There is a train service called Nightjet which specializing in overnight rides. It is operated by ÖBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen), known to English-speaking travelers as the Austrian Federal Railways. Nightjet relentlessly works on more than 20 routes. One of them is Rome—Vienna, and here are some words and pictures about it.
The leading character of this story — and I mean the Nightjet train — is supposed to meet me at Roma Termini. It is the main railway station of Rome, located at Piazza dei Cinquecento and stuffed with many dozens of shops and cafes. I enter this huge building not for the first time — a while back, my journey to Milan also started here.
In my ticket, as well as on the ÖBB website, the train I am looking for has a number NJ 40294. However, all the displays at the station shows only different numbers. I find one train with matching time of departure, but it is listed as EN 35294. After a few moments of hesitation and light anxiety, I go to the track 8 and see a dark blue train which looks like the right one.
I move closer, and all my doubts dissipate completely. There is the logotype of a proper transport company. Also, the name Nightjet is written on the train. It looks like a 100% match, and I begin to be assured and calm, although I still don’t understand the reason of that difference in train codes. The final nail in the coffin of my uncertainty is a list of stations on a door — it absolutely corresponds with my expected route.
Speaking of which, the forthcoming ride is far from being short. It is more than 1100 kilometers between Rome and Vienna. The train moves to the north of Italy, miraculously avoids Venice, then crosses the border and, after six more stops, arrives in the capital of Austria. All this takes approximately 14 hours.
I enter the car number 413. It hosts triple sleeper cabins, and I have a reserved place in one of them. Walking through the corridor, I notice two things about the compartment doors. First, they open outwards. Second, the all have peepholes. I saw those two options combined before — in the train of Russian Railways called Leo Tolstoy. Although one of those features is barely used and another is not really optimal, I sincerely like both. In my perception, they add to the homelike feeling.
My compartment greets me with cushy textile chairs, welcome drinks (still water and slightly sparkling frizzante wine), a branded paper bag of some presumably nice things (can’t wait to look inside!) and the last bright rays of the evening sun.
The table here is rather large and, among the aforementioned things, a breakfast menu card lays on it. I do not notice it myself, but then the conductress comes and draws my attention to it. And also to the fact that morning meal is included in the ticket price.
That’s how it works. Each entry on the menu list (by the way, available in three languages: German, English and Italian) has a checkbox near it. A passenger chooses and marks up to six items. After this, a train staff member takes the card and asks when exactly you want your breakfast to be served. Nice!
After making my food choices, I am ready to perform the thrilling act of unpacking. Let’s see what exactly the Nightjet personal kit consists of! Well, what do we have here? Another bottle of water and a pack of pretzels. A ballpoint pen. Soft slippers. Earplugs. A moist tissue. And a towel with the illustration which depicts the essence of this train perfectly.
I am already loaded for a good night beyond necessity. But my acquaintance with the room just begins. I continue to explore my temporary place of residence. Closer to the ceiling (a pretty high, I have to notice), there are two rather commodious spaces which are suitable for luggage storing. One of them is equipped with restrictive safety belts.
At the corner, near the window, I find another interesting fixture. It looks like a closet, but hides a sink behind its doors. There is also a mirror. And a lamp. Not to mention a power socket, a container of liquid soap and a metal holder for accessories. There is also a separate section at the bottom, where a trash bin is placed.
One more curious thing about the compartment doors: each has two locks on the inside. As the conductress quipped, two are just better than one. But there is more to this, those locks work in different manners. The upper one closes the door completely (like any other regular lock). The lower has a safety chain effect — it allows to keep the door ajar yet impossible to be opened in full. As for the opening and closing from the outside, there is a key card for that.
In case you have any problems — with understanding the two-lock scheme, for instance — there is a device to the rescue. It is a metal panel on one of the walls. Using a button and a speaker you can contact the conductor at any time. Also, you can control the air temperature, the volume of the radio and the light — via some other helpful knobs and buttons. And, of course, you can charge your device — there is a socket under the chairs.
A thing to notice: not every member of the Nightjet team speaks English, at least as my experience shows. It is not a crucial problem, but be prepared to use all German words you know, together with the spontaneous pantomimic language.
The night slowly and inevitably descends, but who could dislike this? The setting is favorable for a proper rest. The pillows are waiting. I just need to do a couple of minor preparations and partially switch the compartment to the sleep mode.
There are three folding beds — already with clean sheets and blankets. I choose the middle one, because the upper feels too high and the lower looks too good in its daytime position. Unfolding is easy and simple: just one move and a little effort — and everything is ready!
Well, for the final round of pre-sleeping arrangements I have to leave my warm and cozy cabin. But there is a pleasant surprise at the end of the car — the lavatory contains not only a toilet, but also a shower cabin. Everything is almost like at home, lovely!
Now, nothing else will stop me from the main episode of every overnight train ride — long and good sleep. I turn on the night light which — like the train exterior — has a blue color. Rhythmic sounds of wheels, rails and crossties are my lullaby.
The conductress knocks at the door at the specific time that was arranged in the evening — this is the wake-up service in action! She also brings my breakfast, and it is assembled from the items which I checkmarked on the menu list before. This morning starts perfectly, and even a box of orange juice wishes me a happy day.
I’ve been sleeping like a baby. Now I am childishly happy. The breakfast is great, but what is even greater — is the spectacular Austrian landscape outside the window.
Inhabited valleys and thick forests, snowy mountains and green hills, turbulent streams of rivers and quiet farming fields. These views are way better to stare at in real life than on Instagram (well, except for the accounts of our incredibly talented friends, of course).
So, I stare at all this beauty and, irrationally trying to have as much in common with the scenery as possible, open the ventilation window. It opens only a little, but this is even for the best — the compartment keeps its warmth.
The only thing which is slightly sad is that this nature-adoring joy ends too soon. The train arrives to Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Main station), and the trip is over.
To sum up, the Nightjet between the Italian and Austrian capitals offers everything that one could only ask from the night train on the inside. As for the outside, it gives you the outstanding, above-average view — the one you just can’t oversleep. Also, the train has its own special, let’s say, analog charm — which I totally fall for and highly recommend.
Make no mistake and book a ticket for this ride (Trainline or ÖBB). And be sure to get more information at rail.cc — there is a lot of interesting stuff, including related blog posts of our other authors, which all are even better than the one you’ve just read.