Tuesday, August 7, 2018

SOL Tuesday: The Overnight Train, Part 1

(This actually happened a week ago Sunday night, but I couldn't figure out how to post to the blog from my phone, so saved it up for now. Part 2 will come next Tuesday.)

My daughter and I were traveling in Poland and Germany. Our overnight train from Krakow to Berlin was scheduled to leave at 10:23 p.m. We got to the station more than an hour early since in my experience strange train stations in foreign languages take some time to navigate. When our train (to Szczecin Glowny) appeared on the train board, there was a note that it was 4 minutes late, then 5 minutes late. These two times oscillated back and forth for the next hour. This train also had an assigned platform: 5. (Platforms were above the station waiting area.) 
        Under platform 5 we noticed that another train, with a later departure, had been posted. Meanwhile, the train board still had our train leaving at 10:23. I decided to ask a ticket agent. (There was no information desk with a human.) The agent informed me that I needed a train to Swinoujscie, which the train board said was on Platform 1 and leaving at the same 10:23, which by this point was already more than 10 minutes in the past. I was panicking, wondering whether this other train would honor our sleeping compartment reservation. Fortunately, Christie had noticed that both trains had the same train number. (Why were they on the train board as two separate trains? Just to confuse me?)
        We rushed over to platform 1, where we found most of the seats in the waiting area taken. It was getting later and later, and after 11 pm, the train for Swinoujscie was gone from the train board. What did that mean? Around 11:10, a train pulled into the station and the ID board on the platform said it was going to Swinoujscie. We rushed to get on because I had no idea how quickly it would leave. (Not quickly, it turned out.)
        I was looking for car 32, with berths 41 and 45, but could not find it. We wrestled out suitcases through car after car, most with compartments holding six seats, and one with two by two seats like an American train car, and at the end of that car racks of a couple dozen bicycles. People were standing in the narrow corridors. Where was/were the cars with sleeping compartments? Where was a conductor? Were we going to have to stand for the next 10 hours?
         Finally we came to a car we could not enter, but a passenger standing at the end of the car spoke English. While I was using the toilet, luckily at this end of the car, the conductor arrived, and it turned out that the car we couldn’t enter was the one with sleeping compartments. Once we were settled in, Christie decreed this was an adventure, not a horror show.

But wait, there’s more. (next SOL Tuesday)