ALL aboard the Good Night Train.
A new sleeper service connects Brussels and Berlin in a sustainable and retro way.
Have you ever flown on a budget airline with a fatal hangover? It’s grossly overrated.
But being gently lulled to sleep by the click of a rolling train is far more civilized, I soon find out.
Last weekend, the Dutch-Belgian startup European Sleeper launched the Good Night Train, a night train connecting Brussels with Berlin.
Running three times a week, the train was due to depart Brussels-Midi at 19.22 – an easy transfer from Eurostar connections – and stop in Antwerp, Amsterdam and Rotterdam before rolling into Berlin at 06.28 the next morning.
My friend Rhonda and I stroll to the train station expecting that there will be shiny new trains on the shiny new route. But no.
The sustainable startup currently rents rolling stock from a German railway company and some wagons even date back to 1955.
But founders Chris Engelsman and Elmer Van Buuren don’t pretend it’s a luxury sleeper service.
On the way out we are in a private cabin for three. There’s no air-conditioning (although the windows open a little), toilets are shared between all carriages, and there’s a small sink with tempered faucets and just one electrical outlet.
But there’s something charming about the lack of glamor and the chunky carriages have a retro vibe that will delight train enthusiasts.
There’s no dining car—I was hoping for a party car—but you can order drinks and snacks, including beer, wine, and instant noodles, into the cabin. And there is also a light breakfast in the morning.
After enjoying our own train picnic with red wine and Pringles, Rhonda and I settle into our cozy bunk beds.
As we are traveling through the Schengen area, we don’t have to get up for passport control, instead we enjoy fresh coffee from our bus hostess, Abigail.
We’re directed to one of Berlin’s more distant stations rather than Berliner Hauptbahnhof, the capital’s main train station (there are still some teething problems), but I’m feeling surprisingly radiant, with bushy hair and ready to explore.
Our base for the next day and a half is the Hotel Nhow Berlin in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg on the north bank of the Spree, just a few minutes from the East Side Gallery.
Arriving in Europe’s club capital on a Saturday gives us a rare opportunity to try our luck and break into the world’s most notorious techno club, Berghain.
Reportedly, very picky bouncers make it difficult to get involved, even if you’re young and hip. So if you’re in your fifties and have a penchant for disco, that’s next to impossible (spoiler alert: we didn’t get in).
Instead, we find our folks at Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke Bar rocking out with a live band to Fleetwood Mac.
We soon board the Sleeper for our return journey, this time sleeping on daybeds in a shared cabin with pillows, sheets and a blanket provided.
After 36 beer-drenched hours in the German capital, I flop into the top bunk and wait for the click-clack of the Good Night Train to ease my hangover. See? Much more civilized.
GET THERE: European Sleeper offers seats from £42 (€49), couchettes from £68 (€79) and private cabins from £103 (€119) each way. See europasleeper.eu.
STAY THERE: One night at nhow Berlin from £79 (€91) room only. See nh-hotels.com.
You can find more information about sights and activities in Berlin at berlin.de.