When I bragged to my beach-obsessed family that I was planning a late summer holiday in Ukraine, I encountered reactions that ranged from skeptical stares to disbelief. “That’s where they used to send naughty capitalists!” they exclaimed. Tack on the fact that my husband and I would be travelling by train from Warsaw, and they were pretty much gobsmacked.
The best thing about Europe’s beaches in summer? Half the continent lies supine upon them, leaving its greatest cities empty for all to see. But my recent brief to Railbookers was more complex than a simple city break. Budget and time were strictly limited. And my wife and I wanted to cram in more culture than the Paris Louvre, yet return to work on Monday fully refreshed.
I set off on my trip in the middle of a 2 week European “Big Freeze” , so I knew that the holiday was sure to turn into an adventure. Luckily trains were running across Europe, unlike the airports where thousands of passengers had been stranded the last few days. I boarded the Eurostar at St Pancras which was running a restricted service, and made my way to Brussels for the quick change to Cologne. I was eager to board my Intercity overnight train, as this was to be my first sleeper experience.