Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Riding the Rails: Prague to Paris

July 21-22, 2011 -- After two days exploring Prague, I took an overnight Deutsche Bahn City Night Line train to Cologne and then transferred to a Thalys high-speed train that took me to my next destination on this summer's rail trip through Europe -- Paris, France.

Prague's modern train station is attached to the historic early 20th century Art Nouveau booking hall, which is now a cafe named after the Czech architect who built the station -- Josef Fanta. The station hall is well-preserved and is an excellent example of Art Nouveau architecture.

At the cafe you can order Mattoni mineral water from the spa town of Karlovy Vary, which is famous for its health benefits.

There is a memorial plaque to former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson with his quote that "the world must be safe for democracy." From 1945 to 1953 the Prague railway station was called Wilson station (Czech: Wilsonovo nádraží).

On Oct. 5 a memorial statue to Wilson, who helped the Czechs gain independence in 1918, will be rededicated in front of the railway station seventy years after the original statue was destroyed by the Nazis.

The couchette cars of the overnight train feature four beds and there was a fun group of Americans on their way to Amsterdam which helped pass the time to Cologne -- a college student from North Carolina, pictured left, and two friends from Texas touring Europe. We drank the original Czech Budweiser Budvar (called Czechvar in the U.S. and Canada) and had a great time into the night as we rolled through the German heartland.

After transferring to a Thalys high-speed train at Cologne, I finally arrived at Paris Gare du Nord railway station the next day and was ready to explore the City of Light.

Here are photos and video of the train trip from Prague to Paris. Click here to see the photo set on Flickr.