Stockholm to Krakow


Train Journal

Märsta – Kraków June 2024

 Sunday 23 June

SJ nicely cancelled the direct train I had booked that would have taken me from T Centralen to Copenhagen Central leaving at 10:20. Instead, I had to re-book on a train to Malmö that was scheduled to leave Stockholm at 07:20. Thanks SJ.

The taxi showed up on schedule at 06:15, and the trip from Märsta to T Centralen was uneventful. There was more traffic north of roughly Sollentuna than I would have expected for a Sunday morning at 06:30, but once we got into Stockholm proper traffic thinned out.

There were a fair number of people waiting to travel southwards at T Centralen. The image was taken about 07:15, and the train was supposed to depart at 07:20. It did turn up, and we managed to roll away from the station only a few minutes late.

Since I had to re-book my seat reservation due to the cancelled train, I had the opportunity to use the new SJ booking web page. It actually worked well – surprise! SJ has caught up with the airline industry, and you can choose seats by marking them on a map of the carriage. I managed to nab a single window seat with a table in 1st class (carriage 1, seat 37) – luxury! The only drawback was having a sneezy fellow sitting directly in back of me. Damn.

One advantage of taking early SJ trains from T Centralen in Stockholm is that you get breakfast served at your seat (in 1st class, anyway). They even have a vegetarian option. Way to go SJ!

I don’t much like Copenhagen Central station. It is crowded, chaotic and noisy. In the winter it is freezing, and in the summer sweltering. Today it had the first three of these characteristics, but luckily the temperature was pleasant. I had about three hours to kill, since I managed to get a slightly earlier (20 min) train from Malmö C to Copenhagen H. This train (Öresundståg) was packed with people going to Copenhagen airport. I don’t remember taking one of these trains without it being crowded.

Copenhagen H didn’t disappoint – it was crowded, chaotic and noisy today too. This time I managed to score a table at one of the cafes in the main hall. The Danes do know how to make a good sandwich – better on the whole than us Swedish folk. After a very leisurely lunch and several laps around the inside of the station, it was time to head to platform 5 for the train to Hamburg.

The train was on time departing – actually all of them today have been! Maybe I should look for a lottery ticket when I arrive in Hamburg, since it seems to be my lucky day (so far, at least). First class in this train is all small 6-seat cabins. Mine is full. Four 20-30-ish Danes heading to watch one of the European Championship matches (they are actually pretty cool) and a guy about my age serially drinking cans of Tuborg Guld that he had with him. Luckily, my noise-cancelling Airpods have decent battery life, and I have lots of music on my phone.

We made it to Hamburg only 15 minutes late, which is pretty much on time for a Danish/German train. Nice! Picking up my seat reservations between Berlin and Kraków from the “Fahrkarten” automat was a bit of a challenge, even using the English menus. After some poking around, I managed to get them, and walked across the street from the train station to my hotel. Day 1 travels done!

Monday 24 June

Even though Hamburg H is just as busy and crowded as Copenhagen H, somehow it doesn’t feel quite so uncomfortable. Maybe this is because there are a lot more restaurants and shops at both ends of the station to absorb people waiting for their trains. Last night Germany squeaked by Switzerland in the European football championships, and the Germans are sure to be hoping that a trophy like the one in the train station will be staying in the country for the next year.

A nice thing about Hamburg H is the fact that you can probably find that item you forgot at home in one of the many shops. Pharmacies, clothing shops, travel gear and lots of restaurants provide good service to travelers.

The station is fairly easy to navigate, with one drawback. It lacks one of those huge displays for train departure and arrival times and tracks. There is a small display at each end of the station, but given the limited space, they can only display about 30 minutes (or less) of departures. The DB app does a much better job. I got updates about departure times and tracks on my Apple Watch, and the iPhone app gave me information about where the different carriages could be found on the platform. Nice!

The train to Berlin was just a few minutes late leaving the station. Somehow, I managed to book a seat in 2nd class despite having a 1st class ticket. Damn. Luckily there were two seats free in the 1st class cabin, and I managed to get one of them without too much hassle. DB’s app let me know that we would be 5 minutes late arriving in Berlin, which was nice of them.

Surprisingly, not all of the seats in the cabin had electrical outlets. The one I nabbed didn’t, and I had to steal the one from the fellow sitting next to me. It appeared that he was at least as old school as I, since he was reading things printed on paper and didn’t need electricity to do so.

Friday 28 June

Arrived early enough at the train station to get a coffee at a local Starbucks. The station entrance was a bit difficult to find, even fully caffeinated. I forgot to take pictures. Damn.

The EC 56 Wawel 1st class carriage had a different configuration from the one that got me here. Here we had six-seat cabins. Mine was full. The fellow next to me was bellowing into his telephone for quite a while at the outset of the trip. Not even Bela Fleck on the earphones could completely drown him out. There was no air conditioning or air circulation and very little oxygen in the cabin. It became quite uncomfortable. The toilets had neither toilet paper nor hand towels. Despite the apparent requirement for set reservations, there were lots of folks in the aisles without seats, and the restaurant car was a zoo. I didn’t take any pictures on this leg – it wasn’t worth it.

The train between Berlin and Hamburg was delayed by 25 minutes, but the DB app kept me very well informed of the delays, and the track change. After the earlier fiasco, this train was far more comfortable. The cabin was only about half full.

Saturday 29 June

The train left on time – yay! The DB app is very useful. I reserved a seat through the DB web site before the trip. The DB app managed to let me know that the train would be leaving on time, which carriage and seat I had reserved, which platform it would leave from, and where on the platform the carriage would stop. Fifty points to Ravenclaw!

Once again, I got into a six-seat cabin with no AC or air circulation. What’s with the lack of oxygen? Do the train companies think this is something for which they can charge us extra? At least this time two of the six seats were unoccupied when we left Hamburg.

One of my fellow passengers reminds me of Mr. Weasley from the Harry Potter films. Can he pull out a wand and turn this cabin into something nice?

After so many crowded, hot and uncomfortable legs on this trip, the final leg between Malmö and Stockholm started wonderfully. The train left Malmö station exactly on time, and the 1st class cabin was close to empty. I luckily got a single seat next to a window with a table – yippee! I even had time to have a beer with Brendon from Australia (he was in the cabin between Hamburg and Copenhagen, and on the same train to Malmö).

The cabin started to fill up quickly once we reached Lund, but still, having a single window seat (and a table!) was really nice.

For once, SJ got me all the way from Malmö to Stockholm with essentially no delay. Wow! Nice work SJ!

Written by