The Elusive Escape

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End May 26, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , South Moravian Region,
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 5:30pm

The whole flood thing going on in Oświęcim was going to prevent Auschwitz from opening today as well so we decided to stick with our plans to continue on to Bratislava.  So glad we went out of our way so far into Poland to see...a flood...and a small museum.  Traveling is an adventure though, and whether I face country-wide floods, deportation, or anything else, I still love to do it.  We took a taxi to the train station at 6am this morning.  We were just praying that the trains would be running.  Tons of tracks have been flooded with water throughout Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.  Thankfully, the train from Oświęcim to Katowice left at 6:45, 10 minutes later than its scheduled departure time.  It was apparent that the train was moving slow as we went.  We passed flooded fields, houses with water gushing out of its windows, and rivers that were nearly as high as the bridge above it.  Though slow, the train made it to Katowice.

Katowice is pretty much the worst place on earth we've decided and while I can't speak about the city, the train station definitely gets poor marks.  Dumpy, freezing cold everywhere (both inside and out), no place to sit, poorly marked, tons of stairs (no bueno with a 50 pound suitcase)...just assume that if I say "Go to Katowice," you've been burned.  Our last experience there on Monday was definitely worse than most things you can imagine, so returning was not too exciting.  It was also not encouraging to see that people were waiting for trains for 2 or 3 hours because of delays.  All the flooding had made things so slow that it was crazy.  Standing in line at the information desk, we met a guy who had been in Katowice for 2 days because he couldn't get into Slovakia (due to flooding of course).  I think I'd rather be Jonah in the belly of a fish.  To make things worse, we were going to Slovakia too.  The lady at the info desk really didn't know if our particular trains would be on time or not because of the flooding.  We watched the departures board to see if our next train would show up.  It never appeared on the board, so we dodged the scary beggar woman who I'm pretty sure put a Polish curse on us, and went up to our platform anyways.  9:13 came and went and no train came for us.  Others still waited so we stuck with the locals.  Please...let me out of Katowice.  Ten minutes later, a 9:20 train (at least that's what it was labeled) came.  It didn't seem to be labeled right in many ways, but we were assured by several people that it would go to Břeclav (where we had a connecting train) so we got on.

The train didn't end up leaving Katowice until about 9:45am.  We really needed the train on time because in Břeclav we would only have 9 minutes to make our connection.  So much for that.  Our lives were turning into continuous strands of "complications."  Remember..."complications" is code for something worse.  As we sat on the train having left Katowice (good riddance!), we started to recognize things...the same flooded houses, fields, and rivers that we had seen...when was it...FOUR HOURS AGO.  Groundhog day.  Déjà vu.  Twilight zone.  Whatever you label it, we couldn't believe we were heading back where we came from.  By 11:10, we made a short stop in Oświęcim, and looked across the same tracks to the same platform we had stood on at 6:35 that morning.  We had left our hotel more than 5 hours before, and now we were a mere 2 miles from it again.  Poland was starting to turn into a bad dream.  Someone wake me up!  But we had been assured that we would be going to Břeclav in the Czech Republic.  Despite knowing that we had been going the complete wrong direction than what we wanted, we tried to relax knowing what we had been told.  Eventually, we got an explanation.  Apparently the tracks south of Katowice were so flooded that they had to go on an alternate route which just so happened to include the same spot we had just come from.  Which also means, arrival times were all delayed by about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We passed more flooding, we kept a slow pace on the wet tracks, and we saw animals entering the ark two by two.  Oh wait, that's a different story.

A little bit before 4pm, we arrived in Břeclav, Czech Republic.  We spent the hour there in a small waiting room with a man in the corner muttering to himself.  The station was a huge improvement from Katowice.  At 5pm, we got on a train that is now on its way to Bratislava, Slovakia.  Now 4 hours behind schedule for the day, we hope we have left Katowice and the flood "complications" behind for good.  We saw a Polish newspaper with what seemed to say "Catastrophe in Southern Poland" on the front page today.  Here's to hoping for better headlines in the future.
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