As promised, I am back with the second set of travel stories. To read the last account, click here.
Berlin, August 2015
I was travelling from Prague to Berlin on a particularly rainy morning. Contrary to popular belief, Germans can be late (oh yeah, I was shattered!). The Deutsche Bahn was late getting into Prague and was further delayed by unplanned stoppage during the journey. I was travelling with a hiking backpack and a pilot bag that was growing heavier by the day. My fellow passengers were a quiet lot and nobody seemed to particularly care about when we reached Berlin. The man who’d occupied the seat by the window had disappeared for most of the journey and I had no one to talk to/confirm the delay announcement with.
By the time we pulled into Berlin, I was cranky. I had lost most of the afternoon and I still had to locate the hostel. Dragging those bags off the luggage shelf was no ordinary feat. I was trying to reach my bags when the missing passenger appeared next to me. Not only did he get my bags down, he carried them to the door and helped me off the train. I protested that it was unnecessary and excessively kind but he refused to hear any of it! He was even considering walking me to the escalators 🙂
Prague, August 2015
I was staying at one of the most popular hostels in town – Mosaic House. Mosaic actually owns quite a few hostels around its main building but the facilities aren’t the same. Hostel World still shows the booking as MH, but you could actually be registered at say maybe Moo. I was in a mixed 4-bed dorm with a tiny balcony and no ventilation. It wasn’t possible to pull out the storage space and stand next to it at the same time – it literally took all the space between the beds once it was pulled out! My roommates for the first night were pretty nice but they moved out the next morning. I was out with the boys all day and when I got back the second day, there was no one in the room. I’d been out boating, climbing hills, and dancing on the streets – I was dead to the world the minute I lay down in my bed.
It was in the middle of the night when I woke up to loud drunk talk. The Brits had invaded. I drifted in and out of drugged sleep over the course of the night and woke up to a state of demolition in the morning. There were dirty food plates all over the room, empty beer bottles rolled around, and there was rubbish all over. The fat, half naked boy in the bed next to mine was snoring in all that mess. I ran out, showered, dressed and headed straight to the hostel reception to ask for a different room.
Nuremberg-Dresden, August 2015
I was traveling east with MeinFernBus/FlixBus to Dresden. The bus was late and by the time I boarded, most of the seats were taken. I found an empty spot at the back next to a young boy. I did my usual – ist hier noch frei? – and sat down. As a rule, I don’t talk to strangers unless they initiate conversations. I am yet to figure out whether Europeans are chatty and informal, so I play safe. I’d roughly factored in the delay into our scheduled arrival time but was surprised when the bus pulled into a town as scheduled. I expressed my wonder out loud and my neighbor corrected me by saying we still had over an hour left on the road! This short exchange opened up a conversation about my travel plans, love for everything German and of course funny German words.
I’d picked up a sheep (ein Schaf) in Neuschwanstein and he was traveling with me. I’d clipped my iPod to his belly so it looked as if he was my DJ. My co-passenger seemed to take a liking to the little guy and asked if he tagged along on all my trips. I told him about my Füssen day trip and how I was yet to figure out a name for him. Well, we soon started talking about our favorite German words and he told me how his friends from Netherlands found it difficult to say – schätzchen which means ‘treasure’ but is used for a partner (like darling or sweetheart) Even though my favorite word remains Sehnsucht, I have grown to love and use schätzchen in conversations and hope to someday use it for my partner. Btw, I named the sheep after my co-passenger. They are both called Anton.
Frankfurt, August 2015
On the last day of my backpacking holiday, I was moving hostels within Frankfurt to be closer to the airport to avoid any unforeseen delays in getting there. I lugged my backpack and trolley bag across the underground maze at the Hbf and got into a train heading to the airport. Now, the thing with these trains is: they are designed for large bags and trolleys. There’s plenty of space to stand, but not too many seats. Oh and the seats are self-folding which means that you can create additional baggage space in the absence of passengers.
I was crammed into a seat by the window. I was completely blocked by my bags and fellow passengers. Considering that I’d been on the road for a good 20+ days, and had travelled across 3 countries, I had a fair bit of baggage weight. When it was time to get off, I couldn’t hoist my backpack onto my back! There was too little space to create a point of leverage. I was struggling and about to fall over when the policeman sitting next to me lifted my bag (with one hand, might I add!) and pushed it onto my back. Needless to say, I was exceedingly embarrassed and yet, oddly relieved.
