Stockholm-Croatia by train part 4: Ljubljana to Lake Bled

After a fun night out in Ljubljana, with excellent Istrian fuzi pasta with beef and truffle at restaurant Most, it was time to take a final train to our first proper stop of the trip, the famous Lake Bled. As we stayed quite close to Ljubljana’s train station, we just walked over there a short while before our Slovenian railways train was to depart. We had bought tickets online costing us about €5 each for the 1 hour trip to Lesce-Bled, which is one of two train stations in Bled, and the one that seem to handle long-distance traffic. The other one is Bled Jezero which is closer to Bled town and the lake, but with fewer trains connecting to it.

The train departed on time from one of the farthest away platforms, it’s quite long distances at Ljubljana station, so it’s good to have some extra time with that in mind we realised. The train itself was quite modern with screens showing the next few stops in real time and announcing each stop as we approached. The seats were also comfortable and onboard staff spoke good English. It’s more like a comfortable commuter train than anything else, and it stopped at many places along the way, but it’s still a very smooth way of getting to Bled in under an hour.

In Lesce-Bled we took a pre-booked taxi that we had booked through our hotel to Lake Bled. It costed us €15 for the approximately 10 minute ride, which was quite steep, but on the other hand Lake Bled is surprisingly expensive in general. We also paid the same price for the return booked through another hotel, so I guess it’s just what the price is (was).

Stockholm-Croatia by train part 3: Graz to Ljubljana with ÖBB Eurocity

After checking out beautiful Graz, eating a mediocre schnitzel and getting semi-submerged in a massive Austrian rainfall, it was time to move on once again. We stayed very close to the central station in Graz, so after checking out from the IntercityHotel Graz, we walked the 100 meters or so to the station for our next train, which would take us from Graz to Ljubljana, the small capital of Slovenia.

Since we were travelling in first class on ÖBB we had access to Graz Hauptbanhof’s lounge. After some searching we found it past a few fastfood outlets to the left of the main entrance to the station. We just scanned our tickets at a reader and got automatically let in. The lounge is quite small, but there was seating, a coffee maker, a few snacks and reading materials. We only spent 15 or so minutes there though as it was soon time to find our platform.

The train arrived on time and was quite busy, despite booking online many months ahead, we did not get seated together, but still next to each other with the aisle inbetween us. The leather seats were relatively comfortable, but like the whole train the first class carriage felt a bit old and worn. We had paid around €50 per person for the 3,5 hour trip though, so given that it wasn’t too bad, and views were at times spectacular.

A nice aspect with the train was the onboard restaurant. I’d always wanted to have a schnitzel onboard an ÖBB train, and now it was finally time for that! Unfortunately they did not accept card payments onboard, but we managed to scrape together exactly the 14 euros that was needed. As it was pretty much all cash we had, we could only afford one, and no drinks, but it was quite tasty to be honest, and very exciting to eat while passing by the Austrian and Slovenian countryside outside the window.

After finishing our schnitzel we made our way back to our seats as it was almost time to get off. All in all the ÖBB Eurocity train from Graz to Ljubljana was quite comfortable. Seat was decent, views were great and food quite tasty.

In Ljubljana there is a short walk into town from the central station, and like earlier stops on the trip we stayed quite close to the station at the recently opened Ibis Styles Ljubljana Center.

Stockholm-Croatia by train part 2: Berlin to Graz with ÖBB Nightjet

After a night at the Intercity Hotel Hauptbahnhof it was soon time to get moving again. Although we had a few hours to kill before our 18.45 departure, so since our next train would not have any dining car (but you can order some food to your compartment from the staff), we thought we’d have an early Berlin kebab dinner. We took the S-bahn commuter train a few stops from Berlin’s centrail station to Zoologischer Garten, took a walk to Kurfürstendam and the famous department store KaDeWe, before ending up at Zaddy’s kebab very close to the station as the line was long and that is usually a good sign.

The kebab was actually really good – thin juicy döner kebab meat, pickled red cabbage, lots of onion and pink kräuterßose in a fluffy sesame bun. The place was packed with people, and we had to stand on the sidewalk eating our food, but absolutely worth it in my mind.

