Once again, I woke up four times to disable the four alarms that I had set on my phone to wake me up on time. It’s a wonderful yet clearly horrible thing to know that your train station is situated two minutes from your hotel door! I woke up 3 minutes after my intended train had left. Anyone that knows me know that I usually wake up in a way that mimics someone being pulled out of the virtual reality system from the Matrix movie franchise. Instantly my head started buzzing and I wondered if I had the wrong time in my phone and added another hour to it and decided that I only had 20 minutes to get ready and leave for the next scheduled train. When I got downstairs I confirmed that the country had not mysteriously added another timezone while I was asleep! Even though it was brightly shining, it was still only 7:45am and I knew that many food places would be closed. Read about my crime against traveldom here.
On the train to Praha from Berlin, I hadn’t made a reservation because it wasn’t mandatory. I was happy to find that there was an unreserved seat near the door I entered. The seats on this train were different from all the others I had been on. The seats were situated in sets of six separated by walls with private doors. After a few minutes of loading onto the bus, three young men filled the remaining seats in my cabin.
About 10 minutes into our journey three women of Asian descent alerted us that those three seats had been reserved by them. Two of the men were asleep and the third pretended like he didn’t understand. So unlike myself, I sat there and waited with the ladies for a train officer to come and clarify the situation. He finally came and ordered the men to leave and give the women their seats.
A few stops before we left Germany, German police officers came down the cabins to verify nationality. As he spoke in German I couldn’t help but smile as I sat there in total ignorance. I had to ask to other passengers I had been chatting with for the majority of the time I had been awake on the train. One of them was American and the other was German.
The police took a long time checking the passports of the three asian women in the cabin (one of them specified that she had French nationality). He didn’t bother asking for those of the other two men or mine though. After the police left, the German explained that countries have those immigrants they love and those they don’t really like too much. I was, understandably shocked and hoped that wasn’t the reason he had taken so long on their passport check. But, then again, he had only taken the word of the German that the other guy and I were American. On the other hand, seldom encountered passports (like the ones the women may have had) would be subject to greater scrutiny, in addition to the fact that they pretty much handed him their passports without his really asking.
As we neared the German border, we rode parallel to the Elbe River near Bad Schandau Station on to Praha. The scene was exceptionally beautiful. The river had carved a valley into the barren rock that now lay jutting out of lush green forestland. Houses big and small were also perched up in the hills and on the banks of the river, adding to the picturesque ambiance.
After the two men left the train, one of three women started a conversation with me. She was originally from Laos like the others, but lived in Iran and had previously acquired French nationality. She spoke fluent French and was very good with English.
- Place your wake-up alarm device in a place not immediately accessible to your sleeping area. I will try putting my phone deep in my backpack at night and let you know how that works out.
- Get friendly with the German (or other local) guy in your train cabin.
- Keep your passport in a well-protected, but easily accessible place in your luggage when you’re crossing any national borders, including those within the European Union.