In continuation to Part 1: Belgrade to Ljubljana
After a good sleep and a stroll at downtown Ljubljana, we were ready to get going again. Ljubljana might require a few days more to see everything it has to offer, but within a day you’ll be able to visit the main sights.
Ljubljana’s central railway station (Zelezniska Postaja) is located near the town’s historical centre, so if you’re staying in a hotel in that area and don’t have a lot of luggage, walking is preferrable.
As we were travelling to Milan, the journey had to be split in two. The Ljubljana-Villach train (EuroNight 414, tickets bought at the station) and Villach-Milan one (NightJet 232, tickets booked online). The staff at Ljubljana’s station were helpful and seemed to have a decent knowledge of English. If you’re waiting here, I would advise buying some snacks from the few shops located inside the station, as most of the night trains do not have catering services.
The tracks are located right across the main hall, and are accessible through an underpass or by walking through the track ramps. Each line is equipped with information screens, and international train announcements are also done in English (with a heavy Slovenian accent though).
The journey to Villach, Austria lasted about 1h30 minutes. The train arrives there at 22.47, and the NightJet to Milan arrives at 00.01, leaving you with around 1h30 connection time. Despite my concerns about how safe the station would be late at night, it was proven that OBB (Austrian Railways) staff are constantly moving around, and the station is monitored and has sufficient lighting at every corner. While this may seem typical for an Austrian station, it’s certainly not expected from a traveller having been through stations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
After disembarking we noticed some people dressed in traditional Austrian outfits spread throughout the station. According to a railway employee, some sort of a local festival was going on and special trains were scheduled to move the festival-goers around. A rare sight indeed, and the most interesting way to be welcomed in Austria.
While waiting at Villach you can grab a snack from the automatic vending machines located in the platforms. The information screens provide you with all the information you need on where your carriage is, where you should stand to get in faster, whether the train carries cars, even…football match scores.
On the NightJet
The NightJet is essentially a train-hotel. The “suites” are located in the 1st class carriage and can have 1,2 or 3 berths. Every room is equipped with a private WC and shower (an excellent display of tight-space mechanics). The “classic rooms” are located in the 2nd class carriage and feature 4 and 6 berth compartments. These do not have private hygiene facilities, as they are placed at each end of the carriage. Last but not least, there are simple seats for people on a tighter budget, that tilt to ensure a decent sleep. The prices on all the classes are not steep if booked early, except the 1st class compartments, especially the single person ones. For the average traveller, or group, I would suggest booking a 2nd class 4-6 compartment berth, as the night’s sleep is essential to keep going the next day, and you won’t have to worry about losing your belongings.
In order to board the train, you show the ticket to the train attendant and wait for him to guide you to your compartment. Once you are all set up, you may lock the door, shut the blind and sleep all you want. For people with claustrophobia, I would suggest booking the lower berths, as the top ones are quite close to the wagon’s roof and move a tad more at curves (even though you get used to it after a couple of times). A safety belt is provided on the top berths to ensure that you won’t roll and fall off the bed.
Fun fact: Catering and couchette services are provided by NewRest, which is essentially the succesor of the original Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL), operator of the legendary Orient Express. CIWL was originally sold to Accor Hotels in 1991, and in 2010 it was transferred to the catering company “Newrest”.
In the morning, a wake up call is made through the wagon’s speakers, probably through the form of a station arrival announcement. When I woke up, we had just arrived at Verona Porta Nuova. From there on, the staff will provide you with a small breakfast (very basic).
That’s the end of our long journey from Ljubljana to Milan by rail. It’s definitely a convenient way to save time when travelling in long distances, and very rewarding to wake up in a different country. It appears that OBB is trying hard to promote the NightJet brand, and the success it’s been having so far might lead the nearly-abolished European night trains into a new era. Have a look at what NightJet wagons will soon look like: