Travel in Europe is usually quite simple and easy. One does not NEED a car like you do back in the USA. (With a few major US cities being the exception, you cannot live in the United States without a car, as there is essentially no real public transportation infrastructure in place nation-wide.)
Here in Europe, I’ve become quite familiar with train travel – between living here for a bit last year, and now again this year. From the simplicity of the UBahn (subway) in Vienna to the frequent bus rides we took in Croatia, getting around is actually pretty easy. I even was quite pleased with the ease of flying from one country to another when I took the plane from Vienna to Croatia in January – decently priced, and super quick.
But sometimes Mother Nature likes to get in the way. There’s a reason I slept all day today despite the lovely sunshine outside….
Well, first off, I was sleep deprived from only two hours of sleep on Sunday night. Miloš and I wanted to try to stay up all night, since we were both leaving the next day. When you’re asleep, it feels like five minutes even when hours go by, so we wanted to be awake with each other. But as a result, I was even more tired and emotional when we dropped him off at the airport in Zagreb.
I was catching an overnight train from Zagreb to Villach (just inside Austria), and then would switch to a train that went to Vienna.
I took full advantage of the free wifi in the McDonald’s as I killed time in Zagreb waiting for my train, and the journey started off without a hitch.
But I noticed around 1:15 in the morning that we were stopped at a random station at the top of Slovenia called Jesenice. We were supposed to get to Villach by 1:30, but that was looking less and less likely. We eventually drove forward a little and then completely stopped. The man working on the train started coming around and asking everyone where they were going. He seemed kind of clueless though, as he didn’t have any real answers to give anyone about what was going on.
Eventually we went backwards to Jesenice and again sat for awhile. A LONG while. We soon found out that the snow was so bad, that the train tracks ahead were impassable.
All my electronic devices were running quite low on batteries and I had nothing to do but sit there. (Even my iPod was dead.) Despite it being the middle of the night, I did try to call Miloš to see if he was up, but I didn’t know if he’d have his Croatian or German SIM card in his phone since he was in Germany for pre-season. When he didn’t answer, I let it go, as I did not want him to think I was calling for some kind of emergency – the last thing I wanted him to do was to worry about me.
After some time, the train moved along and was redirected to a little station called Rosenbach. (You can tell by the names, that we were literally at the border of Slovenia and Austria during all of this, as we switched from Jesenice (Slovenia) to Rosenbach (Austria.) But that was the only info I had as to where we might possibly be on our journey.) We sat there for some time again, and at 3am, the man came around to tell us we all had to get off the train so we could get on a bus to take us to Villach. The entire train of groggy passengers disembarked and we waited inside the tiny train station of Rosenbach for another half hour until the bus came at 3:30am.
Since it was an overnight train on a Monday night, there were fortunately not too many people, and we were all able to fit into one bus, albeit very crowded. We were driven down twisty narrow country roads amidst beautiful snowy trees. It looked to be about a foot and a half of snow on the ground, so even in the dark it was quite easy to see the passing scenery. Snow can be a real bitch, but it’s certainly very pretty!
We got to Villach around 4:15am. There, I had two options – take the special train assigned to all of us effected by the detour to Salzburg and switch there to a Vienna train, OR take the direct train to Vienna that was due in a few minutes. Some of us decided on the Vienna train, and I waited on the platform with a very nice young couple from Sweden.
Only thing is, the train time kept getting later and later, and we assumed that it had also been effected by the snow. Waiting out in the cold made me think I should have just taken the special train to Salzburg – it would have been un-crowded, and then I could take one of the MANY regular trains from Salzburg to Vienna (and sit in a nice 1st class car.) But alas, that option had passed, and around 5am, the train came to take the rest of us to Vienna. It was already crowded with many passengers, as it was coming from Italy. There was no option to sit in a little room by myself, so I had to deal with a crowded car. But at least this train had working outlets so I could charge my laptop and phone.
I started dozing off a little here and there, and since Vienna was the final destination I wasn’t worried about falling asleep and missing my stop. But since there was not a lot of room, I never really got comfortable, so I only slept for short periods of time.
Once the sun came up, you could see the beautiful snow-covered landscapes outside. It was beyond gorgeous. I snapped a few pics (see below.)
After what felt like an eternity, we arrived at the Wien Meidling station. And finally at 10am, I was back at my apartment, where I quickly washed my face, brushed my teeth, and went to bed for the next nine hours!
I can either think of the whole ordeal as a huge pain in the ass, or just another interesting adventure to add to my varied list of experiences. And those who know me, will agree that I’m all about going on adventures! 🙂 (I think you can guess how I’m going to look at it!)