Saturday, September 26, 2009

Train Trouble

Written on the train this morning ...

Yesterday I planned to arrive in Dresden around noon. I was going to catch the 9:38 train out of Erfurt, lock my bag in a locker at the Dresden train station and spend the remainder of the day exploring before I met up with my couch surfing host, Anna, for the night. Of course, my day did not unfold as such and everything took far longer than I had anticipated.

First, I got out of bed a half an hour after I had planned. Not a huge crisis, I had given myself extra time to begin with. I was in the kitchen eating breakfast and online by 8am. I had planned to be online until 8:30, would finish packing my things and then leave by 9, easily making it to the train on time. Well, I lost track of the time talking to Eddie online so I missed the 9:38 train. Again, not a huge deal as there was one at 10:38. I arrived at the station 15 minutes early, found my platform and waited for the train. Yesterday was my 9th day using the rail pass so I kind of feel like a pro now.

The train arrived and because Erfurt is a small stop along the way, there were already a lot of people on the train. This made finding a seat difficult. As in America, I have discovered that most Europeans prefer to sit by themselves unless they know the person they are sitting next to. Seats can be assigned on trains, but often are not, so when you board you have to look at the reader board next to the seat number to figure out if it is reserved or not. Most of the seats on this train were reserved and the unreserved seats were mostly occupied, or at least one seat was and the seat next to the person was filled by his or her bag or purse or whatever.

I thought I was going to have to stand in the aisles or force someone to let me sit next to them when a lady offered her seat to me. She was getting off at the next stop and didn’t mind standing for a few minutes (at least this is what I gathered from our hand gestures since we could not communicate with each other by speaking). So, I had a seat, wonderful! Now, I just had to settle in for the next 2 ½ hours. I managed to fall asleep and when I woke up we were in Leipzig. I found it a bit ironic since I had planned to go there on a day trip. I was half tempted to get off the train and just stay the night and go to Dresden in the morning, but did not want to change my plans with my couch surfing host one more time.

The train seemed to be sitting at the platform much longer than the trains usually stop at each station. I was seated on the opposite side of the train from the platform so I could not see the reader board and what time the train was supposed to depart, but I just figured it was a big stop for the train and perhaps the layover was simply longer. Well, 20 or more minutes passed and someone came on over the loudspeaker and announced something in German. I, not speaking German, assumed they were telling us we would depart soon. No, that was not it. 10 minutes later they came on again and announced what sounded like the same thing to me. Hmm… People started to become anxious and get on and off the train. There was a police officer onboard – due to the heightened state of alert that Germany is in due to a terrorist threat – and he began to poke his head around outside to see what was happening.

I decided that the best way for me to wait the situation out was to eat my lunch. Just as I pulled out my knife and bread and cheese the power turned off on the train. I decided not to unpack all of my food just yet. I didn’t want a mess on my hands in case I had to get off the train quickly. So, there I sat, in the dark, with the rest of the passengers, waiting and wondering. The power finally came back on and then over the intercom they announced something – once again in German. I did not understand what they said, but everyone on the train began to pick up their bags and get off the train. I decided I should follow suit.

Once off the train I found that the next few connections were leaving in about 20 minutes. I didn’t particularly want to get on any of those trains since I knew that everyone from my full train was going to be dispersed among them. Instead I found an internet terminal and paid 2 euro for an hour of time to check my e-mail and make sure things were still on for couch surfing that evening. If by chance they were not, I figured I could stay in Leipzig and make the most of that day, since it was only noon still. I had received a message saying that I had I place to stay for the night in Dresden so back to the train terminal I went. I found a train (leaving at 1:51) that was due to arrive in Dresden a bit after 3. I made it on that train and was able to locate a seat – although I had to share the row with another woman.

On board there was a group of 5 or 6 older couples who were on their way to Dresden. I imagine that they were celebrating some sort of occasion because they were drinking champagne, taking shots, and singing drinking songs the whole way. It was quite entertaining to watch since the youngest person had to be 60. The Germans and their drinking make me laugh. You’re never too old for a party I guess.

When I finally arrived in Dresden it was after 3 and I was tired. I was supposed to meet my couch surfing host between 5 and 6, so I decided to try and find a map of town and figure out the transportation system. It’s a good thing that was my first priority because I had to walk halfway through town to find the tourist center where the maps were which took me about an hour. I got on the tram to go to Anna’s house and figured it would take 15-20 minutes.

There was an old man on the train (in his late 70’s I’d say) who kept watching me study my map. About halfway to my destination he got up to get off the tram and motioned for me to follow him. I tried to explain that this was not my stop. He said, “bus” to me and I looked at him puzzled, again he motioned for me to follow. At this point I noticed that EVERYONE else on the tram was getting off as well. I decided that this was a good idea and followed the old man off the bus.

I pointed to the stop on the map that I needed to get off at and he tried to tell me something. I found a girl next to me who could translate and basically she told me that because of construction the trams did not go further than this stop. I would need to wait for a bus to come and pick me up – well me and everyone else who had gotten off of the tram. I was thankful the old man got me off the tram, as strange as the whole interaction was.

When the bus came and we all boarded, we acquired a somewhat “crazy” person as well. For the next three or four stops this guy stood in the middle of the bus yelling and swearing (in German). I think he had gotten on the wrong bus or missed his stop or something. He wanted the driver to stop the bus but he wouldn’t until he was at an actual stop. Everyone on the bus was rolling their eyes at him and when he got off the bus finally there was a wave of relief that swept over everyone. It was quite the experience for sure.

I made it to my stop by 4:45 – which took longer than I had anticipated, but I didn’t want to be too early to my couch surfing hosts’ home, so it was fine. I found a grocery store and bought some food for the evening and for today and then found her house. Anna was very nice and showed me around the upstairs part of her grandparents’ home where she lived. I had my own little room to sleep in, which was great, but I could not get online with my computer. Fortunately she allowed me to use hers and I was able to get some research and planning taken care of for the next few days. She was out most of the evening, so I didn’t get to know her much, but I was thankful for a place to sleep and time to plan my next few days of travel.

I am currently on my way back to Leipzig, once again on a later train than I had planned, but hopefully my traveling trouble from yesterday will not follow me into today. I am staying in a hostel tonight, The Kangaroo Stop, so hopefully I can get some rest tonight. Tomorrow I will spend the day in Dresden around town and I have another couch surfing host tomorrow and Monday night with a girl named Ana. Ironic eh? Monday I will travel to the small town of Gohrisch and see if there is anything to see from my family’s namesake town. My guess is there is not so much, but I am still hopeful that I will discover that I am to inherit some big castle or something. I’ll let you know how it goes.

1 comment:

gail said...

I am so glad your stories have happy endings!

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