June 11: Bologna to Munchen to California
When last we left our story, it was 8:20 and we were waiting for the night train to Munich.
After getting off the train from Bologna, we had to figure out on which platform our train would arrive. Bologna has about 20 tracks, and schlepping our luggage around at the last minute as not really an option. The printed schedule (newly printed for that day) said that the train would arrive on binario 4, only four tracks away.
We tried rolling the luggage across the place in the tracks where it was possible, but were admonished by the polizia that it was vietato to cross the tracks. This left us two tracks away.
So we had no choice but to drag the luggage down the stairs, across the sottopassaggio, and up the next set of stairs. (I have no idea what disabled people do here...) We deposited the luggage on the tracks, and then I had to figure out what part of the track we should wait at for the sleeping cars.
So, I went to the information booth to ask. The guy told me that he couldn't tell me where the car would be on the train. Since the new schedules had come out on the 10th, the chart they had didn't show the number of our sleeping car. He couldn't tell us where it would be.
I went back to wait for Kurt. As the time got closer, we kept checking to ensure that our train was still coming in on binario 4. I asked various passengers where to wait, but no one knew. Finally, a nice couple showed me on the schedule where it was written that we should wait. Phew!
At this point, we had conflicting information from several sources. At the bigletteria where we bought the tickets, the gal said they would add a sleeping car in Verona. The train agent in Bologna said that someone was occupying our berth until Verona and that we should just get on the car and wait until Verona. The sign indicating the latest status of departures had a note that the train had only 2nd-class berths. Which was correct?
At 10:30, the train arrived, and it was a short train with nothing but 2nd-class cars. The sleeping cars were all full, as were the sitting cars. It turned out we had two problems: one was that there was to be an airline strike in Italy starting on Monday, and the other was that school was out for many in Germany last week. As a result, the trains were packed with high-school and college aged ragazzi from Germania.
We tried to get on one of the sleeping cars, but they wouldn't let us on since we didn't have a berth. We tried to get on one of the sitting cars, but there was no room for us, much less our luggage. So I started pleading with one of the train officials, explaining that we had to get on the train because we had a sleeping car that was to be attached in Verona. He brought us back to the original sleeping car that we were supposed to be on and after a bit more pleading, the nice young German train attendant allowed us on. (But only if we didn't tell anyone there, and only because we had a reservation starting in Verona.)
We lugged our baggage into the small passageway between cars, and stood around waiting for the train to leave. Of course we'd been in a panic to get on lest the train leave without us, but it turned out that the train officials really did realize that there were too many people for the train and decided to attach a few more cars. Of course there was no way we were moving again. No way! During this time our German attendant told us how embarassed he was about the state of the train we were on. It would never happen in Germany!
After a while we went to sit on the jump seats in the aisleway in the car. A bit more comfortable because you could open the windows. After midnight, we arrived in Verona. How time flies!
We took our luggage off the car and tried to guess which side they'd add the new cars. Our train attendant said it was at one end, and we proceeded to that end, luggage in tow. The train officials at that end said the new cars would be added to the opposite end. Needless to say, we were very tired of lugging our luggage around! We asked another couple who looked like they were headed for the same place we were, and they confirmed the side where we were, so we stayed put. Sure enough, a few minutes later we saw the cars being headed our way.
The attendant for our car helped us with our luggage and gave our bikes a sleeping berth of their own! We had a nice private compartment for ourselves. Kurt took the top bunk and I took the bottom, and we settled ourselves down for sleep.
At 6, the car attendant woke us up, and we arrived at 7 in Munich. Now we just had to get our luggage to the airport. I went to look for a cart while Kurt stayed behind with the luggage. By the time I returned, Kurt had found a porter to help carry our luggage. He helped us to a bus, which would cost 18 DM for each of us. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money, and went to find some before the bus left. Turning up empty handed, I persuaded the bus driver to take US dollars for the deficit. And we were on our way!
We arrived at the airport, four hours ahead of time, and hung out in the lounge until it was time to board the plane.
Movies watched: Pay it Forward -- v.good; Miss Congeniality -- predictable but entertaining.