Monday, November 2, 2015

Day 81: Long Day of Travel

Oh, sigh. Time to leave. The visit went by so quickly. We got a lot in, but it feels fast. We get up to say goodbye to the kids before they catch their bus to school. Chris gets one more run in with Tim (he went from no runs for over a month, to two in one weekend, go Chris!)

Tall Chris or short doorways?
And then it's time to say goodbye to Kristie (thanks again for the laundry... I know you KNOW what it means, which makes it all the more special that you offered to help do it ;) Tim takes us to a bakery on the way to the train station. We order crazy amounts of bread. 2 regular pretzels, 2 special pretzels, a few sandwiches, and something sweet. The store had to give us our own bag for all our purchases (and they put each individual item in an individual paper bag, to begin with).

Unfortunately, there are no parking spots at the train station. We traveled around twice and didn't see any. So, we have to do a quick pull over, grab our stuff, and say a fast goodbye to Tim. Thank you and your family for such a wonderful visit! It has been so nice to travel around by chauffeur to see the countryside and a slice of your life. Thanks!

And now for our train rides home! Should be easy sailing from here on out.... and that would be my mistake... for thinking it could be that easy!

Our first train is crowded and we have first class seats (from what we can tell) but not assigned seats. When we get to our train-car and look around, there really aren't any free seats. This seems common, Germans seem to take up more space than they pay for and just wait to be asked to move and make room. They aren't annoyed that you ask them to move, but you have to ask. So, there are a lot of coats on seats, or briefcases on seats, making the seats look occupied, when in fact, they aren't. But you don't really know, that person could be in the bathroom or walking around. So, we cannot find seats. We try the second class area, but the story is the same there.

We just find four individual seats and take them. Xander, however, isn't comfortable sitting with strangers, so he chooses, instead, to stand next to Chris for the this part of the trip. It's only 40 minutes until we reach our transfer station. And, luckily, on one of the stops, someone gets off leaving two seats together. Venice and Xander move to these seats so that they can sit together. Chris takes Venice's vacated seat, and we're all close-ish to each other now.

In the end, no one every came to check tickets (this makes some sense, we are on an RE - regional - train instead of an IC or ICE train), so who knows if anyone was really sitting where they were supposed to...

Out the train window
We arrived at the Mannheim station, to transfer to the train that will take us all the way to Hauptbahnhof in Berlin. It's an hour late. We enjoy some of our bread items while we wait. And, as we all shiver in the cold, this is when I realise I have left my rain coat (just a shell, but still) at the Moser's house. Dang it. After all the, "Don't forget your..." I told the kids... I'm the one who forgot stuff.

There is some confusion, as our train disappears from the board and the NEXT train (doing the same route) comes in. Are we supposed to get on? What happened to our train? Chris goes to find a help desk to ask. But he's gone a long time. Long enough that the new train is now pulling into the station and we still don't know what to do. Chris says the line is long and he hasn't even asked anyone yet, so he comes back to the platform. We find a conductor on the platform and ask him what to do. They inform us to not get on the later train that's here now, but that our train will be coming in 5 minutes on another track. Phew. Ok, we're good.

Sunset, Fog, Darkness
And here it comes. Our train, an hour late. We get on and look for our seats. Unfortunately, someone is sitting in one of our four reserved seats. Chris pulls out his ticket, the woman in our seat has a ticket for train 11 and this is train 12. She gets up, apologises and leaves (I hope she was able to get back on, as the train is now pulling out of the station). We settle into our seats. We're in another 6 person compartment, but this time there are two others with us, so we're full up (note, the compartment next door has been vacated... lots of evidence that others had been in there, but now it's empty and ours is full.... bummer).

All of us are really hot. With 6 people in the compartment, it heats up fast. Not to mention that the heat is turned all the way up (each compartment has an individual dial to control climate). Xander just about dies of the heat, so he exits out and walks the hallway, trying to cool down. Chris accompanies him. On their way back into the compartment, Chris sneaks his hand to the dial and lowers it a few notches. Within a few minutes, it starts to cool down in the room. A bit longer after that, the woman gets her coat to drape over her lap and the man gets another shirt to put on. Meanwhile, our family still feels that it's too hot.

