As fascinated as I am with the zeppelin, I am far too young to have flown in one and there is not a chance with my vertigo that I would entertain riding a zip wire. So what to choose for my ‘Z’ transportation theme?
Well, on the basis that my regular travel companions have stated in the past that I am prone to snore on occasions (especially after a beer or two!) and in honour of the fact that I now usually sleep really well on night trains, I have gone with zzzzzzzzzz. In truth, this is just a chance for me to end the blog challenge talking about train travel, my favourite mode of getting anywhere.
My first overnighters were during my impoverished inter-rail days, when paying for a sleeper compartment was out of the question. My first ever ‘sleep’ on a train in 1987 was the time me and my travel buddy needed to get back to Amsterdam to start the journey home via Hoek of Holland. We could not afford a youth hostel for the night, so took a train from Milan to Hamburg to then take another train from Hamburg to Amsterdam. Not the most direct route, however as the first train arrived in Hamburg at about four in the morning and the second left 45 minutes later, we were at least able to get a few hours ‘free’ shuteye.
In 1989, we did a few more overnighters, again shunning couchettes and sleeping cars. We travelled extensively in Scandinavia before doing a mammoth leg from Kiruna in the Arctic Circle, down through Sweden, Germany & France en route to Nice. The kindly train guard took pity on us on the overnight train to Stockholm, letting us have a free bed for a few hours kip.
In 1992, three of us set off from Paris to Copenhagen for our final inter-rail trip. My two buddies bit the bullet and booked two berths in a four-berth compartment. I was far too tight for this and slummed it on my own in a six seat compartment in a different section of the train. I remember vividly reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and listening to the Smiths on my Walkman, whilst having the luxury of the heated compartment to myself.
The seats folded down to make a sizeable and acceptably comfortable double bed and as it transpired, I got a far better sleep than my travel buddies. I did get to see them once during the night however as our train drove onto the Puttgarden to Rodby ferry and was divided into sections. We were in different sections of course, but were able to wave to each other through the window as the ends of our carriage groupings faced each other.
My first proper paid for overnight experience was later on during that same trip. For 25 Deutsch Mark we got a two berth cabin on a train from Leipzig to Warsaw. My first experience of clean white sheets, grey blanket and very little else.
Since then I have travelled on many overnight trains, always since taking the plunge in buying a proper bed. You can read about such journeys in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Turkey, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Croatia & Serbia in my forthcoming book. A later book will describe night journeys in Indonesia, Vietnam & Thailand.
I even once talked Mrs Wilbur into taking an overnight train. We went for the ‘luxury’ of one with a private bathroom from Santiago de Compostela to Madrid. The truth was that the bathroom just took up a load of space rather than being overly functional, so that the compartment was cramped in the extreme. I broke with tradition on that journey and took the top bunk. I slept like a log, but Mrs Wilbur did not sleep a wink!