For our autumn holiday trip to Paris we decided not to fly but to go by train. Turns out that this is surprisingly complicated thanks to ÖBB, DB and SNCF somehow not being able to route that properly. The first learning from all of this was Trainline.com, a service that makes booking train tickets across multiple European countries much more convenient.
The second learning was not new to us: Getting out of Graz via train is a huge pain. If we want to go to Klagenfurt, we can either take a train that takes nearly 4 hours or a bus that does the same in 2 hours. Getting to Salzburg or even Munich is even worse (8h30m and 9h30m respectively). The only connection that somehow works is the one to Vienna but even there is a slow segment (across the Semmering mountain) were the speedometer tumbled down to something that feels like 50 km/h.
For our trip, we needed to get to Salzburg (Austria), then to Mannheim (Germany), and finally to Paris (France). Since the tracks between Graz and Salzburg were partially under construction, we had to take a rail replacement bus from Graz to Selzthal at 07:28 in the morning. Turned out that quite a few people actually needed that connection and so the ÖBB provided at least 3 busses that morning. Ours was the first and full, but on time 🙃
In Selzthal we then switched to the IC512 train to Salzburg. That part of the journey was rather boring simply because everything worked, we had power, and lots of room in order to eat some snacks, watch some shows on Netflix etc. The train also arrived mostly on time in Salzburg but we still had to hurry in order to reach the IC114 which should bring us to Mannheim, and this is where the fun started…
From some reason, Germany is now once again doing border checks when entering the country. So at Freilassing a couple of police offers went through the carriages in order to do some spot passport checks. This didn’t take all that long and caused no real delay since they did their work while the train was moving to the next station.
Around Rosenheim there was then an issue with the track switches and so we lost around 45 minutes before reaching the next station, getting down to 30 in Munich (around 14:10). The announcement for that delay in Munich was hilarious, though, blaming it on the border checks “in a foreign country”, ignoring that the checks weren’t taking that long, that they happened on German soil, and that they were done by the German police 🤦♂️
That being said, when we reached Mannheim around 3 hours later, the delay was down to only around 15 minutes with the train racing to the station at top-speed. Remember Star Trek VI?
She’ll fly apart! Fly her apart then!
That was the feeling we got during the last minutes before reaching Mannheim 😅
The final part of the trip (Mannheim to Paris) started with a tiny delay of 5 minutes and was rather boring except for the awesome feeling of traveling at 320 km/h with other trains shooting past us at the same speed!
After the extended weekend we then did the same trip but in return and luckily with the segment from Salzburg to Graz not being split in two. The TGV we border at 07:20 brought us on time to Mannheim. Again: Boring 😅
The fun started once again once on a train of the Deutsche Bahn which managed to make an unexpected detour! At around 14:00 we reached Munich main station, which wasn’t really planned. Our train then had to head back to Munich-Passing before it could continue its journey. Even the train crew was surprised by all of that and at first couldn’t really tell us what had gone wrong there. In the end, the announcement also contained the line “Es gibt keinen Verantwortlichen.” (“There is no responsible person.”), something that I will remember for the next time I make a mistake 🙃
Due to that detour we also had to stop at various places along the way to make way for other trains that still had a chance to stay on schedule. We eventually reached Salzburg around 30 minutes later than expected. Given our small layover window of 16 minutes had already expected having to wait a couple of ours for the next connecting train.
Lucky for us, ÖBB also had their share of bad luck with the train engine of the IC611 being non-operational. With about 50 minutes of delay it then managed to leave Salzburg towards Graz. Turns out, though, that the engine wasn’t the only defective part as at various stops the doors didn’t open and so the crew had to run around manually opening them.
At around 18:15 they finally had enough air to also welcome us all aboard:
Wie möchten Sie nochmals am Intercity mit so vielen Verspätungen und Unterbrechungen willkommen heißen 🙂
(“We would like to welcome you again on this Intercity train with so many delays and interruptions 🙂”)
At 21:26 we finally arrived in Graz with a delay of around 75 minutes.
Was it worth it?
The trip to Paris took around 12 hours while the one back more than 14. This is a really long time but if you think about how much time you normally lose by simply getting to airports, waiting around there, and then getting from the destination airport into the city, it’s not that much more. In our case we lost about 4-6 hours here but we had the benefit of comfortable seats, power, a restaurant, and space to move around while getting from Graz to Paris.
We could also take tons of luggage with us without having to pay horrendous amounts of money for that. And we bought enough stuff in Paris that it was worth it 🤪
That being said, the trip to Brussels for FOSDEM will perhaps not happen via train but via plane again. Let’s see 🙂