Monday, June 22, 2009

Discovered: Why it’s called “backpacking.”

Traveling through Europe by train is supposed to be super classic, right? You haven’t experienced Europe properly until you’ve traveled by train, yes? I agree, absolutely, entirely, without any doubts. If you’re ever in Europe you absolutely must take a train for at least an hour. But let me let you in on a little secret: it’s called “backpacking across Europe,” not “dragging your suitcase across Europe” for a good reason.

We started our day on the one pm train to Schwandorf, where we would get off and connect to another train going to Munich. We each had a suitcase (and not exactly small ones, mind you) and a purse to drag along in a five-minute connection in a country where we didn’t know the language. We knew from the get-go that this was going to be an interesting part of our day. However, two stops before Schwandorf, at Furth im Wald, the train came to a stop and over the intercom came a voice that said the same short sentence in about three languages before finally making it to English – “everyone off the train.”

Not the only confused people getting off the train, we looked around us for an explanation but saw only a few houses and the platform we were on, surrounded entirely by field and trees, holding. This was getting more interesting. Finally though, one of the train directors took pity on all of us poor non-German/Czech speakers and said something along the lines of “We can’t take you all the way, there’s a train coming to take you to Munich.”

Slightly more apprehensive, we boarded another train, dragging our bulky suitcases up the tiny little stairs behind us and shoving them into a small little compartment with a nice lady from Mexico City who attempted to teach a few of the German words she’d picked up in the six months she’d been living there – “danka” (“thank you”) is the only one I remember. Two stops later, we attempted to get back off the train, but the door we went to was stuck and we couldn’t open it, so we had to turn our suitcases around and run back down the tiny corridor, our suitcases getting momentarily stuck behind us as we ran, causing our shoulder joints a fair amount of pain as they were almost entirely jerked out of socket. We all but threw our suitcases out of the train, looking at the empty platform and wondering where in the hell our train was. The random switchover in Furth im Wald had caused a bit of a delay and we had about one minute to make our connecting train. Panic began to course through my system as the idea of being stuck in some random little town for the rest of the night played through my head.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was probably only a second or two) a nice guy on the platform made eye contact with me and in a heavy German accent said, “Munich?” I’m not sure if I said words or just nodded, but he quickly said “Platform Five,” and off we ran, down a flight of stairs, down a hallway, up another flight of stairs, onto a platform and threw our suitcases into a non-descript train right before the doors closed and it pulled away (yes, I did shout “danka” back to the man, don’t worry!). Relieved, we started hunting for our last compartment to hide in before arriving in Munich. We found one with only a friendly old man occupying it and dragged our suitcases in before we realized we were being confronted with a problem: there was really no rack area where we could stow away our suitcases. There was a small rack where maybe you could place a long thin backpack (or a really fabulous big purse) but our suitcases were never going to fit. And even if they did fit, the rack didn’t really promise to support their weight. We finally just piled them all onto the spare seat in the compartment, apologized to the man for disturbing his peace (though I doubt he understood what we were saying), and settled in for some more sitting. As I type this, we’re pulling from the stop for Neufahrn (Neiderbay?), my feet are resting up on the suitcases my mom, Mandy and Mahdis are sleeping and I’m pretty sure I’ll pass out soon. Two more stops until Munich, that’s enough time for a nap, right? I need to get my strength up before I mess with these suitcases again.

You know what the best part is? We get to do all this again on Thursday. I wish we had backpacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commenting? How lovely. Please try not to talk about dead cats.