[K]atowice, Poland – We had just returned from Warsaw and hurriedly got our things together. We were heading to Brno for their inaugural Couch Crash. For those who aren’t familiar, a Couch Crash is an multi-day event organized by a host Couchsurfing city, where lots of activities are organized and invitations sent to neighboring countries to “crash their couches”.
Maggi, Mihau and I were going to drive to the closest Czech town, Bohuim and take a train from there. My Eurail.com Global Pass would be valid in Czech Republic so this was fine for me.
For whatever reason, international train tickets are much more expensive than domestic ones for the same distance. (The other thing you can do is take a domestic train to a border town, then another train to the next country’s border town and finally a train to your final destination. It takes longer but you save a fair bit.)
We got to Bohuim and I showed my EuRail.com Global Pass to the lady at the ticket counter. There are two things which are important with the Eurail.com pass.
First, you need to make you sure it’s “activated” the first time you use it. Basically, you need to show it to the person at the ticket counter before you board the train, and they need to stamp it.
Second, with Flexi passes you need to write the date you are traveling in the Travel Calendar on the ticket. I have a 2 month Global Pass with 15 travel days. The other version is the Continuous Pass which let’s you travel for the entire period of the pass. It’s more expensive and probably not necessary for most people, unless you are doing some sort of Amazing Race across Europe.
The ticket counter lady looked it, scratched her head and then stamped it. I was nervous that this was too easy and I would end up with a huge fine for having an invalid ticket. I may be a seasoned traveler but I feel like like a fuck up when it comes to train travel. (I still remember how I ended up paying €132 for a one-way train ticket from Munich to Katowice a few years ago.
We jumped on the train and were on our way. Train travel definitely feels luxurious after I’ve become accustomed to battery cage-style seats on low-cost flights. The ticket conducter came by, checked my Eurail.com ticket with my passport and handed it back. I couldn’t believe how easy the process was. However, the train ride was only going to be 2.5 hours so a pass like this is better utilized on longer journeys. We spent the rest of the trip to Brno catching up on sleep, after the spontaneous trip to Warsaw.
We arrived at about 6 pm and were being hosted by a friend of mine who’s living in Brno, who was oiginally from New York, whom I had hosted while I was living in Toronto years ago. (I love how Couchsurfing connections are so deliriously complex)
Brno Couch Crash was lots of fun, with freindly people and fun activities all weekend. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Brno is not the shit-hole that everyone in Prague tells me it is. It’s just smaller and has less people. And for some reason the women here seem to wear shorter skirts. Or maybe they are just taller than average.
Brno is actually quite a beautiful city. It’s Czech Republic’s second biggest city and the largest city in the Moravian region. The downtown is very liveable and not overrun with hordes of tourists like you have in Prague. And prices are pretty reasonable too. A pint of beer in a downtown bar is 25kc (US$1.20) compared with 35kc ($1.70) in Prague. There are lots of universities and large international IT companies here, so the population is quite young and cosmopolitan.
My favorite thing in Brno by far is that you can buy a 2 litre plastic bottle of Moravian wine for 48kc (US$2.30). And, it’s socially acceptable to drink it in public without people accusing you of being homeless. So for my entire weekend in Brno, all I drank was Moravian wine. To be honest, it wasn’t even that good but it was local and unbelievable value. Because that folks, is what really counts.