I can't believe we've been in Cyprus for a week and a half, and I'm still writing about how we got here. It was just such an adventure, and at times a comedy of errors, that I wanted to share the whole journey with you all. If you've read along with me so far, you know about our trip from Texas to Iceland, our six hours in Paris, and our bus ride that almost stranded us in the middle of nowhere. Last we left we had eaten some yummy pastries at the train station, and were waiting for our first train ride. So let's get on the trains and see what happens!
We sat on the platform waiting for our train for about half an hour. As the time started getting closer and closer the platform got more and more crowded. By the time the train arrived it was a madhouse, and it was a struggle to get on the train with our three pieces of luggage each. At the front of each train car is a shelf for luggage, and if you are lucky there will be open spots for yours. We found just enough space to squeeze ours in, as people moved in around us quickly. Once our luggage was placed we looked around for seats, and found two open next to each other just a ways down. We quickly moved down the aisle and plopped into the seats, grateful for a chance to relax after the mad chaos of the last couple minutes.
But here is where the trouble began. Just a few seconds later, someone pointed out to us that we were in their seats, and sure enough the seat numbers were listed on their ticket. So we got up and moved back towards our luggage and found room to stand, leaning against the wall. We pulled out our tickets (in an email on our phones) and scoured them for our seat numbers.
There weren't any.
We looked again at the whole email, not just the ticket. Nothing.
Uhoh. It turns out that we had booked the absolute cheapest train rides for ourselves (I mean, of course, right? We are on a budget!) which meant that we did not have seats. On this train, or the other FOUR we would be riding today. Oh boy. This first leg was only twenty minutes, it was super cramped and crowded, so we stood the entire time, with people who presumably like us, were too cheap to pay for an actual seat. When this one ended we got off and had about 15 minutes to get to our next train. This involved frantically memorizing train codes and platform numbers then moving as fast as one can move with six blisters between two feet and a hundred pounds of luggage. (Spoiler alert: not very fast).
On the second train, there was no room on the shelves for our luggage, but there was an open space on the ground. We shoved our luggage to the side as much as possible, and I decided I was going to make the best of it and sit on the ground. After all this train was going to be two hours, not twenty minutes. No way in heck am I standing for two hours straight. Luckily my past as a dancer still comes in handy sometimes, and lets me fold myself into small spaces. [Sidenote: we were too exhausted and stressed at this point to remember to document well, so I have no pictures of this portion of our journey!]
Joel managed to find a way to sit down as well, though he isn't quite as flexible as me. I think we each even dozed off a tiny bit! When I needed to stretch my legs out I could do so, but I had to pay attention because as soon as the door next to me opened or someone walked up, I had to pull them back in so as not to trip anyone. So all in all not exactly the most comfortable way to travel by train, but not the worst either. The biggest downside of sitting on the ground was that we had no view out the windows. So much for my beautiful scenery dreams.
Eventually we got off this train and got on to another one for a ride that was much the same. Then we got onto our fourth train for the day. Just to our right when we entered this one was raised seating area with four tables, and it was entirely taken up by what was very clearly a bachelorette party. The girls were decked out in all white, and the bride had a flower crown on her head. What surprised me the most was the bottles of alcohol everywhere! If you are from the US like ourselves, you know that our drinking laws are rather strict. No way would you ever be allowed to drink openly on public transportation. Yet here were these ladies taking shots and opening bottles of champagne like it was nothing!
To our left was an open area where the seats folded down if you needed them, or could stay up to make room for strollers or wheelchairs. At the time it was mostly unoccupied so we finally got to sit! On a seat! And see out the window! What a treat. That lasted for about ten minutes until a mother with four small children came our way, and we quickly moved to give her the seats. Back to the floor for me.
The bachelorette party was quite loud and boisterous, every few minutes or so they would explode with riotous laughter and cheers their drinks together. Joel decided to leave the noise and venture further back on the train to see if he could find a seat. He did, and while I could have joined him, my paranoia kept me close to and guarding our luggage. Eventually the seating area cleared up again and Joel came back and joined me. There were several stops along the way, and like on the bus, we had a screen telling us where the train was going and the ETA for each place. Our destination was Salzburg, the final one, and we had about an hour and a half until our arrival, and once there we had 40 minutes to catch our next train.
At one of these stops, we suddenly realized that it had been a while. No one was getting on or off the train, and when I glanced at the screen, I noticed the arrival times slowly ticking to be later and later. An announcement came over the loudspeaker in a foreign language, and one did not follow in English. All of a sudden multiple people got off the train without their luggage, and I quickly realized they had stepped outside to smoke. Hmm...we must be planning to be here for a while then. Time went on, and I distracted myself with entertainment on my tablet.
