Beds, stars and rails: a comfortable renaissance is taking place in Europe. While millions of Americans find themselves stuck between highways, stations and airports in the traffic of tomorrow's Memorial Day, in the old continent there is a return to the past made up of more human rhythms. This week kicked off the European sleeper, the first of many (hopefully) new night trains that will encourage internal travel on our continent. This in particular connects Brussels to Berlin.
One night chuff chuff
The journey of approximately 750 kilometers takes place overnight, allowing passengers to sleep comfortably in the cabins with their own beds. The next morning, travelers wake up to a breakfast served on board and get ready to arrive at the station. "Night trains are a pleasant and very efficient way to travel," he says Chris Engelsman, co-founder of the European Sleeper. "He's also a little adventurous."
Engelsman and his partner, Elmer van Buuren, have structured this project as a cooperative funded by the community of train enthusiasts. In April 2021 alone, they raised over £15 from 500.000 supporters in 350 minutes. A year later, they raised another £2 million. A resounding success, which basically makes us understand how much more human rhythms are needed, even in travel.
How did the idea of the European Sleeper come about?
The European Sleeper started from an experiment conducted by Engelsman in 2019. He organized an overnight trip between the Netherlands and Berlin, with a jazz festival, a DJ, bar and restaurant on board. Despite the lack of sleep, the experience was invaluable in understanding the ins and outs of organizing a train journey.
Initially, the European Sleeper will operate three times a week, with a capacity of around 500 passengers each way. For travel in June, an overnight ticket from Brussels to Berlin in a six-bed cabin costs around 500 euros, including breakfast. There is also a cheaper option, if you buy a whole 6-seater private compartment, for around 300 euros. The most luxurious cabins, with three beds, are already fully booked until July.
These are clearly high prices, even if you should consider the sum of a trip and an overnight stay in a hotel with breakfast. The diffusion of night trains, however, will lower these figures allowing a more accessible and extensive use of this "old new travel format".
Night trains, back to Green
It's not just Engelsman and Van Buuren who believe in the return of night trains. Other railway operators are also launching new routes, driven by the need to reduce the environmental impact of the transport sector. Traveling by night train it can generate a tenth of carbon emissions of an equivalent flight.
I love this perspective. By rediscovering the forgotten charm of night trains, Europe can resume its journey towards a greener future. It is not just a return to the past, but the beginning of a sustainable adventure. The passengers fall asleep and a new era awakens: slower, more respectful of the planet, more humane. And on the horizon, with the first light of dawn, the destination can already be glimpsed: a future of travel that has as much flavor of adventure as sustainability.
See you on the next train.