Anyway, it was time to get on the S-Bahn train again and go back to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof to catch our next train, namely the sort of famous ÖBB Nightjet.

We rode the Nightjet once before, between Berlin and Zürich in Switzerland on our trip to Malta in 2019 and loved it. Our hopes was that it would at least be much better than our recent experience with SJ on the way to Berlin, but that wouldn’t be too hard to be honest.

We had paid roughly the same for the ÖBB Nightjet trip from Berlin to Graz in Austria as the trip from Stockholm to Berlin, which was roughly €350 for two. This time however we also had our own bathroom and shower in our private sleeper, which of course makes it a whole lot more comfortable.

The train arrived on time, and boarding went smooth. The train we were on had three different destinations; Wroclaw in Poland; Budapest in Hungary, and of course Graz in Austria, where we were going. The train did split up eventually, but all carriages would first go to Wroclaw.

Our sleeper compartment was very clean, quite large and super comfortable. It was especially great to have our own bathroom again. It’s not that bad to have it in the train car of course, but it’s inconvenient in the night for instance, although it definitely is a luxury problem. Another luxury problem is that ÖBB clearly states that a welcome onboard amenity kit is provided, as well as a welcome onboard drink. We did receive one amenity kit, and no drinks without any explanation. We asked about another amenity kit when our tickets were checked but the onboard stuff just shrugged and said they had a shortage. We later heard another passenger ask about the welcome drinks, we did not hear exactly what was answered but it sounded like the warm tiny bottle of water in the amenitiy kit had replaced the cold bottle of prosecco we had our last trip.

But, apart from this, the rest of the trip was immaculate. As we started to leave Berlin, we went to the small compartment from where staff were selling drinks and paid for some Austrian sparkling wine instead. A half bottle, 37,5 centiliters, was priced about €14. We had also bought some snacks at the Rewe supermarket at Berlin HBF, and as we were crossing the border to Poland the train feast was on. Nibbling on olives, pretzels and having a few drinks we went through eastern Poland on the way to our train’s first major stop in Wroclaw.

After stopping at Wroclaw, it was time to get some sleep. The bed was comfortable and we slept okay – but I never sleep that good on trains unfortunately.

We woke up already in Austria with approximately half an hour to breakfast and two hours to Graz where the train was terminating and we were getting off.

We had a go with the onboard shower and I actually think it was quite alright. It wasn’t one of those where you had to sit on the toilet and shower, but you had a small but manageable shower cubicle with both decent pressure and temperature of the water.

After the shower it was time for breakfast. At the ÖBB Nightjet, breakfast is included and what is very nice according to me is that you can order what you want (maximum 6 picks though) from a small selection of different breakfast options.

Altough our selection of gouda cheese had run out, we got both salami, ham and cream cheese as compensation and was happy anyways.

As we rolled through a fantastic mountain-y landscape close to Graz, we enjoyed our breakfast of semmel bread rolls, butter, salami, yoghurt, coffee and juice.

A little while after breakfast we arrived into Graz, Austria’s second largest city. And like in Berlin, walked a few 100 meters from the station to our next Intercity Hotel, this one the IntercityHotel Graz.

It is always super convenient to stay near the train station, especially with bags. But although the hotel was quite nice, the immediate area around the train station wasn’t really that fun. It wasn’t very seedy or anything, but central Graz a kilometer away felt like another world.

Stockholm-Croatia by train part 1: Stockholm to Berlin with SJ Euronight

I’ve grown fond of train travel the last couple of years with train trips from Stockholm where I live, to both Malta in 2019, and to Scotland last year. It’s an incredibly (mostly) comfortable experience compared to flying, you just take your bags to the central station, no lines, no checking in, no waiting, no slow boarding. Just jump onboard and you are already on your way.

