(Yeah, this is really long, nobody is making you read it so just relax.)
Yesterday was officially, and easily, my worst day in Europe. I'm still extremely irritated, so naturally it's a great time to write my blog entry.
I booked an awesome train itinerary from Luzern to Nürnberg with just one change in Basel. I was to depart Luzern around noon and arrive in Nürnberg about 6pm. As you may have already guessed, this did not go according to plan.
In Basel, the transfer went smoothly and I had plenty of time to make my connection. But less than an hour into the journey from Basel to Nürnberg, "€œthings"€ hit the fan. We were stopped in a tiny town, the name I can't recall now, just waiting and waiting, with of course no English coming across the loudspeakers. I kept busy watching some TV shows on my laptop but after some time I realized that a lot of people on the train were now outside laying in the sun or walking around with ice cream or something. When I asked, all I got from one of the train attendant was, "€œIn a few moments we go to Offen-something and you get on another train.€" Great.
So we finally arrived in Offen-whatever, Germany where we were packed onto a second train along with an already delayed group of passengers, who had apparently been waiting there for some time (I think over an hour!) because of fire on the tracks ahead. Keep in mind I'm carrying all of my luggage from 3 months in Vienna - really fun stuff.
This new train was headed for Hamburg and didn't stop in Nürnberg. It did, however, stop in Karlsruhe where I could change over to another train that would go directly to Nürnberg. About 30 minutes into the train ride the attendant came over the loudspeaker and said that everyone was required to exit at Karlsruhe because the train was too far delayed (something like 2.5 hours) and they were just straight-up taking it off the grid. So of course when we arrived in Karlsruhe it was an absolute sh!t-show, with basically two trains-worth of passengers piling off, trying to make the fastest connection to wherever they were going. I had NO idea what/where my connection was because the train attendant didn't always speak in English; and when he did, half the words were in German. I heard something about the TGV through Karlsruhe being delayed, too, and it would go though Stuttgart. Okay, that sounds good.
Our train finally stops in Karlsruhe and I'm one of the last to exit because I have two bags that I can only handle one-at-a-time, and the mob getting off the train will never let you back in until every last one of them is out. None of the platforms say Stuttgart or Nürnberg so I'm about to board this TGV but there's nothing on the sign so I don't want to just get on without knowing for sure where it's going. I walk up to one of the train attendants and say, €œ"Excuse me,"€ in German and the dude completely ignores me, waves off the train (the official signal that his area is all clear for departure), steps onto the train and shuts the door. By this point, I was about ready to rage. If I'd had a gun I would have pointed in the air and started shooting, just because it probably would have felt really good. I suppose I could have pressed the button on the train and gotten on, but again, I wasn't sure if that was the right train or not!!
After that, I looked around for an arrival/departure board but the only thing is a giant, written out schedule which takes forever to interpret. You basically have to ready every single train/itinerary to search for whatever city you want until you find the right one or one going in the direction you want. I find a train direct to Nürnberg leaving in 30 minutes but it says, 'AußŸer Sa.'€ Something Saturdays? Oh yeah: NOT SATURDAYS!! Wow...
Admitting defeat on the platform, I went to call Frank and family via T-Mobile pay-phone. I knew it would be expensive but I had to get in touch with him somehow to let them know I wouldn't be arriving at the time we had originally planned. I had a pouch full of change, anyway. So I put some coins in there and the max amount it let me insert was â‚¬1.40. I dial Frank's number and then I realize I have no idea/can't remember what city I'm in and I'm trying to explain to him, "€œSomething that ends in 'ruhe'... ??" but we can't get it figured out. The money left on the pay-phone was constantly going down so I kept putting coins into the phone as fast as I could get them out of my pouch. So I asked some people next to me eating at McDonald's what city we're in and they just gave me a blank stare like I was crazy. Frank decides I should call back in 5 minutes so they can figure it out. I go to the Deutsche Bahn desk and tell them I need to get to Nürnberg and the lady tells me a train is going to Frankfurt and then from there I can change to a train (1.5 hours later) going through Nürnberg â€“ arrival time 10:00pm. Wow, bingo, awesome.
I call Frank back and for whatever reason he can't understand or hear a thing I'm saying. So I try again and still the same thing, and again I'm continuously adding change to the pay-phone. Frank asked me if I had something to write with -€“ Well yes if I had two more hands to get some paper and my pen out, sure. So I just hang up, completely, out of my mind pissed off just at everything. I got on the train to Frankfurt and send Frank a text via T-Mobile pay-phone, who knows if it went through, notifying him of my new arrival time. Then I realized that I could put everything I didn't need for the next two weeks into my giant ski bag and leave it in Frankfurt at the airport in some kind of storage. I spent some time with crap just spread all over the train platform, re-organizing and re-packing my bag. Now this thing is just ridiculously heavy but I drag it upstairs and use a free info-center phone to call information and ask about long-term storage. The lady was really nice and explained where to go so I rolled my bag over there, sweating, exhausted (it was heavy, man...) and finally found the storage place. 7 euro for every day. But like the desperate, mental idiot I was at the time, I said yes and calculated it later... yeah, 90 euro when I pick it up on the 23rd. Perfect.
On my way back to the train platform, I decided to stop in the Deutsche Bahn office and complain a little, maybe try to get some money or a free ticket or something. I figured I'd had a pretty good reason for being so pissed off. But, after explaining to the lady at the counter that I had spent the extra money for a direct train to Nürnberg because I had probably 100lbs. of luggage, and instead of being there in 6 hours with one transfer it took 11 hours and 4 transfers, she told me I could e-mail Deutsche Bahn and they could possibily refund me 20% of the original ticket price sometime within the next 6 months. My day was getting better by the minute.
I returned to my other bag down on platform 4 and of course get accused of trying to steal the thing by some guy on the other side of the tracks. I can't understand a word he's saying so I just give him a really irritated, annoyed look, which by chance happens to be the look that's already on my face. So he just forgot about it and walked away. So now I'm on the train to Nünberg. It's about 8:30pm and I have another hour and a half before I get there and HOPEFULLY Frank or someone will be there with a cold, German beer and a ride to either a bar or a bed.
FML!!!! And fuck you, Deutsche Bahn!!!
UPDATE: I did, indeed, get a nice cold beer upon arrival in Nürnberg and chit-chatted with some American military guys in the train station while I waited for Frank. I'm in Cadolzburg with Frank and family now, feeling A LOT better!