(5) Almost got lost on my way to Munich
Me to my friend Urs: One thing that I really wanna do; is attending a football game in Europe. El-Clasico will be the optimum, but I will not decline other available options if any.
Urs: How about a match in Munich?
Me: Well, Germany is not currently on my list of countries that I am looking forward to visit. You know how the language is a barrier to me -given that I have been living in a german speaking city for almost a month, a language that I do not speak or understand at all and have had it.
Urs: Everyone in Germany speaks English, people are extremely nice & helpful and the city is awesome.
Me: Mmmm, so what matches do we have this weekend?
Urs: It is one of Germany’s derbies “Bayern Munchen vs. Stuttgart”. It is going to be a very powerful game as Bayern Munchen has won over Real Madrid at the semi-finals of the Champions League last week, so all the cheering and the playing will be not to miss.
Me: Bayern Munchen, Oh WOW! Yeaaah, I can imagine how they will be into the game and the cheering will definitely be on fire. Are there any reasonably priced tickets? I guess it’s a little too late. It is Monday & the match is on Saturday.
Urs: I’m a Bayern Munchen member, so I might find good seats reasonably priced, so let me check.
Me: Do you think it’s wise to attend a football game all alone? It wouldn’t be that fun. And might be dangerous for a solo female, you know how fans might get crazy.
Urs: Noooo, it is not dangerous for a solo female at all, you could go without any problems, and if you want I could pass you my future brother-in-law’s number who lives in Munich if any problems occured. I have attended so many matches by myself and enjoyed them so much, so being alone cannot be a barrier, do it, do it.
Me: Oh, how nice of you, but that’s really not necessary, thank you. Mmmm, I will think about it & let you know.
Urs: Well, currently the tickets are a bit expensive, let me keep checking every now and then and I will keep you posted.
The next day…
The telephone rang.
Me: Morgen Urs.
Urs: I have found a 50 euros ticket, a very good seat. Are you interested?
Me smiling with excitement: I’m coming to your office right away with my credit card.
Booking done, Munich BABY!
The next thing was booking 2 nights at Menninger hostel, followed by booking a train ticket from the station -Bern Bahnhof; Bern-Zurich-Munich (4 hours) then return Munich-Stuttgart-Zurich-Bern (5 hours) via the Swiss railways trains SBB.
Like every weekend, I packed one night before, it was always my tiny backpack that had 2 tops, underwear, socks, a towel, a toothbrush & toothpaste, my iPod and most importantly my Lovely Lonely Planet guide “Europe on a Shoestring”. Headed to the train station right after work, due to my bad luck the 1st connection train from Bern to Zurich went out of order that caused a 45 minutes delay, which meant that I will never catch my connection direct train Zurich-Munich that should have been after 1 hour from my arrival to Zurich. I explained to the train lady my terrible situation, she told me that my only option is to catch another 5 hours train with so many stops and 5 changes, I was staring at her while saying “NOWAY”, she asked me to step immediately off the train in order to catch another one that’s leaving in 2 minutes to Zurich while reassuring me that the railways company will find a way to get me to Munich.
I ran to get my jacket & my tripod that I left where I was seated which was pretty far, then jumped off the train to catch the other one. The train left the station after 15min, I was pretty stressed, wandering around trying to find the train lady, somehow mumbling until a very handsome guy sitting infront of me approached me “what’s wrong?”, I explained to him my unfortunate story, he smiled back at me in a reassuring tone by saying “Don’t worry, everything will be alright, the Swiss railways company SBB will definitely find a way to drive you to Munich in the most convenient way, it’s whether a private car, a jet or another train.”. I was so relieved after what he said, finally someone is talking to me, trying to ease my anxiety, he was so sweet. He started to chat, asking what am I doing in Switzerland, he told me that he lives on the mountains in the German part of Switzerland and that he came to Zurich to attend a conference, he also told me that he’s not a huge fan of Bern, “It’s a business oriented city, not like Zurich that has the best night life, yet very expensive.”, he also asked about the cities that I have visited so far, I said “Bern, Interlaken, Lucern which is my favorite & Zurich that I did not like that much as I’m not a fan of big cities”. The train lady finally showed up for tickets check, I handed my ticket and started to explain my situation, the guy started explaining to her in German, she again told me that there is only one connection to Munich which requires changing trains 5 times, or another train the next day at 6am, but that she’ll write on the ticket my situation so that once I arrive to Zurich SBB will find a way to take me to Munich in the most convenient way.
