Troyes, France: An Adventure All the Way
Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
154Trip End Sep 11, 2009
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In Ljubljana, Slovenia I went to the train station to see if I could get a planned trip to my destination for a meeting with my friend in Troyes, France, which is about 150km east of Paris (More about my friend later). A fellow produced a printed itinerary that provided just what I needed. His office mate just next to him then provided me with the tickets for the trip.
The next day Mill, one of my two hosts in Ljubljana, took me to the station. The train was about a half an hour late; coming, I believe, from Zagreb, Croatia
I'll say here that the scenery from Ljubljana north into Austria is of low alpine beauty: of forest and fields and rocky mountain tops. It makes me think that anyone wanting to experience the greatest beauty and most serene city and towns, without the western european tourist crush, Slovenia is the place to come. If you're not after art and main line history and such, but, rather, how people live in tranquil beauty, this may be the area to visit.
Just across the border into Austria there was to be a transfer to a different train. But, being behind schedule many of us missed that connection. We had to wait around a very hot platform for about two hours for another, different train, with a different forward routing to take us on. For most of us the next point was Munich, Germany. But this train only took us as far as Salzburg, Austria. There we were met by "security" personnel and led to two busses, which took us on to the bahnhof (train station) in Munich. Then it was every person for themselves. For some, of course, Munich was their destination.
By this time, around midnight or later, I was about two and a half hours behind my planned itinerary
Off the bus, my seat mate with whom I had been conversing (Most unusual for me to initiate a conversation with a stranger. But she was young and attractive, so what the hey. She was an environmental studies student from Dresden, Germany. She (darn!) went off to her rendezvous in Munich). I watched an unorganized group walk off in a direction, and followed. They went into the bahnhof and to a service counter, where I also got into the queue.
When my turn came the gentleman there produced for me an on-going itinerary from Munich to Troyes. It was to depart at 3:17 am. The itinerary print-out--I just note--was timed at 01:06. So I had about a two hour wait in the Munich bonhof. Fortunately there was a food stand still open, so I at least got something to eat, even if I had to eat it on the huge, dark bonhof platform.
The routing from Munich was altered from my original one, but the times had been reconciled, so the lost time was made up and my scheduled arrival in Troyes, France was the same as the original projection
From Munich I went to Stuttgart, Germany. In Stuttgart I had an hour wait, then to transfer to another train for Strasbourg, France. When I went to make the transfer as indicated on my "new" itinerary, I needed to asked a question of a train official on the platform. Big mistake. He said the train was full, and that I had to purchase a new ticket for the next train. Doing that effected my arrival time in Troyes, where I was to be met by my host, Olivier. At the ticket desk, in purchasing a new ticket, I inquired about a refund since my on-going journey from Munich no longer was in a sleeper coach, and the whole on-going leg was invalidated as well. In Ljubljana I had to purchase that higher price ticket as the rest of the train was full. In any case, to no avail. I was told I had to take my case to the Slovenian rail authorities. (Lots of luck trying that one once home in the States). In that third itineray there was to be a 42 minute wait for yet another transfer at a town named Mulhouse. That's pronounce something like Mul-jose(Spanish j like, I believe).
With the new ticket my arrival in Troyes would be later, and I had to call my host to tell him I would be in later
The woman at the counter did not speak English. But she called a younger girl who did. She sold me not a card, but a coded number; then explained the sequence of activating it. I was able to negotiate the procedure and get a call through to Olivier.
I had time for bite to eat before my new train would leave.
In Mulhouse, France, where I had to make the last transfer there was a 42 minute interrim. There I also had a problem. One of my own making. The social and political climates of Turkey and some of the other areas (I certainly wouldn't be so sure of Albania) had lulled me into a quasi-trusting mode. Travelers' baggage is respected, I'll just say. I never, however, leave my "day pack," containing my passport, camera, binoculars, eye glasses, laptop power cable, and whatever reading I have. (Four years ago I averted my eyes from my luggage just long enough for a fellow to make off with my day pack
When I got back to the waiting room my luggage was missing! You can imagine. . . .
There were three identical platforms. So I raced up and down stars to look into the other two, lest I'd forgotten the platform I'd come from. Nothing. I checked the first two again. Empty.
Well, I thought, either they were stolen or perhaps confiscated. I recalled that now I'm in France. And they have bomb problems. Perhaps someone turned in some sighted "unattended luggage." I ran back into the main station and to the ticketing counter. Now fortunately, though it was around 9 am, there was not a crowd. However, as most might know, the French are not as generous about learning English as other peoples of Europe. Again, fortunately, though, an older gentleman concluding business at the counter was able to translate my anguished plea to the young woman at the ticket counter
I raced down there, 3/4 expecting to be met with what I call the Gallic shrug. Meaning, "I don't know what you're talking about," or, "There is nothing I can do."
Rather, as soon as I was through the door into the tiny office I saw my quite distinguished backpack and black suitcase in a corner. Whew, whew, whew! He turned them over to me without any issue, and I raced back to the platform. It was empty of passengers. I had missed the train by about two minutes.
Back at the ticket counter I was told my present ticket was also good for the next train. But there was to be another transfer, and for that she sketched out the last schecule
Another call to Olivier was managed, this time for a still later arrival time.
And from then on all went well. At that last transfer point, Belfort, I had a lay-over of about 2 hours. I had a hamburger at a restaurant across the street from the train station. After starting to eat at the sidewalk table four guys came out and casually stood around me, lighting up cigarettes. Then I noticed the words on the paper beneath the hamburger: Döner Kebap. These guys were all Turkish! Later when I spoke Turkish to the waiter he didn't bat an eye. I had thought I'd get a reaction.
There is nothing more to say here. The rest played out according to the final script. Olivier met me in Troyes, and in the fading light we drove directly to his village of Lusigny sur Barse, about 20 km east of Troyes. But more about that in a subsequent blog.