Provins, January 2015
I usually made unplanned trips over the weekends. This meant that I’d lie in bed on a Saturday/Sunday morning and randomly pick a destination for a day trip. On one such morning, I couldn’t decide where to go until I reached the train station. I looked at the train timetable and decided on Provins. I had no idea what to expect! When I reached the town 90 minutes later, all seemed quiet. Everyone who got off was walking towards the other end of the town. I followed them in wonder. All the locals seemed to have stepped out of a Game of Thrones set. It was crazy! As I walked up the hill, it got even fancier. Bang in the center was a cauldron on fire. They were making Glühwein ♥ I’d walked into the annual Medieval Festival!! I couldn’t believe my luck. I walked out of that fair with some wonderful old-fashioned ear rings, a sword that looks like a cross between Arya Stark’s Needle and The Sword of Godric Gryffindor. Oh, and I spotted some dudes that looked a lot like Robb Stark and Jon Snow 🙂
Paris, early 2015
I don’t remember where I was returning from. It was a day trip to a nearby town – perhaps Blois. I got off at Lazare which is a giant underground maze – I shit you not. You can switch multiple metro lines, reach the outbound trains, and take RER from these underground tunnels. The only caveat – you have to walk a lot. I was a bit lost and extremely fatigued at the end of the day. I couldn’t quite figure out how to reach the Line 1 metro and decided to approach a subway employee in uniform. He offered to walk with me till the metro because he was headed there. A huge departure from the French people I’d met till then, he turned out to be chatty. When I told him I was from India, he said he’d traveled there. He told me everything he’d loved to eat in India and even recommended a few good places to visit!
Nice, January 2015
I grew up in Bombay, a coastal city. My dad builds ships. So you can understand the deep love I hold in my heart for the ocean. I love to feel the wind in my hair when I stand on the deck as we sail. I left the coast and moved south. I made a monthly trip home to sit by the coast but that had been difficult after the second year. When I moved to Paris, I’d been away from the coast for a good 6 months. I’d never seen such blue water until I’d checked out the view from the TGV getting into Cannes. I was mesmerized. As soon as I reached Nice, I dropped my bags in the hostel and ran to the Promenade de Anglais. I hiked to the viewpoint to check out the port and immediately decided to go to Monaco the next morning. When it was time to go back to Paris on Sunday afternoon, something didn’t feel right inside me. I was okay until I reached Courbevoie. But by the time I got home to my apartment, I had tears streaming down my face. I went straight to Flavia’s. She thought I’d been dumped until I mumbled out incoherently “blue… Nice.. the sea….” She laughed and ruffled my hair – “Natürlich, you’re a coastal girl!” I was crying because I’d missed the sea ♥
Paris-Lille, December 2014
Oh, this is an incident I have mentioned a number of times on the blog but have never elaborated on. This incident is also the reason why I sleep at airports/train stations/bus stations the night before I travel.
I was scheduled to spend the Boxing Day weekend in Lille. It was to be my first overnight trip and backpacking experience. I attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve and then spent a random day walking around Paris. I got stalked by two different dudes (one who actually followed me home!), and came home visibly upset. My colleagues decided to cheer me up by taking me to the Eiffel Tower (it was crazy crowded, but we ended up shopping in the flea market) followed by Frozen in bed. At about 11pm, I decided to take a nap and promised to wake up a few hours later and pack my bag for the trip to Lille. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
I woke up at 6:36am for my train that was scheduled to leave from Paris Nord at 7:16am. Doesn’t sound good, right? It wasn’t. The La Défense Metro station was at least a 10 min walk from my apartment, after which I had about 15 stops to go with one metro line change at Châtelet. I was screwed. My immediate reaction was intense panic. I had barely enough time to pull a pair of jeans on, grab the clothes strewn over my bed, pick up my shoes and run! Well, I did run. I put my shoes on in the elevator and zipped my jacket as I ran out of the building. I had tears streaming down my face when I saw that the first set of elevators (of a total 3!) wasn’t working. Putain! I had some quick decisions to make. When I reached the metro station, I walked up to a bakery and asked what was the fastest way to get to Nord. RER. I’d never taken one. I crossed my heart, bought a ticket (I wasn’t sure if my Navigo covered it) and proceeded to the Voie. Well, I was in luck as I jumped onto the first train that arrived seconds later. After a change at Châtelet to RER-D, I reached Nord at 7:14. Almost there, but was I? I was on Voie 36 and my train to Lille was on 54. Fuck shit. Once again, I ran like my life depended on it. I surfaced at the open air outbound line only to watch the doors seal (they are timed) and the train move out of the station. I sat down, cried, and then proceeded to the Information counter for help. The young officers asked me why I was late. “I overslept,” I mumbled wiping my tears, further ruining my eye make-up from the previous day. “20 euros,” they demanded. I had a choice. It was nearly my entire ticket cost, but forfeiting it would mean loss on the stay bookings I’d already made. I agreed. But by then they’d had a change of heart. They waived off the charge, stamped my ticket and asked me to board the next train to Lille. [I later realised that they were trying to rip me off] Needless to say, I have never been late for bus/flight/train again.
When I started writing the second set, I realised that I had some more stories to tell. I will be back with the third bonus set as soon as I can 🙂 Until then, read and spread the wanderlust, my peeps 🙂