16 December 2016 0 Comments

Travel Experiences 14: The Long Return

My last travel day was a long trip back to Prague. Concerned about connections, I started on an early bus.

On the last of several transfers I had 7 minutes to find a train track of an unknown number. There were at least 12 tracks. To get between them I had to take a lift down and back up to the platform, after finding a screen listing the track numbers. People with bikes blocked the lift so I had to wait. I find the track number in a rush. The listing was blinking, meaning train is standing in the station, but that track is empty and the sign above it is blank. I ask someone. He doesn’t know.

Finally I crane my neck around an L in the track. Behind a wall I see a very short train 400 feet up the track. They used the track both directions. The platform was deserted but for the conductor, who sees me running like heck and blows the whistle. I’m not sure if it means Go or Wait. I run full out and he helps me on. Phew!p1060353

My stitches and leg hurt from pounding cement.

The last and longest leg of the trip, this was the one connection I was concerned about all along, a 5+ hour trip with only 2 trains a day. So far I have a compartment alone. We travel a single track.

Long train journeys are contemplative and rhythmic when direct and uncrowded. The journey will give me time to digest my experience.

Big train stations have good food stores, post, info., lockers, flowers, and often an attached mall with clothes, luggage and footwear. Busses are usually across the street. The schedules connect well. This is SO much more civilized and convenient than forcing people to require cars! Bike and walking paths connect most villages, often along streams or through viewpoints with religious or historical monuments. This form of sanity where people’s daily experience matters is something I love about Europe.

It is cold, dark and rainy. Train is sitting still in a tiny town with no station. Train has a problem. This is not a lovely Austrian train but an old electric clunker, comfortable but–as I discovered after walking its length and finding someone who could tell me–reliant on overhead cables. A cable has malfunctioned. In Czech Republic and the conductor doesn’t speak English.

Later: we have been sitting for several hours. I ran out of water and lunch was salty. Unlike the last trains, with food carts, there is no water. The one person with English disappeared, perhaps in one of the small groups smoking outside between rain showers.

My phone is supposed to work but doesn’t. I can’t notify the inn of a much later arrival time, hoping they hold my room.

By and by we were shepherded off the train and stood with our stuff like refugees until a huge bus showed up. It idled while everyone and our stuff crammed in, standing packed to the doors. We began to bond through glances, sharing this temporary fate.

The first sign I saw on the road was the sign to the monastery where I hurt my leg! Not sure what’s up with that.

Bus took us to a train station. We circled our conductor, milling around uncertain until she directed us to a train. Not understanding, I ran after p1060367people I recognized. I didn’t know where we’d go and couldn’t use the lift. Stitches burned from running on stairs with bags.

Later: We’re still waiting on a still train, maybe for a pre-scheduled timing. It’s post-communist here, stark after flowery Bavaria.

An E Indian man smoked on the platform as I and some others hung out our windows. He had some English. I said I would have bought water if I’d known how long we’d sit. When the train finally moved he brought me a bottle his family had with them.

Spent next few hours hanging my head out the windows or communicating with a lovely old man. He had no English but speaks Heart. It’s like playing charades. Such sharing is pure Zen; about real things. It feels free to have no context besides the moment.

As I put on glasses to write this I remembered dreaming the scene over a year ago–waking up wondering why I put on glasses in a dream!

The old man, by grace, was transferring to the Metro, headed one stop from mine. He helped me figure it out and we parted sweetly. I had to transfer to a tram.

After 12 hours of travel I arrived at dark fall in a light rain, nearly in tears, hungry, thirsty, sore, and needing to pee.

The hotel was in an old mill. They greeted me kindly. The restaurant listed all potential allergens in English, and the waiter decided I required a free shot of vodka in a freezing glass after all that stress.

What is it like for you to interact with strangers?

Have you ever dreamed something and it happened later?

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