19 February, 2009

trains planes and automobiles (REALLY LONG TRAVEL POST)

Well, minus the planes and automobiles.
Since I bought a Eurail pass that entitles me to 15 days of travel within two months, I decided that my upcoming trip to audition in Oslo, Norway, would be done via train.
That’s not to say that I didn’t look at cheap flights. I went to all of the regular sites, consolidator sites, etc…it’s just that I had to keep emailing the house for confirmation that I could have an audition time before noon, or between 11-12 for me to make the flight BACK to anywhere, so in the end, of course, all of the airline prices went up.
That’s when I started googling, actually, I should say “Dbahn-ing”, because the website is bahn.de and it’s the Deutschbahn trains that I would be taking…the question was—from WHERE?

First I was in Leipzig for an audition. So- the closest point of departure would be from Berlin.
BUT I was supposed to stay with a friend in Dusseldorf (yesterday), AND meet with a friend in Frankfurt (also yesterday—on the way to Dusseldorf)…however, both of those dates, plus free couches, got bumped by a last minute audition in Berlin.

And so- my “DBahning” could begin. Berlin to Oslo.
I didn’t have that many choices that were under twenty six hours of travel, so I decided to take the route that seemed most direct (or so I thought), AND that would only take on “day” on my Eurail pass. See, there is a magical rule for those who have the pass, that if your ‘travel day’ begins AFTER 7pm, and your destination will not be reached until after midnight, you only have to count ONE travel day---ie, it’s the 18th at 7pm when you leave, but you write down that you are traveling only on the 19th. Free day! Sweeet.

So. My train schedule was:
Berlin to Bielefeld
Bielefeld to Copenhagen
Copenhagen to Gotesborg
Gotesborg to Oslo central.

All with plenty of time between connections, and the ‘overnight’ part of the train (Bielfeld to Copenhagen)—had no switches (so I could sleep from 1am-9am).

Here is how this all actually went down.

8:45pm- buy bread and cheese and water and 4 clementines. I figure—it’s enough to live on in jail, plus some vitamin c. 26 hours won’t kill me.
9- get on train number one- Berlin to Bielefeld.
First class. No complaints.
11:55- get into Bielefeld, and have 45 minutes until the next train. Here is where the drama began.
Every train that leaves is up on a blue board that tells you the train number, the departure platform, and where the train’s final destination is.

So I get up to Bielefeld at midnight—everything is closed except for a 24 hours McDonalds. The police are standing at the door shouting at a man who is clearly intoxicated and decided to sleep it off at the train station. It’s COLD because the platforms are all outside and the only place to sit “inside” is the open McD’s.
I look at the blue board:
:43 Train 0047 ICE (Intercity express) to WRZSCA (Warsaw) via Hannover and Hamburg.
Track 4.

Where is MY train? I scan the board. No other departures until 3am. A train BACK to Berlin.

My train is called 0-xxc4700 or something like that, and the final destination is KOPNHGN (or, however the Germans shorten the German spelling of Copenhagen).

Cue the iphone.
Yes, I turned on international roaming and opened iRail.
Type in Bielefeld to Copenhagen.
See that it says :43 departure.
Why is this train going to WARSAW?! I’m PRETTTY sure that Copenhagen isn’t “on the way” to Warsaw.

Cue calling mom and asking her to google it for me.
Thank GOD it’s 6 hours earlier in the US because I don’t know who I would have woken up at 12:30pm in Europe.
She can’t find it on Dbahn…meaning….she can, but it doesn’t have any more details.

My next thoughts are as follows.
A. SUCK. What is WRONG with the DB people whom I MADE double check this in Berlin when I reserved my “couchette” (sleeping quarters) for the evening.
B. O.K. There is a motel outside. I’m sure it’s sketchy, but at least I don’t have to go far in case I get stuck here.
C. Look around and ask people where they are going. Of COURSE they are Polish..mostly…and going to Warsaw. And don’t know what to tell me. They think I should take the train to Hannover or Hamburg and maybe there will be a connection there. But my ticket says nothing about a connection.
D. It’s :35. I’m going up to the track where my train is ‘supposedly’ leaving, and waiting for a train official to step off the train once it gets here to see what the deal is.
So I’m standing next to what LOOKS like NOT a Polish person…and more of a “Nordic” person – ie, BLOND hair green eyes light skin.
And I’m like- Are you going to Copenhagen on this train?
And she says---yes, it goes to Copenhagen but only the first 2 cars.
Uhh---THANKS for letting me know DBAHN! It doesn’t say ANYWHERE that this train will mass-transport people for an hour and then break off into pieces for the night—at around 2am. Convenient.

That cost me whatever roaming charges were for that freaked out 10 minutes on the phone and 10 minutes for ‘data roaming’. Thanks.

PHEW. So I’m on the right train, in the right car. Next adventure- sleeping in a couchette (it was for 6 people but there were only 4---already asleep….so I get in there in the dark, put my stuff down, and just collapse after the drama of the last :43 minutes).

Woke up around 5am as usual. I’ve been keeping semi-insane hours here…I’m usually tired for about an hour between 7pm-8pm, can’t get to sleep until 1am or 2am, and then wake up WiDE awake at 6am. And that’s it for the day. Very bad, I know. But I’m hoping to catch up ….at some point…

We arrived in Copenhagen at 10am and then I had three hours to walk around before my train to Goteborg. I walked down the main pedestrian path for about an hour each way, hung around the train station, got decent Train Thai food (yellow curry with rice), MISSED the first train to Goteborg because I was eating and somehow convinced myself that the train was at 12:59 instead of the actual departure time of 12:47. Good times. Almost thought I would have to spend the night in Copenhagen.
Caught the 1:13 to Goteborg and HOPED that I would still have time to make my connection to Oslo. Cut it CLOSE (10 minutes)…but---
Right NOW---I am on the TRAIN to Oslo.
Arrival time: 10:35pm.

Goals for tonight:
1.Find a place to convert some money into Norwegian currency at the train station (I Hope) that is OPEN, so I can take the tram to my hotel.
2. SLEEP until 9am.

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