Poland --> Germany

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When I went to the train station on Monday to buy my train ticket back to Germany, the ticket woman (speaking Polish, of course) explained something to me using a map, drawing lines from point A to point B.  I quickly learned that when I arrived in Zgorgelec, I would have to get off the train, walk outside of the train station, get on a bus to Reichenbad and then board another train to Dresden.  I asked why on earth this was necessary when every other time I’ve gone back to Germany, I’ve ridden one single train that took me straight to Dresden, only to learn that the train station was under construction but the train conductor would explain to everyone where to go and when to go there. 

Let me just affirm that by this point in my life, I am a very independent and confident traveler and not much can phase me (as long as it’s I’m not stranded in front of Paris Gare de Nord at midnight with a dead battery cell phone waiting for a cousin who can’t seem to find the time to meet his little cousin despite the fact that she is in mortal danger). This Polish problem, however, scared me slightly, mostly because this plan seemed so inefficient and – oh yeah, I don’t really speak Polish. On top of that, stepping on that westbound train is always an extremely sad feeling, without the added apprehension of a very confusing, very Polish detour.  Not having a choice, though, I found a seat on the train, somewhat (or maybe very much) dreading the upcoming train-to-bus-to-train-again transfer.

Sometime later, the train conductor came on the intercom and reminded everyone (first in Polish, then in German – which was a huge relief), that we must step off the train and board a bus to Reichenbad, where we will then board another train to Dresden. So, like everyone else on board, I stepped off the train. The Polish rail employees also stepped off and the German rail employees stepped on (this is normal when you reach the border of Poland and Germany). I assumed that the train was going to a different German city and, out of curiosity, I turned and looked at the screen to see where exactly it was going. The screen read, “Dresden”. Dresden is where I’m going, I thought. I then noticed a crowd of passengers boarding the train. This made no sense to me, as all of us Dresden-bound passengers had just exited in our entirety (I know this, being the last one off the train). Why did we get off if the train was going to Dresden? I turned to face the group of passengers who were just on the train with me, walking down the stairs to look for the bus, I assume. I could have followed them and I almost did. But then I imagined walking down the stairs only to find that there was no bus. Then I’d be stuck in Zgorgelec, Poland and would have to wait until the next train to Dresden (hours later), which wouldn’t bring me home until midnight. This wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I would have wanted to cry nonetheless.

I tapped the first person I saw on the shoulder and asked him, “SprechenSie Deutsch?” He answered to me (in Polish) that he speaks Polish and asked if I did too. I told him no, but he knew that I understood him enough to answer that question. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I didn’t just ask him if he spoke English; everyone speaks English. Nevertheless, in his broken German and my very, very, VERY rough understanding of the Polish language, we realized in a matter of 15 seconds that we were both heading to Dresden and that we were both confused by this situation. I showed him the screen that said “Dresden” and the last of the passengers boarding the train. We ran back to the train together and found the (now German) conductor and asked what we should do. The conductor told us that this train track had formerly been under construction but that now it was running with no detour. Evidently, no one had remembered to tell the Polish rail employees that or else the announcement wouldn’t have been made. We jumped back on the train and I wondered what was going to happen to all of the other passengers who had already exited the train station looking for the bus to Reichenbad. As far as I could tell, this Polish passenger and I were the only 2 to re-board the train. And what’s even better, since the train was nearly empty now, I got a much better, much more comfortable seat!

As soon as I sat back down, I kept thanking God that I was able to pick up on the detour mistake before wondering around the streets of Zgorgelec looking for a phantom bus that would never appear?!

^^ the blessed Dresden hauptbahnhof ^^

I had a 30 minute stop-over in Dresden which was just enough to time to go to the grocery store (inside the train station) and get some dinner. Reinforcing my belief that it’s “the little things in life” that make me truly happy (or maybe it’s just the edible things in life), I had the best time walking around this grocery store, finding something to eat. I eventually decided on what turned out to be the most delicious pizza-related item I’ve ever eaten. It was half pretzel, half cheese pizza, warm from the bakery oven and filled with fresh cherry tomatoes. I bought some quark as well for “dessert” (mixed with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and cherries – all of my favorites) and if I could have eaten the container it came in, I would have. The best part is that when I paid for these items, the cashier informed me that I got a free pastry with my meal. Perfect – breakfast for the morning! (Yeah, I somehow managed to refrain from eating it until morning.)

On my final train ride home, a similar announcement was made regarding de-boarding the train and boarding a bus to take us to Erlangen (my destination). I almost cried at this point. I am so tired of detours (almost the entire German rail is under construction right now) and especially after that long day, I just wanted to get home as soon as possible. I generally operate under the “If you have to ask a question, try not to ask a guy sitting by himself on the train with a bottle of beer in his hand” rule. However, he looked like my best option at the time, so I asked him if I really had to get off the train at the next stop in order to get to Erlangen. For some reason, I had a feeling that I needed to double check this before stepping off the train in a city I didn’t know. And I normally hate asking strangers questions (especially in foreign languages). He told me if I wanted to go to Erlangen Bruck then, yes, I’d need to get off at the next stop but that if I needed to go to Erlangen Bahnhof (as was my case), then I shouldn’t get off the train. If not for his advice, I would have gotten off the train and, again, ended up in the wrong place. You can imagine how relieved I was to finally get to Erlangen, step off the train and catch my bus home – finally!

I walked home from my bus stop in the bitter cold (it's below freezing now before sunrise and after sunset). And athough I complain about the cold sometimes, I do love this weather and I can’t wait for snow. Along with the warm clothes my mom sent me for my birthday, I also got a couple of winter items in Bologna with Erica as well as a new fleece in Poland. 

This was my last trip to Poland until 2011, which was a little depressing to realize, since I keep hearing about how much fun Poland is at Christmastime. I’d love to be there to experience it! Perhaps New Year’s in Poland would be almost just as fun (though I have a sneaking suspicion that Kayla and I will find a way to spend New Year’s together in Salzburg)....
Jan said...

Good job in being careful about the detours, etc. I had a funny feeling that day you were traveling back so there were 'extra' prayers that day.

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