wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reservation consternation

Train travel in Europe is a breed apart, as I was reminded this last week when I belatedly finalized my plans to see the US play in Kaiserslautern and Nuernberg. Getting a Germany railpass was no problem, but as anyone who's traveled around the continent on trains knows, the trick is not whether you have a ticket for a given train but whether you have a seat.

Case in point: in 2002, I sought to travel to Paris from Barcelona using my Eurail pass, which seemed uncontroversial. Problem was that every other backpacker wanted to travel on the same train at the same time, so there were no reservations. After a heated conversation with a sweaty, angry Catalonian ticketing agent, I finally got to understand that I could go on the train but there was no guarantee of seating.

But I had no other option, so off I went. The first part of the trip was fine, and I even had a seat. But when we got to the French border, all hell broke loose. The train dropped us off and backed out of the station, leaving an enormous crowd of stank-ass travelers on the platform unsure of what was coming next. I was starving and fortunately ran into a couple American girls who gave me some cookies. We decided to band together for the rest of the trip.

Finally the train rolled in and opened its doors, causing several hundred backpackers to shove in at once. The girls and I were at the front and I essentially shoveled them into the door ahead of the crowd and we raced through the train looking for unreserved seats--there weren't any. Finally, we staked out a spot in some luggage racks and the train left. There were bodies everywhere--in the aisle, in all the seats, in the luggage racks, crowding the cafe car. At one point I stretched out in the aisle to sleep (it was a night train), and kept waking to find people's feet stepping inches from my face. The only good part was that the train was so crowded that no one checked my Eurail pass, meaning that it was a free trip.

After this trip I learned a lot, and since then have made a point of always getting reservations if at all necessary. This is especially true at peak travel times, such as, oh I don't know, the world's biggest sporting event. Which leads me to my efforts of earlier this week: finding space on the best trains for my trips to Germany (Berlin-Ktown, Berlin-Nuernberg). It was too late, unfortunately, to get reservations together with my traveling companions, but the good news is that we both managed to get separately booked on all the trips we wanted.

The lesson of this tale: reserve early, reserve often, unless you have some affection for sleeping in the aisle of Eurotrains. It was a great adventure but at this point I'm too old for that shite. Next up: the actual reservations and why I got them.


Blogger ian said...

Reminds me of my time in Japan for the last World Cup. Ibaraki stadium was at the end of a crawling 2 hour train ride, served by about three short trains a day.

2:30 PM, May 18, 2006


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