Wednesday, June 22, 2011
A Terrific Website for All Your Rail and Ferry Travel Questions
First move: I went to the website of the Polish State Railways. Alas it was all in Polish (ie Greek to me). I tried soldiering through with an online translation tool, but I kept getting words for trees rather than arrivals and departure info. Next!
RailEurope.com was up, but it couldn't help me online and directed me to call. I did so, and ended up buying a rail pass (since I would be taking several journeys it was the most cost-effective way to proceed). But after many phone calls back and forth, they informed that they couldn't book space in the sleeper for me and that I'd have to wait until I got to Poland. Not a great strategy, since I'd be traveling with an 8-year-old who can do a pretty good, if unintentional, imitation of Linda Blair in the Exorcist when she doesn't get sufficient sleep. Waiting to book was not a risk I was willing to take.
Then one of those internet miracles happened, and I stumbled upon Seat61.com (Its official name is "The Man in Seat 61"). Dedicated to train and ferry travel, its encyclopedic in its scope and very practical in its advice. Within two minutes of scanning the Poland page of the site, I had the website of an excellent Polish Rail Travel Agency, and 15 minutes after that, with brisk email correspondence (on a Saturday) back and forth with an agent named Tomaz, I'd booked my sleeper car on a direct train (RailEurope had wrongly told me there were only connecting trains between Warsaw and Gdansk).
The site gives advice on buying passes, follows service changes on popular routes ("Paris-Hamburg City Nightline Sleeper Train Reinstated!" is one enthusiastic headline), and offers a nifty widget that allows users to compare the prices and times of different ferry operators for varying European routes.
So thank you Man in Seat 61--I'll be looking for you in Poland!