If you would have told me the predicament I would've found myself in at the end of my first day of traveling, I either wouldn't have believed you OR I would have jumped on the 3:40 ICE Train from Frankfurt Flughafen [Airport Station] to Frakfurt Hauptbahnhof [Main Station] rather than wait for my scheduled 4:10 departure. Regardless of what could have/should have happened - it didn't. I'm now sitting on the floor near platform 12, gripping my bags tightly, keeping a tense eye at anyone acting overly suspicious for 23:00 at night, waiting for my third train of the day, which, I'm not entirely sure is coming because the train that just left platform 12 is going to exactly the same place I should be - Budapest's Keleti station. Now the timetable above the information booth in Munich has removed my train EN 463 (Euro Night) from the collection of tonight's departures and the sign above platform 12 has gone blank. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not again.
As Americans, we like to plan things. Planning is responsible. It is efficient. It is organized. It also is boring and seemingly protects us from risk, interruption, and apparently adventure. College really taught me to be a good planner; my dad might call it procrastination, but I call it "effective time maximization". So of course, deciding to put my life on hold and move to Hungary for the once in a lifetime opportunity to watch on a film set seemed like a great plan - all in the matter of 3 weeks. Sounds about right.
It was here before I knew it - packing up my old camping backpack from some of my favorite and most life changing experiences (Philmont Scout Ranch/Colts) for yet another life adventure to uncharted territories. Pack on my back, camera bag slung over one shoulder and holding my laptop bag in my hand, I couldn't seem to justify that this was "packing lightly". After a brief stop in Des Moines for one last american meal with Gramma, we fittingly stopped at the Machine Shed. Followed by a quick trip to Raygun for some last minute Iowa necessities and an ice cream sandwich with college roommate Nathan Temeyer, Dad and I headed to Minneapolis.
I must admit, I was a little disappointed I hadn't been able to spend more time with my dad in the days leading up to the departure. He's always been my biggest advocate and cheerleader. I'd describe him as one of those stereotypical little league baseball dads; cheering on his son louder than the entire crowd and ready to go to nose to nose with the umpire after slightest discrepancy... he's just like that pretty much all the time with the two of us [his sons].
Airports are boring. The most exciting part was finding out that Minneapolis actually has two terminals - I had no idea which terminal Condor was flying out from. By some wild string of luck (and apparently the only luck I was going to have for the next 24 hours) I chose correctly...Terminal 1. I made it through airport security. I had a bag (2 bags actually) of chips and some Sunny Delight. The plane took off on time. The only thing worth noting about the plane was the fact that I upgraded my seat to premium economy class. Here's what it got me.
- Full Access to in-flight Entertainment (Interstellar, House of Cards, Django Unchained, etc)
- More Legroom
- A pretty delicious meal with smoked salmon, a shrimp, cheeses, bread, some sort of sauteed beef and broccoli, and a slice of caramel cheese cake. It was actually pretty good.
- A little goodie bag with headphones, earplugs, a blanket, a pillow, one of those little things to put over your eyes so you can sleep, and a fresh pair of socks.
- I SAT IN FRONT OF THE WING. This has never happened before and I was excited.
The plane landed safely, I met some friendly people on our little bus to the terminal, and I even ran into another member of the Colts! See, it pays to wear your corps gear when you travel.
That of course was the pretty straight forward part of the journey. Go to the airport. Do what they say. Get on the plane when they tell you. Fasten your seatbelt when they tell you. Depart when they tell you. Very drum corps-esque. Next though, is where the trouble...er..adventure begins. The plan was simple.
- Jump on 16:10 train from Frankfurt Flughafen to Frankfurt Hauptbanhof (5 minutes)
- Take 16:21 ICE train from Frankfurt Hauptbanhof to Wien Hauptbanhof (7 hours)
- Stay the night at the Haydn Hotel, a 20 minute walk from the station
- Board the 16:14 Railjet train from Wien to Budapest Keleti
With my backpack on my back, my camera bag strung over my shoulder, and my computer bag in hand, I briskly followed signs saying "Fernbahnhof" [Long Distance Trains] through the crowded airport. The wifi signal in the baggage claim provided a false sense of security that I would have wifi access throughout the entire terminal. Amidst hundreds of people, some running to catch their departure (which made me feel like I had planned an adequate amount of time for this transfer), I finally found myself at the ticket machines.
