Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last weekend I went to Slovakia to visit friends there. Train travel. Which I love. Normally. I woke up super early to catch a train. Nicely caught the tram and metro to get to the train station. Bought a ticket, caught the train all handily. The train was late so I missed my connection in Bratislava, but it was OK because when I got off the train, across the platform was the next train leaving for Trnava. A slow train, but that's OK. And my phone worked in Slovakia so I could text Miska. And all the while I was thinking about how much I love traveling, how much I love train traveling. It was all perky.

All fine and dandy. I have a nice visit with Miska, and we walk around town and see all my old haunts. On Sunday I went to church, saw more people, and had lunch with a missionary family that I know. And then Rebecca drives me back to the station to catch a bus home. But after waiting a half hour for the bus (I was early b/c I knew it'd be full) the bus has absolutely no room: it's completely booked. So now I won't be getting home at a pleasant 8pm.

We go into the train station and ask for trains to Prague. Not getting in until after 11:00. Stinks. First I have to wait in Trnava another hour+. I walk around, sit at the station. When I get to Kuty, where I have to spend 1.5hrs, I find the station to be the size of my pinky (as Mark would say) and I sit there, eat the meager snacks I have, and listen to cartalk podcasts. (A good time to squander an hour, I figure.)

I hop on the train that matches my time, even though it doesn't say Prague: the ticket guy told me to get on it. It's jammed packed so I have to stand in the hallway at the end of the car. At the first station most people get off. I notice that a guy is fiddling with the links between the cars. Uncoupling? I have heard of cars uncoupling and going in two separate directions. But I just hope it's not the case, or at least that I'm in the right car. Wrong. Dead wrong. I take a seat in the car and as soon as we start moving the ticket lady makes it quite clear that I am not on the right train. She says something that certainly sounds like 'stupid' and everyone in the car is staring at me and holding back a snicker. Well, I tell her I don't understand Czech, and she prints out a little receipt that tells me when to get off and what trains to catch to get back to Prague. At 3:55am. I will arrive at 3:55am. A kind man across the aisle speaks a little English and makes sure I understand what to do. Later he even helps me know which station to Vystup. Which means exit. Which, once my my clears up and I calm down, I realize the lady must have been saying: I should have exited the train - vystup...something-or-other. She probably wasn't calling me stupid.

But I tell you what, there's not much more humbling than having a train-car-full of people staring at you trying not to laugh. At one point two ladies joined the kind man across the aisle who had helped me, and he totally explained the whole story. Like I wouldn't know they were talking about me as he tells a story and they both stare at me. I tried to act like I didn't understand: I didn't want to make him feel bad about it. But seriously.

Well, when I got off the train wherever I was supposed to be, there was directly a train to Olomouc, which was my next destination. So even though the print out says to wait 2 hours for a train, and then 2 more hours in Olomouc, I figure I may as well catch the first train to Olomouc, and then maybe, just maybe, there'd be an earlier train, or a bus I could take home.

Hopes crushed. I have four hours to kill in Olomouc waiting for a train that will get me home after 4 in the morning. That's when I cried. But I walked around, went into town and saw a pretty old church. And then just sat in the station for 2 hours. Eventually I got home. I did. The story ends with me being tucked up in bed as it should.

But first I had to find a compartment in the Prague train. The required entering a cabin where two people were sprawled sleeping on the benches making them get up for me. The lady continued to put her feet near me and the cabin smelled salty o' feet. When I got to Prague, the metro hadn't started running yet. I knew that would be the case, and had called Milan to ask for options. He told me of a bus, but suggested a taxi. I got ripped off, but I was home in 8 minutes, warm and snuggly and I didn't care one bit about the money.

so that's my story.

1 comment:

Nathan Smith said...

Wow Kate, what a ridiculous adventure! I would have been so frustrated. Oh wait, I was frustrated once when I took the wrong Marta train and had to get off and wait at a stop for 30 minutes for another one to come in the other direction. Mine just sounds pathetic now. At least I could talk with the others with me! Hope you guys are doing well otherwise!