While planning our route we knew ahead of time that we would be going to Croatia to visit friends that live there and also we were lucky enough to be meeting a couple of families from our town in the states that would be there as well. Our flight into Germany helped set the stage for our route and of course to hit Greece.
ANYWAY to my story . . . we took the night train from Venice to Zagreb. They seemed relatively close on the map. The original thought was to take a high-speed ferry from Italy to Croatia – however, there were issues with that plan. One was timing, the ferry didn’t run every day and we needed to get out of Schengen* countries so we could come back in for the holidays. Another was we needed to rent a car for transportation in Croatia and if we rented in the port town that the ferries arrived we would also need to return it there (the option to pick up in a small town and return at the airport in Zagreb was not available) and we were eventually flying out of Zagreb. SOOOO we took the overnight train – very reasonably priced, we saved a night hotel stay, we had been on many trains in Germany and Austria, they were nice enough, just get a private room and we’ll all sleep. This train was like no other that we have seen. It was a Trenitalia (Italy train company), the windows were open, the beds were yuck (full of animal hair), the pillows you dare not look at in the light and you could hear the screech of the train that went up your spine every time it stopped. While riding I felt like we were in midair from time to time – down hill. I could never have imagined it would be this way. Luckily the kids were extremely tired. We flew in from Greece that morning and waited the day out to get on the train in the evening. They slept through most of it. I prayed through all of it. We had two passport stops and checks along the way. Border patrol would come and pound on the door with a huge flashlight and heavy accent. “Border patrol, prepare passport”, they would pound on each door and repeat “Border patrol, prepare passport” many rooms had young 20ish people that don’t wake very quickly so we heard that phrase a lot. It was a 7-hour train ride that will remain in my mind forever. The best part was getting off at 4:20am and having a ride waiting for us to take us to the apartment so we could go straight to sleep – which we all did. The payoff in having transportation waiting after train and flights is the best travel lesson learned. As the commercial says . . . “priceless”.
*Schengen Agreement – an agreement between 25 specific European countries that have met requirements and have signed the agreement to remove controls at their borders so that, for example, people can move freely from one country to another without needing to show their passports (similar to one state to another in the US). The rule for us as Americans is we can stay in Schengen territory for 90 of 180 days then we must be out for 90 days.