I pulled out my specifically marked "Frankfurt to Wein" folder from my camera bag and looked for the nearest OBB ticket booth. All of these said DB, or Deutsche bahn. That is the German train line. Now I had booked all of the trains from the Austrian site OBB beforehand because, well, they were cheaper. The ticket claimed that I could pick up my actual tickets from any OBB ticket machine. What it didn't tell me was that these machines were ONLY in Austria. (One would think that there would be multiple rail lines' ticket machines in a major station ).
"Okay; maybe I can pick up my OBB ticket from a DB booth." Nope.
"Okay; maybe there is an OBB booth down by the train tracks." [Takes two flights of escalators down to the platforms] Nope.
"Okay; maybe the ticket booths are somewhere hard to find, like the food court." [Takes two flights of escalators back up to the main deck]. Nope.
Now I'm sweating. The bags are really heavy. I'm super thirsty and need to pee really badly.
"Okay; I'll just go and do what Dr. Johnson said.... smile and ask politely for some help at the information booth". Of course, he chuckled and explained that I had bought this ticket from the Austrians and I couldn't get that ticket here. He sent me to the ticket stand, just across the way.
"Okay; I'll just go and do what Dr. Johnson said... smile and ask politely for some help at the ticket booth". This was much easier because the person at the ticket booth was a twenty something, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, young woman. She chuckled as well and suggested that I jump on the train and IF the conductor comes by, just show him the receipt that I printed off... (sure, the one that says in bold print THIS IS NOT VALID AS A TICKET...that will work) .
I'm doing my best to stay calm, but this simple problem could be catastrophic for the whole journey. If I can't get on this train here, how do I get to Wien, or even Budapest? All that money gone. I decide to take care of important matters first; bathroom.
Check. Okay, now to solve this train problem. Maybe I can find information on the web to help? To do this, I walk ALL the way to the end of the corridor (probably about 100 yards) to find Wifi. It wont connect. Time is running out. I head back to the ticketbooth (another 100 yards or so) because, as helpful as the blonde haired girl was, maybe the brunette will have something different to say? Nope. Same thing. (I'm still sweating and carrying these 3 bags by the way).
Taking a deep breath, I decide I should listen to the two young German women from the ticket booth and just get on the damn train.
[Takes two flights of escalators down to the platforms].
It is really a spectacular thing, this station. 4 tracks, two platforms, all stretching farther than I was willing to walk. All underneath the airport. It was 15:38. An ICE train headed to Frankfurt Hauptbanhof was pulling onto platform 4 (my platform) in 2 minutes. It's pretty spectacular you know; they have this huge diagram of every train and it's car configuration that pulls into that platform for the entire day - that way you know where to get on and off! The train slid right into the station; smooth, quiet, and on time. My childhood dreams were coming true; a real European bullet train! This wasn't mine though. "My ticket says the 4:10 departure; so I'll wait for that one" I thought. The train left the station as smoothly as it entered.
I finally started to relax. I was reassuring myself that, where Flughafen didn't have an OBB ticket booth, surely the main, regional rail hub of Frankfurt, Hauptbahnhof , would have an OBB ticket booth. There would be plenty of time to pick up the ticket and get on my connection, train ICE 229 to Wien. Things were gonna be okay. Anxiety slowly turned into excitement.
Right on schedule, the German ICE [Inter-City Express] bound for Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, pulled into the station at 16:10. Within a minute, we were off. I sat in the closest seat I could find; hopefully out of the eye of the conductor. It was so smooth. I couldn't believe it. It was quiet. There were only about 4 other people in the car with me, one being an elderly woman who caught me out of the corner of here eye and just smiled. Maybe she was laughing at my attempt to carry all of these bags; either way, I was too excited to care. I smiled back and looked out the window.
It wasn't long before they announced our arrival at Hauptbahnhof. I could see us crossing a bridge soon; the train began to slow down. Then it stopped. None of this was alarming to me; it was actually kind of funny watching all of these Germans begin to fuss about the train stopping. I thought to myself "man, if they think a minute or two is bad, wait until they ride an Amtrak train". The engineer came over the loudspeaker to explain something about the stop; only to be answered by the groans and complains of some unhappy German businessmen. After about 10 minutes, we began to inch forward. I was so enamored with the river and the twenty or thirty rail lines all twisting above and below each other to make it to the station platforms, I had no concern for the time or my next train. It was all so impressive. I'm sure I looked pretty silly from the outside looking in, watching yet another train slide right out of the platform and onto it's next destination. Little did I know that the very train I was watching depart as we were pulling in was ICE 229 bound for Wien.