Woke to a lovely morning yesterday, made it to the station in Cluj Napoca, ready to leave Romania behind. Had my schedule all laid out, using my Rail Trip app on my phone, courtesy of my Eurail pass. So sat back to enjoy my solitude in a six-seat compartment. All was well until…
Just half an hour into Hungary the train switched engines, which usually isn’t a problem, except the new engine apparently had to be built, tested, and shipped from Timbuktu! So much for my schedule. So on to Plan B–or maybe by now I’m up to Plan Q. This plan involved taking the metro from one Budapest station to another, a process I was familiar with, thanks to misreading the schedule when I left five days before. (See blog on police and passports and panic.)
In Budapest Kelenfoeld station I tried to get to the ticket counter to buy the required extra reservation ticket, and the Guardian of the Gate wouldn’t let me in. Oh, how I wish I knew enough Magyar to call him a pompous ass. So I figured the conductor would either let me pay on the train or throw me off, and I haven’t been thrown off–or jailed–yet.
Rolled into Vienna Meidling station, only to find no hotels anywhere around. My iPad was almost dead, my phone was down to 12% charge, but I managed to get to Booking.com and reserve a room. The taxi driver zoomed us down the street and I caught a glimpse of a Gasthaus (usually an inn of some kind) just down the street yet we were headed into the far-away, which seemed kinda like the Upside Down if you’re a Netflix fan of Stranger Things. But not quite so creepy.
The farther from the station I got the more my stomach churned. Would I be able to get back in time for my train this morning? What if the place was a real pit? What if I disappeared into the depths of Vienna and was never heard from again??? “Take me back to the station,” I shouted.
As I got out at Meidling station I said, “Just a crazy American.” The driver took his 13 euros, shrugged and drove off.
By this time dark had fallen as I walked through a pretty sketchy neighborhood to reach the Gasthaus. Which turned out to be a beer joint with a very rude bartender. Didn’t even let me use the toilet (and there are none in the station.).
So back to the station and another taxi. Phone had just enough charge to get the address again. The Do Step Inn turned out to be a hostel/hotel, the common room full of people on whom I have about five decades and a million years in experience. And the Do Step Inn had no record of my reservation!
Just enough charge in the iPad to get my email for the confirmation number, only to find I was in the wrong damn place! Apparently the company also rents apartments near the station for short stays and I had rented one. The clerk, bless his little pea-pickin’ heart, canceled that one and rented me a room much smaller than Oprah’s shoe closet, in between answering the phone, answering questions, and a bunch of other stuff I barely understood.
Finally I lugged my case up two flights of stairs, brushed my teeth, set the alarm and slept for eight solid hours. Woke up with a gurgling stomach, as I’d had nothing to eat yesterday except a pastry, two tangerines, some bagel chips and a truly awful premade cold sandwich from the train’s restaurant car for which I had the privilege of paying eight euros (to convert to dollars, multiply by 1.30).
There was a tiny convenience store near the station but it didn’t open until 8:00, another 20 minutes. The owner saw me hanging about and let me in. I bought a quart of milk and a delicious salami, cheese, lettuce and chopped red pepper sandwich for 3.40 euros, less than half of what I’d paid on the train.
So once again I’m fed, watered, and only a few steps from the train toilet. Austria flows by the window like a travelogue come to life. This afternoon I’ll be in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the town where Rocky and I spent a few days in 2001. I’ll do laundry, stroll around town, buy a book at the bookstore, and take three days to relax and recoup. I turn 71 on Sunday and don’t want to trave on my birthday. By Monday I will have charged my devices, recharged my heart, and be on the rails again.
And so the adventure continues.