A couple of hours ago, I returned from a long and exhausting trip by bus from Paris to Berlin, following some days ago a 25 hours trip Berlin – Paris – Nantes. As I did travel alone and without a set schedule, I decided to try a different way of transportation: the bus, on both ways. Even though the trip lasts around 15 hours, I decided that at least once in a while I should not hurry up and take my time. I did a lot of reading and my notebook of travel ideas went almost full. Plus, I wanted to take the opportunity to see the beautiful landscape and the cities we passed by. Among them, Antwerp impressed me with its wonderful buildings and stylish streets, despite our early first date at 6 o’clock in the morning. The city is on my priority list and I promise to return for a couple of days as soon as possible.
Another good lesson of the trip was the chance to see at length the French landscape between Paris and Nantes, with wonderful fields and castles. As always when in France, I feel a perfect connection with the places I see: about many of them I’ve learned in school and I can mention at least 2 important benchmarks when I see the name ‘Anjou’ or ‘Tours’. In other words, I feel very much at home, linguistically especially, and the bus trip, even though quite long – around 7 hours – help me to reconnect with the historical and geographical landscape.
On the way back to Paris, I decided that I want to have the experience of the TGV and spent on the high-speed road nothing more than 3 hours, without any stop. A completely different experience, when I enjoyed the comfort of the chairs and the pleasant and clean ambiance of the train.
One may think that the final say in such an exhausting experience was the result of a careful budgeting, but overall it is not exactly so. True is that I’ve found a good price for the Berlin to Paris trip, for 33 Euro, but the way back was near 70 Euro, and the price from Paris to Nantes, with the same Eurolines, 40 Euro. It happens as in the case of any other transportation: the sooner you make the reservation – preferably 3 months in advance at least, the better the price. In my case, I paid almost the same price of a good, cheap and fast flight. But I wanted adventure and to explore new travel opportunities.
There it is some love between me and the bus
To be honest, I am quite familiar with the bus trips: it is how I went from Dubrovnik to Zagreb, from Bucharest to Strasbourg and also did a couple of trip in the Romanian countryside using nothing else than the local bus transportation – at the time, in 1998, I felt like I am invited to travel with the first bus of the century.
Socially speaking, a trip by bus offers many opportunities to interact with people of different background, but also with locals traveling from a place to another. Besides, I love to watch the landscape and to observe the architecture and the geography. I always learn a lot for such a trip and from time to time I prefer to take my time and use the bus.
There it is very difficult to cope with the discomfort. For so many hours in a row you can’t move properly, and sleeping without a pillow and proper space to move your feet is a nightmare. In case that you have a neighbour in the front of you invading your space as he/she wants to extend its chair, or/and another one on the aisle, limiting your movement space, the risks to do not sleep at all or better not sleep are very high.
As the bus driver did not stop every 6 hours, when my feet touched the ground for the first time in 10 hours, I felt like I got my freedom back.
Especially during the summer, there are many youngsters and students backpacking and most likely you will rarely afford the pleasure to enjoy the freedom of two seats only for you. Thus, get ready to fight blood circulation problems and different neck pains.
Compared to the USA, Europeans – Germans and French alike – do not like air conditioning and thus, do not expect too much fresh air coming your way. After a couple of hours without a proper ventilation, one may not hurry up to book the next long-run bus ticket. At least I will not.
The biggest challenge for me was to cope with the restrooms. Or better said, with their pestilential smell. All the three buses I’ve been on in the last 4 days had the same problem: dirty and annoyingly stingy restrooms. Sometimes the water was not working properly, or the cleaning was done maybe days before if ever. When you pay some dozen of euros, you don’t expect such a failure that will prompt you to pay more euros to the gas stations where you can find a proper place for your basic needs.
I may say that I will continue to go by bus, but for trips of maximum 5 hours. Plus, I would avoid as much as possible the night rides. And most probably, take always someone with me for having a good company for the long hours when I am done with the intensive reading. Of travel books and reviews, of course.