It is certainly an interesting experience writing this blog post while hopping on and off trains with the ultimate goal of reaching Berlin.
Germany has been at the top of my list of countries to visit for the spring, especially with my college roommate, Olivia, completing her Fulbright grant there. Our school’s Spring Break offered the perfect opportunity to make this journey. However, the actual plans for when and where I would go in Germany came together pretty last minute.
I had a busy week with school and planning a Valentine’s Day lesson for all the classes, and did not have the time to hammer out the details of this trip. So in a manner that was very atypical for me, I did not actually buy the tickets, book my hotel, or pack any luggage until the day before I was set to leave. And yet, it all came together! I would be spending the first weekend of the break in Berlin, after which I would head to Hannover and spend the week there with Olivia, before heading back to the Czech Republic for the restart of the school term.
Things were going according to plan, my first train to Prague was smooth, and just as I was feeling rather smug about my abilities to plan at the last minute, the universe unfortunately intervened. There has been an unusual amount of heavy wind swirling through Europe these past few days and as a result, there have been disruptions to the train system. In my smugness, did I believe that my train, and as an extension, my life, would get disrupted? No. But that it did.
My second train unexpectedly terminated its journey in Dresden at which point I hopped off along with my fellow bewildered passengers and overran the information center. By the time I got to the front and started asking in English about my alternative route to Berlin, the woman at the desk barely glanced up before pointing vaguely to her left and declaring “Leipzig. Platform 7,” naturally causing me to wonder just what I had asked her. Nevertheless, I took her guidance and hopped on the train to Leipzig, quickly pulling up the Deutsche Bahn website on my phone and seeing multiple long distance train closures between basically everywhere and Berlin.
Two hours later, I arrived in Leipzig only to find out that the folks at this information desk did not speak English. I stumbled upon some other Americans who were also making their way to Berlin and found out that there was one potential direct train that would be going to Berlin, but that it was leaving in 15 minutes. Naturally, I, along with some three hundred people whose trains were also cancelled, crowded onto the platform. Luckily, I grabbed a seat on the train and let my pounding heartbeat settle from the uncertainty and chaos of the day, but there were people who simply sat on the floor between carriages, determined to get to Berlin at an acceptable hour. Side note: I have seen and talked to many more Americans since arriving in Germany, and I have truly missed the casual friendliness that accompanies the American demeanor. I had no qualms about walking up to an American woman talking about trains to Berlin and asking for guidance, and just as importantly, she had no reservations in offering any and all the help that she could provide me as a fellow traveler.
Ten hours of transit and four trains later, I made it to Berlin! Just another day of going with the flow and adapting to life traveling through Europe!