Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Standing room only on the Bastia-Ajaccio express

There has been quite a lot of discussion recently on various travel forums regarding the train services in Corsica. Yes, the journey between Ponte Leccia and Ajaccio is probably the train journey with the best scenery in Europe…. But there was one time when, for me, it turned into a bit of a nightmare.

We boarded the two small carriages that formed the Bastia-Ajaccio express in mid morning at Ponte Leccia. It was a little late, and some people failed to get a seat, but all went fairly smoothly until Vizzavona. This is where the train line intersects the GR20 trail and there were three or four heavily laden hikers who wanted to get on there. So heavily laden, in fact that our driver wouldn’t let them do so and they were made to wait for the next one. Disappointment was etched in their faces; angry words were uttered. So on we went without them.

After a pleasant day in Corsica’s capital, we headed for the last train back and waited with a large crowd of other folk for the train to arrive. I remember wondering how they were all going to get on – there seemed to be more waiting to go back up towards Bastia than there were on the train on the way down. Imagine my horror then, when the train that rolled into Ajaccio Station consisted of a single carriage.

Yes, we all got on. I’m sure there were over 100 of us. How the little engine got us all up the big inclines I have no idea. My friend, who stood all the way, actually sustained a stress fracture in his foot from standing awkwardly half on and half off a step. Some passengers got out and in again at every station just to be able to breathe in fully. By the time we got back to Ponte Leccia, we were three hours late, thanks to the slowness of the heavily laden train, the getting on and off, and the general muddle.

Some people were OK. One gentleman got to sit next to the driver, and ended up with a very pretty girl from Bastia more or less sitting on his lap – to save space of course. But the people I felt most sorry for were the man from Corte who took a large children’s wooden rocking horse on to the train… and the three or four people standing next to him with its wooden feet, ears and tail poking into various parts of their bodies.

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