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Sebastian Scholl

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I’m so excited to share this story.

Budapest train station

Budapest train station

Yesterday morning I impulsively bought a non-reservation ticket from Budapest, Hungary to Split, Croatia.  And just to clarify, non-reservation means that you are not guaranteed a spot – first come first serve in the cabin.  Therefore, I made sure to get there early to be ready to pounce as soon as the train pulled into the station.

Staring up at stations enormous departures/arrivals board amongst a crowd of about 100 other lost travelers, I was waiting for a number from 1 to 12 to appear.   That would be my platform number.  However, for what seemed like an hour, all that flashed was the number 15 in the delays column.

I wouldn’t set my bags down.  Too worried that, once the platform was called, the time it would take me to swing them onto my back would place me behind the crowds.  So I stood there, legs locked and back sweating.  Shoulders burning from the canvas straps digging into my shoulders, constantly shifting my equally heavy messenger bag with hopes of not finding a comfortable position, but just a less-uncomfortable one.

I’m not sure if the number appeared when I blinked, or if it just startled me after intently staring at a blank space for so long.  I had no time to think about it though, being that I was running off to platform 6 amongst the others – frantically overtaking and pushing people aside as if it were a race for life, like something was chasing us.

I’m not necessarily fast, but traveling by myself leaves me no one to look over my shoulder for.  And I was soon leading the pack.  Running awkwardly as to not have my bags bounce and slow me down.

A few meters ahead I saw a train employee popping his head out a cabin window.  Watching the crowds rush towards him with a smirk of amusement.  Towards him I dashed while pointing at my ticket yelling, “Split! Split?!”, after which I’d point towards either end of the train and shrug.  He looked confused, but after a few seconds of seemingly concentrated thought pointed towards the front of the train.

I had made it.  And was the first person to do so.  Behind me soon appeared a few breathless others.  All of us with wide grins in celebration our accomplishment.  As if we were now apart of an exclusive club for seat holders, four of us sat down to introduce ourselves and confirm that we were in fact all headed to the same destination – Split, Croatia.  Fortunately, we were.

Fifteen minutes later, just when I had caught my breath, a ticket master entered the cabin shouting, “EH-VRY ONE GONE POZNON?!”  In terror I jumped up and repeated the theatrics I had performed for the previous employee.  This time though, the man grabbed my ticket, then grabbed me, pulled me off the train, and said, “Dis is de Split train!  Croatia in da bak!”

I immediately sobered up from the high I had been enjoying and realized the mistake that had been made.  Yes, I was going to Split, Croatia.  But this was a split train, meaning that halfway along the journey it would detach in the middle, allowing each section too head off to different destinations.  The first employee had guessed that I was asking which section was split-ing off and pointed me towards those cabins – which were destined for somewhere in Poland.

I ran.  From cabin to cabin, high jumping to look into every window and see if any seats were free.  But I saw none.  And within 30-seconds of beginning this rush I heard the trains brakes unclamp.  In complete panic I scanned the length of the train for any open door.  And not too far off I saw one, ran towards it, and jumped.

DCIM100GOPROI’m writing this post from that open door, which happened to be a loading door to the bike storage cabin.  There are no seats, just bike racks.  And for the next 15 hours I will be laying on the floor of this train amongst new friends who are now enjoying the spoils of mistakes similar to mine.

To be honest, if I was given the option to have the train stop and upgrade myself to a first class cabin free off charge I wouldn’t take it.  The bike cabin has no bathroom, no service, no seats, and no air conditioning – just bike racks and a sheet metal floor.  However, what it does have is giant sliding steel doors that are unlocked, allowing me to dangle my feet outside the train as I watch the world wisp by.

I feel like I’m in a movie.  Holding onto one of the door handles as I let my body fall outside the gliding train.  It is one of the most visually beautiful experiences I can remember having.  Hopefully I’ll be able get some good pictures to share.  But until then, I’ll be tranced.

One comment on “Budapest & Croatia: Crossing Countries without Showing a Passport

  1. Dennis says:

    One of your best posts yet! Debra has me convinced that roughing it is when we stay in a Marriott. So I’ll be sure to show her this……. Travel frees the mind……


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