from the EU zone by using my mobile data. The people that were smoking on the deck looked at me a bit weirdly. I returned to my «kingdom», finally took a hot shower and fell asleep immediately without even finishing this diary…
I woke up at 6.30 a.m. in the morning in order to finish the diary and to do some yoga. The engine was working loudly and I wasn’t sure whether we arrived or not. No announcements, but it was okay, doing yoga on the boat was an extremely awesome and fresh experience. Finally, we got information that we would arrive at 9.30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., but we had to leave the rooms earlier. Thus I went to the snack bar in order to wait and only there I saw the sea and the land. That was Albania, my goal…We arrived, but the hardest thing was to get out from the ferry, I couldn’t realize where the exit was and people did not speak English at all…Walking next to the vans; which were also driving from the ferry, was exciting and scary. I got out and started to look for the way to my hotel. It was somewhere on the coast; I just needed to walk by the sea. I preferred walking instead of taking the bus in order to experience the spirit of the country, which I still couldn’t get. The only thing that some people were staring at me a bitJ It was so awesome and calm near the sea. I spent “only” 1 hour walking and reached the hotel, where the other story begins…till my departure back from Albania, but before that I would have an exciting week! To be continued…
After an intense and at the same time relaxing week at the working meeting by the sea (I didn’t lose the chance to swim as much as possible), the adventures continued. I went to Tirana to have a quick look at the capital city, which frankly speaking didn’t impress me. Thus, I decided to go back to Durres and have a closer look at the city center, as we were staying a bit far from it. A typical resort with a lot of attractions for tourists, however, sometimes men were behaving not in a proper way as for me. But the general impression was saved by a little boy, who gave me his juice while I was sitting on the beach having dinner and enjoying the sunset. In exchange, I gave him an apple as I didn’t have anything else. Despite the fact that there was almost no verbal communication (that’s a pity that I didn’t learn any words in Albanian and we spoke Italian) this kid made my day!
Nevertheless, let’s talk about the trip that was still waiting for me: the ferry and lots of trains to go back to Germany. I must admit that organization of the processes in the terminal in Durres is much better than in Bari, even extra bag check went smoothly. The place was clean, spacious and logical. Small smile from the police guard and I was coming to the ferry again (I looked at the watch, 19.30; in comparison, in Bari I entered the ferry at around 21.00 with the same departure time 22.00).
The staff on the ferry even recognized me and showed me to the room, which was not as spacious as a previous one, but still the whole room only for myself! For sure, I went outside to say bye (mirupafshim) to Albania and fell asleep even before the departure!
My morning started with the announcement that we would arrive soon, thus I still had time to get myself ready, do some exercises and have breakfast (unfortunately, I couldn’t open the juice given to me… that happens when you don’t drink beer). I arrived really calm and fresh, looking forward to the whole day in Bari, but it appeared that first I had to stand in line for the passport control for 2 hours!!! And again my assumptions about “Europe” and “not Europe” were confirmed. Everything was so disorganized and hard to follow. I was extremely tired standing in the crowd of Albanian migrant workers that were really rude, smoking and trying to get as fast as possible. Meanwhile, I was reading a Wikipedia article about the beguiling country that I already left.
Finally, after leaving my luggage at the train station and drinking cappuccino, I went to explore the city. Overall, I was pleasantly impressed by the architecture, warm weather and a sea breeze. The only two things not appealing to me were concerning food (too much pizza, focaccia and fried stuff) and the behavior or attitude of the men towards women. In particular, I had three cases. I wanted to take a picture and one man (probably over 50 y. o.) started talking to me and offering to go for coffee with him. Still, he was polite, but come on! The other time, while I was just walking, one man was screaming from his car: coffee, coffee…and the most extensive in the evening when I was already sitting near the train station, one young guy approached me and I couldn’t get rid of him for another half an hour. Honestly saying, I don’t consider myself a beautiful girl, and it was too much for me! Hence, when one more beautiful than me girl asked me for help to find the hotel I warned her to be careful!
So, now I am sitting on the floor at the train station, because they don’t have sitting benches and waiting the train to Rome, where currently one of my friends from Ukraine is staying. Unfortunately, I will be there only for 20 minutes, thus no meeting in the capital of history and heritage…I had some observations: Italians speak or scream very loudly, tea is more expensive than coffee, and they are really surprised when you ask to put it into your own cup (remember I am trying to travel sustainably).
The last day of my exciting trip started in Rome. As I mentioned above, I had a friend visiting Rome as well and we thought about meeting, but I was there only for 20 minutes so it would be pointless. So, I jumped in my next train, very comfortable and luxurious one, full of business people going to Milan. The view outside was astonishing with the ground covered with the fog, or at least the part I could see as my neighbor was not so willing to open the curtains and preferred sleeping to staring out of the window.
The trip was fast (of course with a speed around 250 km/hour) and I was in Milan, also for a short change – just 40 minutes. I thought, what shall I do? Go outside or stay here? In the end, it took me a pretty long time just to get out from an amazing station - the enormous beautiful building. However, the weather outside was not so pleasant, and heavy rain stopped my another acquaintance from coming to meet me. The business for the people around turned from water and selfie sticks to umbrellas, really handy. I grabbed some coffee and a croissant and headed over to the next train to Basel (Switzerland).
That train I consider as the most comfortable one (Swiss railways) and the view was amazing as well. Despite the heavy rain and mist all around, the incredible mountains, hills and lakes captured my attention till I suddenly fell asleep and probably missed something else… Meanwhile, the architecture or buildings were not so surprising and if I hadn’t known, I would not guess which country I was in. For instance, it was so green in comparison to Italy! At one point when we already entered the territory of the country the police appeared and randomly started to check people and their luggage. My neighbor was not so lucky as they checked all of his things, probably it was a bit strange and awkward for him. At one particular moment I thought that maybe I needed a visa to cross the country border even with a transit, but luckily no, I didn’t.
Little stop in Basel for 15 minutes, and I can say that my leg was on the Swiss land; then, my last train to Siegburg\Bonn. That was the longest and the most tiring part, but fortunately I had Wi-Fi there and could watch something to distract myself. Only there, I realized how tired I was…The last 30 minutes from Frankfurt were the fastest, and I felt as we could even fly at such speed! The last 2 connections by a public tram and a bus, and I was home. After 20 hours from Italy…Tired, but proud of myself that I did it! I understood that I liked the ferry part the most and that at some point I was lacking people to talk to and accompany me. Hopefully, next time I won’t be alone!