Well, my cursed luck with trains continued when I tried to leave Cologne, Germany to go to Prague, Czech Republic. It was MEANT to be a lovely night train, with my own couchette (small bed thing that can turn into a seat during the day) in a 4 bed compartment. BUT, apparently there had been a bad storm a few days earlier which had caused damage to the tracks around Germany which caused trains to be delayed or cancelled.
I noticed on the train company’s website that there appeared to be a cancelled train, so I went to the station during the day and asked if my train was cancelled. After a few minutes checking the computer and talking to her colleague, the lady said that it wasn’t totally cancelled – there was a train with a different number leaving at the same time that my train was scheduled. This train would go to Berlin and I would need to change trains in Berlin for Prague at about 4am – not the end of the world.
How wrong she was!!!
I decided I better get to the station early, in case something was wrong… and of course, there was no train scheduled to leave at 22:38 on the board, no train to Berlin and no train to Prague *sigh*. I started to queue up at the information desk, along with a bunch of other people…
Slowly slowly. Then all of a sudden, the information guy came out of his booth and yelled that the train to Prague and Copenhagen was leaving platform 5 at 22:10. It was currently 22:08. ARGH!
Have you ever seen a group of backpackers run through a train station with all their luggage? haha! Quite a sight! OMG it was hard work but we all managed to get to this train and jump on board just as it was pulling off. Then the question – is this actually the right train? It doesn’t look like a night train, and how is it going to Prague AND Copenhagen?
After a conversation in broken English with the on board train guard, we found out that this was a high speed train to Dortmund and once we were there, we’d change trains for one to Prague & Copenhagen – different carriages depending on where you’re going and the train will split somewhere along the way. It would still be a sleeper train, in fact it would be exactly the same train as we were meant to get, it’s just leaving from a different place due to the broken tracks on the original route. It would be about 90 minutes until we arrive, so we sat back and relaxed, chatted for a while and read for a while.
On arrival at Dortmund, we had about an hour to wait until our next train. We were all exhausted, and couldn’t wait to board our night train and get some sleep. I got myself a beer from one of the small shops within the station, and sat myself down on the floor and drank it – like the classy guy I am.
After about 45 minutes, I went up to the platform the train was leaving from, and began waiting again. The board confirmed that this was the right platform for our train, and showed which part of the platform I should wait on for my carriage. Brilliant!
About 5 minutes before the train was due to depart, it had still not shown up. This was making me nervous, as usually they’re there earlier than that to give you time to board, find your compartment and get organised etc. Another check of the board showed a new message being displayed – “This train will not run today” WTF!? This has to be a joke right?
Another hour we stood in queue at the information desk in Dortmund chatting away about our respective trips, other delays we’ve had and all manner of small talk. When we got to the information desk, the people going to Copenhagen found out that they could get a 3:30am (it was now 12:30am) train, or they’d be happy to put them up in a hotel for the night and they can get a train in the morning. All of them went for this idea, and got that organised and off to the hotel they went.
I was disappointed that I’d miss Prague (again! I was there 6 years earlier for 2 days and had the flu and missed it). I only had 1 night/2 days in Prague – but I’d decided that it would be great to get some sleep in a hotel and head off in the morning. But was this option given to the people going to Prague? NO! Our one and only option – 1:30am train back to Cologne, via Dusseldorf so it would take longer this time. Then an hour wait in Cologne before a 4 hour train to Nuremberg, another hour wait for a 3 hour bus to Prague. I wanted to cry (and one lady did cry), pure sheer exhaustion and frustration. All I wanted at this point was sleep, but it was obvious this was not going to happen – and when we’d finally arrive in Prague at about midday I’d be too tired to enjoy it. Oh well.
Well, nothing for it – back to my little beer shop and my seat on the floor of the station. Due to being so tired, after 2 beers I felt a little bit tipsy – which was kinda nice, made me happy and see the funny side. Until I had to try to lift my pack ha! I’m sure that was a sight.
Well, once on the 4 hour high speed train you’d think maybe I could get some sleep – but I was terrified that if I fell asleep I’d sleep right through my station, as unfortunately Nuremberg was not the last station. Too tired to read, I had another 2 beers while staring out the window and watching the sun rise over Germany. It was actually quite a beautiful sight, but not worth losing a night’s sleep for.
All the issues over now? ha! Of course not.
When I was waiting to board the bus from Nuremberg to Prague, I noticed the English couple who I’d been seeing all the way along – they were meant to be on the same night train as me. The lady did not want to accept their ticket as it was a train ticket. uuuum WHAT? When it was my turn, she didn’t seem to have the same issue with my ticket, just stamped it and went to let me on board. I stopped and said that I was on the same train as them and that we got given the same information on how to get to Prague which is why we were all there. I was being nice, trying to help these poor people who were having even worse luck than me at this stage… It was their 10th anniversary, and they were having 2 nights in Prague to celebrate, as that’s where they met. Ruined! Anyway, did this convince the bus lady to let them on board? No, it convinced her to make me wait with them of course.
Luckily, once everybody else had boarded the bus, there were still several seats available – so a few minutes of creative talking (somewhere between arguing and begging), we were allowed on the bus! woohoo
What’s better, was Prague was the one and only stop of this 3 hour bus so no risk of sleeping through and ending up somewhere else. I had a double seat to myself, so promptly stretched myself out and slipped into semi-consciousness. Not particularly a good sleep, and certainly not comfortable – but at least I wasn’t awake either.
As soon as I checked into my hostel in Prague, I showered and then went to sleep for about 3 or 4 hours before heading out to dinner. I had hoped to go out partying, as it’s a great city for that (and I missed it last time!) but honestly just did not have the energy. Just had a bit of a wander around, an Absinthe cocktail, dinner and then back to the hostel for a few quiet beers and bed.
Thank God, my night train from Prague to Krakow was on time and ran smoothly – I got a fairly good night sleep and had the energy to enjoy the day in Krakow. I’m now on a train from Krakow to Warsaw which was also on time.
Here’s hoping the train curse has been lifted!