Sunday, July 8, 2007

Train Travels in Central Europe

Getting to Budapest, and the return trip, were both a lot of fun. Traveling by train is a very unique experience; it’s like the transition between driving in a car, and flying. In a car, you are usually pretty comfortable and have your own space, and go at your own pace. In a plane, you are crowded and get to the destination quickly. Planes are almost the best of both worlds; you can enjoy the scenery and have your own compartment, but you don’t get the inevitable tired feeling that driving for hours gives you. And trains can take shortcuts and help you reach your destination quicker. In short, they are a blast.
On the way to Hungary, we got a sleeper car. Our train left at 11:30, and I didn’t want to be late, so I kind of pushed the group to get there by 10, which was kind of stupid of me since trains are not planes. In fact, you cannot know which platform to even board until about 20 minutes before the train leaves. So, after forcing our group to get there early, we waited for a while, eating some zmrzlina and just chatting. There was a little song playing whenever a train left, so my friend Emily and I made a little diddle. You can watch it here:
I’m not sure why it sounds like Inspector Gadget, but after waiting a while, it seemed that singing was the most exciting thing to do. When we finally got into our train, we were really excited to find out that it was a really old sleeper car. It seemed like a classic movie, and we immediately settled into our beds. We locked our cabin, and fell asleep pretty quickly. At 6 AM, we were woke up by Passport Control, and gave them our passports and fell back asleep. Unfortunately, Liza forgot to lock the cabin after they stamped our passports, and we had quite a scary experience. When we all woke up around 8, we realized that our things had been moved. Someone had come into our car while we were sleeping. Everyone immediately checked their belongings to see if anything was missing. I was fortunate- I had no cash on me and they didn’t steal my passport or credit cards. My friends didn’t fare as well. 3000 Kron were stolen from Emily, 1000 from Molly and Alex’s Game boy was stolen. The fact that there was a thief in our car was more disturbing than what was stolen though. Somehow, he was able to take things while we slept inches away...
The return trip was a little different. On the way home, it was day so we didn’t get a sleeper. Instead, we were able to enjoy the countryside from Budapest back to Prague. Sitting with friends, reading Primo Levi, and taking a train that parallels the Danube is one of the most relaxing things in the world.
Of course, there were also some very interesting people on the train. One lady would not stop staring at us. We had brought bread and bananas and were eating it when she came on and she wouldn’t stop giving us dirty looks. She was an older Czech woman, and obviously did not like the way we were acting. Maybe she was shocked at the way we held ourselves. Alex, for example, was sleeping across three seats. He can sleep anywhere, and was able to sleep with his head on one chair and his feet across the aisle on another; this meant that his back wasn’t supported at all. I think that it might be rude to put your feet up in the Czech Republic...
Or she might have been upset that we were enjoying life. For a good hour, the five of us were passing around my iPod and lip-syncing whatever song popped up while the others guessed what the song was. It was a great game, but a little loud. We videotaped parts of it...
As you can see, we may have been annoying foreigners, but the game was silent, so it seemed that the lady was just being nosy. I guess that is all I have to say about the railroad right now... I’m sure I’ll take it again!

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