This year we wanted to visit Slovenia which we had planned to go to in 2020, but due to a certain pandemic, we had to cancel the trip. When we started to look at ways to get us there, and while studying the map we noticed that Venice, where I’ve never been, but always wanted to go, is quite close, and from Venice there are lots of ferry lines connecting it to Croatia. Our goal was to finish the train travel part of the trip with a week of sun lounger-ing in a nice resort somewhere, and Croatia has a lot of such places.

Okay, so with the route set, it was time to start building the trip. We do not use a travel agency or a rail pass as we usually go by a combination of private sleepers on night trains and then in first class on day trains. Instead we just logged on to each train company’s website and booked straight through them. Mostly we used Austrian ÖBB’s website which is quite easy to work out. The Stockholm to Berlin train we booked on and paid for with credit card.

A reason for the entire trip was that I wanted to try out the new SJ Euronight train, that goes from Stockholm to Hamburg, and during the summer all the way to Berlin. Since a first class sleeper compartment with private bathroom was quite insanely priced at around 6500 sek (~€550), we opted for a second class one, where you have the compartment to yourself, but with shared bathroom and shower in the carriage. For that we paid the still very costly price of 4000 sek (approximately €320).

Before boarding our train, we went on a dinner shopping spree in Stockholm’s central station since there’s no dining car onboard the train, although there’s a small kiosk. In Stockholm’s Centralstation there’s quite a lot of eateries such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Urban Deli’s take out kiosk, and several bakeries from which you can bring take away food. There is also a large COOP supermarket, and proper restaurants such as Luzette and Urban Deli where you can have a sit-down meal. We opted for a mix of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and fries; shrimp salad from Urban Deli; a bag of chocolates and water from COOP and some dinner rolls from Gateau bakery for a train picnic.

Then it was time to board the train, which left right on time just before 18:00 o’clock.

Our second class sleeper was quite dirty when we entered it, crumbs on the floor and also an empty champagne bottle under the bed which we found after a while. It was also quite dusty and when touched, our sofa gave a way a little dust cloud. Not so nice.

Despite this, we had our little train picnic dinner and was still quite happy with being on our way. After a while we heard some clicking noises and suddenly a child appeared in our compartment, seemingly the door lock between ours and our neighbour’s compartment wasn’t too effecient and despite being locked from our side the child could still easily open it. He looked as surprised as we did though, apologized and quickly retreated back to theirs. But not very safe.

After dinner we went to check out if there was any life onboard, remebering a night on the Arctic Circle Train with a dining car full of happy beer drinking tourist on their way to see northern lights. No such luck though, we overheard the staff telling another passenger that they wanted a dining car for the train, but since there are different train tracks in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, they couldn’t find any that worked all the way. My suggestion is take one from Stockholm and leave it in Malmö then, no one’s going to eat after midnight any way. But maybe that delays the trip too much.

What was offered was a small kiosk where staff sold drinks, snacks and I think maybe some kind of light meals. In our compartment ’information folder’ it was stated that staff would come around with a trolley service, but that never happened.

After a quite reasonably priced (for Sweden) €5 cold German beer together with watching the moonlight crossing of the Øresund Bridge to Denmark, it was time to hit the sack. Sleeping quality was standard for a train I’d say. It was quite comfortable and we both slept okay.

The next morning, we had to go out to the kiosk to pick up the breakfast box that was included in our sleeper compartment. It consisted of a bread roll, jam, butter and juice, and you also got free coffee or tea.

At this point, towards the end of the trip, the train looked like a dump unfortunately. The hallways had trash and paper on the floors, and the toilets hadn’t been cleaned and was really, really gross. I’ve sent SJ a complaint about this, but they haven’t yet responded about a month later. We’ll see if they do.

In the end though, we arrived safe and sound, and on time, to Berlin Hauptbanhof, one of my favourite train stations with lots of food, shops and connections. For us it was time for a brief one night stop though in the nearby Intercity Hotel, a few 100 meters from the station.

A tip, if you stay near the Berlin HBF and want to have a proper German dinner, is to visit Zollpackhof restaurant and biergarten. Good prices, full of locals and tasty food. It has both a quite affordable self service part where you pick up you food yourself from a sort of food court concept, or a terrace with table service. We chose the former and were quite happy.