Despite the temperature, the train ride goes well. The kids plug-in. I blog. Chris naps (and asks me to kick him if he snores... oh the fears of sharing a compartment). We are treated to a beautiful sunset. Then we enter some crazy fog. And then, just outside of Spandau (the first stop in Berlin, but not Hauptbahnhof, the second stop in Berlin) the train stops. Then they announce "something". After the second or so announcement, the woman in our compartment asks if we'd like her to translate. Yes, please! She tells us that the train has hit a wild boar and they are seeing if we can continue.

Well, after about an hour, the announcer comes on and says, "Wir warten blah blah blah." We're waiting for....? The woman says that other officials are coming in to investigate the train to see if we can continue on this train or if we need to get on another train. In the meantime, the service car is offering free drinks. Chris and the kids go to get drinks and bring back waters and soda, which we enjoy with some of those pretzels we thought were superfluous when we bought them (but now we're feeling pretty good about).

After two hours (Chris has now cancelled our dinner reservations... dang it, there goes one of our last nights in Berlin...), and, "Wir warten..." we're still waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The new announcement, our compartment mate tells us, is that the Polizei are on site (we have seen them walking up and down the halls of the train outside our compartment) and will assist us in an evacuation (I thought I heard that word in the announcement) out of this train onto a train that is now coming.

As we wait, we get to know our compartment mates a bit more. The couple is from Stuttgart and are on holiday. They were offered these Bahn tickets (I didn't quite catch who gave them the tickets) and are here to visit Berlin, but only for a weekend. But, they are retired, and have no worries, so they're content to let happen whatever happens (although, at one point, they joke that they should have driven). We talk about our trip here, Chris' work... and how the kids are just on a special holiday (always seems easier than to explain homeschooling in a foreign language).

The woman is very concerned about our kids. So, at one point, she gets up and goes to the service cart and comes back with several cold sandwiches. Chris offers to pay her back, and she replies, "Oh, I got them for free!" And when we offered to share, she said, "It's for the children." So, even though Chris and I are a little hungry, we can't eat the children's food... so we feed the children. I do like how the people of Germany are collectively here to support the kids. It is a good feeling in times like these. But if the older generation is going without, then we must go without as well. Side note: I'm sure the couple think we're horrible parents. Not only were the kids plugged in most of the time, they also fed themselves a lot of their Halloween candy (and rejected some of the sandwiches they brought them due to too much mayonnaise or "icky" bread).

During these three hours we are stopped on the tracks, power never goes out. This is great because we are able to keep using the air in the compartment, the kids can get wifi, and, albeit very long, our weight is as comfortable as it can be. I used the wifi to figure out where we actually were. The map showed that we were super close to Berlin... by now, we could have been on a bus and gotten there already. But, we're waiting.

And now, here comes the train. Their lights are on. Our lights are on. We are one track apart. We stare at each other. In fact, our kids push their faces and hands onto the window, miming "help"!

And we wait. Side note: This is when Chris and I sneak in some bites of the left-over food that the kids didn't eat (when the couple leaves to go to the bathroom or stretch their legs).

We're waiting
The next announcement relays that the plans have changed again. We will NOT be getting on the train here, but at Spandau. We will continue to Spandau on this train, at a slower speed. Then transfer to the train that was next to us (and is now pulling away). At this point, we decide we will not transfer, but get on the SBahn and just go home from there.

Well, after all that, we did start to move slowly and we did arrive at Spandau... and THEN they said for everyone to get on the SBahn (yeah! Get on a train that's working already!)

So, we get to Spandau (yay) and transfer to the SBahn (yay). As we're traveling along, the lights go out on the train (boo), flicker (boo), and then come back on (yay). People actually laughed when this happened... but it feels like we just missed another disaster.

It feels good to get to Friedrichstrasse, where it's familiar and we know where to go. As we get off the tram near our apartment, I see the fast-food hot-dog/hamburger joint near our house. I mention that we probably all need food (it is almost 10am and we never had a proper dinner). Xander and I return home with our bags while Venice and Chris order some food to bring home.

We "enjoy" a late meal... and then we head to bed. Rest, something we all earned!

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