Category Archives: Transportation

Overnight Bus to Warsaw

The next stop on this haphazard Eurotrip is Warsaw via my first overnight bus in Europe. I was eager to see what the conditions were like as the buses have been pretty amazing so far.

I’ve used a few different companies to get from point A to B over the past few weeks, and they all offer similar services for decent prices. They’re definitely cheaper than catching the train – with or without the expensive Eurail passes.

The buses are comfortable and usually not fully booked. Ingeniously, the aisle seats actually separate from the window seats and slide toward the aisle to create a bit more space between passengers. This is helpful as I found the seats were average in size but the occupants were larger (much taller and carrying more bulk than in southeast Asia). Many of the buses have wifi aboard, but so far this has been spotty for me. Still, the buses are new-ish and cleaner than their Asian counterparts by a long shot.

My bus departed from Vilnius at about 10:30 p.m. I’ve been warned about the sketchy nature of bus stations in general by European friends, but I haven’t had any problems so far (except for an interesting interaction with a drunk Estonian). Also, the sun doesn’t set till near 11 p.m. in these parts, so I wouldn’t have to wait in the dark.

Unfortunately, this overnight bus was pretty full and I wasn’t able to snag a lone seat. This made for an uncomfortable night as I couldn’t truly fall asleep with a stranger sitting next to me. I was still in my southeast Asian mindset and was very careful about having my backpack in my lap or resting my legs on it so it couldn’t be stolen. I didn’t expect any problems during this trip, but when you don’t acknowledge the possibility, that’s when opportunists strike.

The seven-hour bus ride from Vilnius to Warsaw was uneventful. We called on a few stations, but since it was night outside there wasn’t much to see. It would’ve been great to travel this route during the day and see out the window. In this respect, I’m very much still a kid who likes to watch the scenery go by.

Early the following morning, we pulled into Warsaw, and the enormity of the city and its buildings amazed me. Having come from Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, Warsaw seemed like a futuristic metropolis. Even though I hadn’t slept much all night, I was wide awake and ready to explore this shiny new city.

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Filed under Poland, Transportation

Trakai Island Castle

Not sure what to do with myself, I asked the hostel staff for suggestions and they recommended a visit to the nearby Trakai Island Castle. This required a bus ride to Trakai, and despite not having any maps or fully knowing where I was going, I was up for the adventure.

When I arrived at Vilnius bus station, it was easy to find the correct bus because of the huge signs as well as the other tourist-like people waiting around. The bus arrived and we paid the driver as we boarded. It was a nice drive through town and out into the beginnings of the countryside.

When the bus pulled into a station in the middle of nowhere, the driver said something in what I thought was Lithuania. Everyone on the bus looked at one another like, “Is this the place?” The driver indicated we should get off, so most of the passengers disembarked. I found a map nearby and Trakai Island Castle was a fair walk into town. Even if I didn’t find it, the town seemed like a good place to explore.

I passed many churches, a few restaurants and a couple of schools along the way. It didn’t seem like there were a lot of people here, even though Trakai is a big tourist resort town these days. I continued along and finally spotted a pathway down toward the lake that revealed Trakai Island Castle in all its glory.

From across the lake, the castle looked very impressive with its red-brick construction. The dark clouds created an ominous feeling around the place as I crossed the wooden bridge from the mainland. The closer I got to the structure, the more I entered the Medieval period.

The castle functions as a museum in which visitors can learn about Trakai and Lithuanian history. Many of the rooms contain chain mail, swords, helmets, tapestry, gold and other remnants of a time long past. With admission, you’re allowed inside the castle and climb century-old steps (although I’m sure the castle has been refurbished throughout the years) and walk through age-old doorways.

As I wandered from room to room, I avoided the rowdy groups of children on school trips with their tour guides and tried to find pockets of solitude. It felt like the castle could talk to you if it was given the chance. Maybe it’s the ghosts from battles fought in the surrounding regions?

I spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits and trying to picture what it would be like to live in a place like this. Of course, only Lithuanian leaders called this home. Normal people lived in normal houses as they do all around the world. But still, it’s a wonder that these cold, brick walls housed real families and servants, soldiers and cooks, stablehands and ironworkers. It boggles the mind.

As the day went on, the weather didn’t let up. The wind was cold as it blew across the water. It was definitely time to go. I headed back to the bus station and made my way back to my temporary home in Vilnius.

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Filed under Attraction, Lithuania, Transportation

Tallinn to Riga on Lux Express

The bus ride from Tallinn to Riga on Lux Express  was a quick four-and-a-half hour trip in a modern, air-conditioned bus. It was kitted out with power points to charge your electronics and even had free wifi, although it was spotty for me.

I was surprised at the high quality of the bus, because the fare was extremely cheap when compared to train prices. The bus driver made announcements in several languages, including English, making it easy to understand what was going on. Also, the roads were in really good condition so it was smooth riding all the way to Riga.

The only negative aspect about traveling this way was the fullness of the bus. However, who can really blame people for using this transportation to get from city to city? With these prices, it made travel between countries very easy and affordable.

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Filed under Estonia, Latvia, Transportation