Leaving the Czech Republic - Day 16
Vienna Travel Blog› entry 10 of 30 › view all entries
So Prague was quite nice. Getting out of Prague was another story.
Having learned that our train passes don't actually include the Czech Republic (on the way to Prague we had to buy tickets on the train), we knew that we needed to buy tickets to the border station, a little Austrian town named Gmünd. At the train station we found the appropriate place to buy tickets and proceeded to wait 6 hours (okay, so it was only about 25 minutes, but it felt really long) for all of two people to be helped in front of us. Finally our turn came, and we found the ticket clerk to be less than helpful. We told her where we needed to go, and then waited about 15 minutes for her to putz around on her archaic computer. Finally two tickets were given to us, everything written in Czech, and she said something like "ein-fort mahe shun bufth oder der" while gesticulating madly in a general direction. We think she meant that information was over there (somewhere), and we went to investigate.
Thankfully we are master sleuths with superior deduction abilities, or we would still be there now trying to figure out what train, from what platform, and at what time it departed. So we figured it out (although we felt somewhat sure that we were going to take the wrong train, perhaps to Moscow) and nervously boarded a train.
So far most of the trains we have taken have been very nice. Spatious, clean, and comfortable, this really is a great way to travel Europe. However, this train was a bit different. Cramped, dirty, and uncomfortable (notice the antonyms), this one was not exactly luxurious. Also, all of the other trains included little pamphlets of itineraries, charting out all of the stops and times. For one who is unsure if they're on the right train or not, this is very helpful. We asked the train attendant, who attempted to assure us we were on the right train, but in another language, so we hoped for the best.
One of the problems was in trying to determine when to change trains. We knew we needed to, but when? Our tickets mentioned a few names, but more than one. Again, the attendant attempted to explain, but in Czech, so that didn't help. But after asking multiple people, a combination of clues helped us guess where to get off.
The next train was no better, but this time we had confidence in where to get off. However, one stop before Gmünd, right before the border to Austria, our train didn't start again after stopping. Then we realized we were the only ones left on, and soon a worker started shouting to us from outside to leave the train (at least we think that was the message). Getting off, we now had no idea what to do, and again needed to piece together the plan. Eventually we got on another train to get to Gmünd, and made it safe and sound, only 7 1/2 hours after leaving Prague.
Finally in Austria, we breathed a huge sigh of relief. The travel through the Czech Republic was very stressful, and now we felt like we were in familiar territory. The signs were in German, most people spoke at least a little English, and the sun shone a little brighter. Also, the change of scenery at the border was striking. Much of the Czech Republic seems very run-down and poor, in my mind very stereotypical Eastern Europe. Austria in comparison is modern and clean, like Germany (and the US).
From here we trained to Vienna. This time the train was clean and comfortable. Arriving in Vienna, we had no place to stay, as we were unable to arrange a Servas visit. So we figured we'd find something. Walking through the rain to a hostel, they informed us there was nothing available. Walking on, however, we came across a hotel that had vacancies. It was a little more expensive than we would have liked, but we were starving and soaking wet, so we jumped on it.
Dinner at the hotel restaurant and straight to bed; it was a long day.