Half an hour later we were still sitting there. Another announcement came over the loudspeaker, and this time a young man across the way saw our confusion and translated for us. The delay was going to continue, and the reason, as best he could tell us, was that there were "people on the track ahead". The train didn't want to run them over, and thus we were delayed. I had so many questions but no one to ask them of. Why are people on the track? Are they intentionally there or has there been an accident? Is it some sort of protest? If so, what are they protesting? What is happening?
We continued to sit there, watching our arrival time get later and later, until finally it was clear that we would not be making our connecting train in Salzburg. Well, we would just have to deal with that problem when we got there. Time continued to tick by... slowly... ever so slowly as we just sat on the train, waiting. Finally, after an hour and a half, an announcement came over the intercom that we would be moving again shortly. Yay! I looked at the screen to see just how late we would be to Salzburg and noticed that Salzburg was no longer listed as a destination. Um, what?
I started to get the same panicky feeling I had when the bus dropped us off too early. We asked our translating friend across the way and he confirmed our fears: because of the delay this train would no longer be making the full trip, it would be done two stops early and start its return journey. Our final stop was now a town called Freilassing, and we would be on our own from there to figure out how to get to Salzburg and then what to do about our long departed connecting train.
I actually surprised myself with how well I took this news. Normally this kind of thing would send me into a tailspin with full on tears, but this time I just laughed. Of course this is what was happening. Of course we would be dropped off two stops early and left to figure it out on our own. I mean, why not, right? Nothing about these train rides was going as expected.
The train finally took off, and at the next stop a very loud, very boisterous, very interestingly dressed bachelor party got on board. (They all had on black shirts and matching leather shorts in what I assume was traditional German style). They carried with them a bluetooth speaker which they used to blare their music incredibly loudly - it was American rap containing some very bleepable words. I was shocked at the loud music, the open containers of alcohol, and the fact that they were carrying extra alcohol and selling it to passengers! No one else on the train seemed to bat an eye however. Again, is something you would NEVER see in the States.
The groom also had on a mesh top, and was carrying a tray like the hot dog vendors you see at a baseball game. He and a friend began to go up and down the train hawking the items they had in the tray - mini bottles of alcohol, funny sunglasses, penis straws, and more. In the bit of English they could speak they explained he was getting married and this was their way of raising money for the wedding. It was a sight to behold! I didn't buy anything but Joel got roped into giving some change in exchange for a travel size bottle of liquor.
When the bachelor party started to mingle with the bachelorette party, things got even louder and crazier. As entertaining as it was, I was relieved when we got to the next and now final stop, and everyone got off the train. We were told we could catch another one that would take us to Salzburg, and because of the delay, it would be free. I was facing full on exhaustion at this point, so I was moving slowly with my luggage and all my blisters. So slowly, in fact, that we missed the train by mere seconds.
We scrambled a bit and finally found out another one was coming we could get on. We did, and that ride was fairly uneventful, except for the time I made us get off on the wrong stop (thinking it was the right one) and added an extra twenty minutes to our trip. Finally we made it to Salzburg. While on the way there Joel had done a fair amount of research and discovered information that made it sound like it was actually good for any train with that company going to that destination, so (fingers crossed) it wasn't a huge deal that we had missed our original one (for which we were now two hours late).
I stood guard with the luggage while Joel did his best to track down what train we could now ride. It is now Saturday, after 5pm, and no one is working at the informational booths or the company kiosks. I'm not quite sure what magic Joel worked with his phone and a large informational board, but eventually we figured out what train we could get on. We had just enough time to grab some food, and Joel got me the best sandwich I have ever had (I might have been a bit hungry - but it was brie, parmesan, arugala and tomato pesto on a baguette!).
When we got on our final train for the day we were beyond relieved to see it was nearly empty, there was plentiful space for our luggage, and lo and behold, seats! We held our breath as the ticket guy came by, but he said our ticket was fine and we were welcome to sit where we were. Finally, this was what I had expected the train rides to be all day. We had comfortable seats, and gorgeous scenery was whizzing by outside.
We enjoyed it for about twenty minutes of the two hour ride, then we both promptly fell asleep. Whomp, whomp. A short time later we were woken up and asked to move as we were in an area designated for families with small children (why didn't the guy tell us that to begin with?) but we were able to move upstairs easily and find seats again. Finally, after the longest day ever, we made it to Vienna.
And since this has become the longest blog post, I will write all about Vienna tomorrow!