Once we arrived, I said goodbye to the handsome guy, while he wished me good luck and a pleasant stay in Switzerland. I stepped immediately out of the train, looking for SBB office to get things in order, but their reaction was totally below my expectations, the lady was acting boldly, she was very cold, told me that my options are taking that damn 5 hours train with 5 changes, or spend the night at Zurich then leave to Munich at 6am the next morning, so I replied:
“Why should I pay for a night in Zurich while it’s the company’s fault? And a train with 5 changes!!! This is torturous. Also if I take the 5 hours train I will arrive very late, so there won’t be any public transportations, I will have to take a taxi to the hostel.”
She handed an SBB card along with a ticket that has the platforms of my 5 changes, while telling me “keep your receipts, SBB will pay for everything, I’m sorry I really can’t help you, it’s whether you move very fast to catch the train which is leaving in 5 minutes, or as I told you spend the night in Zurich and catch the early morning train.”
“But I am very tired, I planned to sleep all along the trip, but since the train requires 5 changes, I will have to be awake during the whole trip”.
While so stunned she replied “sleeping on the train, that’s not allowed”.
“No I don’t mean spending the night on the train because I am homeless, I mean sleeping during the trip” in the back of my head wanting to tell her you jerk. I looked at the ticket and said angrily “this ticket indicates only two platforms, how about the rest?”.
She replied “I’m sorry, that’s the available information for now, they will be announcing the platforms inside the train”.
“But the announcement will be in German, and I don’t speak any German”.
“Then you could ask the SBB guy on the train.”
I was shocked, in disbelief, unable to think, speak or react, anxiety was killing me, my options are not practical, if I take that train I might hop on a wrong train during the 5 changes specially that one of the train changes -to Bregenz- should happen in a one minute time, or spend an expensive night at Zurich that might not be refunded by SBB -after this humiliating situation I do not trust them- take the early morning train at 6am, which means a sleepless night, also exhaustion will prevent me from having fun in Munich, and who knows maybe the train will be out of service again and I’ll miss the football game, which to me is not an option. All I started to do is running towards the platform in order to catch the train, hoping that things will go my way.
Once I stepped inside the train I couldn’t stop myself from crying hysterically, I was scared, frustrated, filled with anxiety, with lots of what if questions inside my head. Although I was DEAD tired, I couldn’t lie my head down or get any sleep, I was too scared to miss one of the connections, and get lost somewhere on my way to Munich. I changed one train after the other, until I almost missed my connection to Bregenz -the one minute train change & the second last change before getting on the direct train to Munich, once I stepped my feet inside this train, it moved immediately, I was petrified, asking and re-asking if I’m on the right connection, the train was filled with teenagers, all dressed up, ready to spend an exotic weekend, I was envying them for being relaxed and happy, while my destination was completely unknown.
When the train stopped, I stepped out of it, a very nice girl named Caroline, whom I asked on the way if I was on the right connection to Bregenz, came and spoke to me, asking “why do you seem so anxious, are you Okay?”, I told her my whole story, she was totally understanding and told me that it has happened to her before, and that we could stick together as she’s heading to Munich as well to meet with her school friends that she hasn’t met in so many years. I was so thankful to find her, having her around made me feel comfy, and that I don’t care if I get lost as long as I’m with someone, and that someone is Swiss, who speaks a little German as she’s originally from the french part of Switzerland. We were on the Swiss-Austrian-German borders, facing Lake Constance, I still remember that once we arrived to Bregenz my mobile sent me a welcome sms; once as if I am in Austria, another as if I am in Germany & a third one as if I am in Switzerland -how I love that feeling, being in 3 countries at a time, wouhouuu. We had around 30 minutes to catch our next train, so we walked together down the station -as Caroline wanted to have coffee-, to find lots of parties overlooking the lake, they were more like beach parties as the land was covered in sand, people were barefoot, chairs had a beachy feeling. We stayed at a very nice cafe/restaurant on the lake, I did not order anything as the menu didn’t seem appealing to me, while Caroline ordered coffee. Then we headed to catch our last connection to Munich. The train was really good, we were seated alone in a compartment coach, I badly needed to sleep but we kept chatting all along our 3 hours journey. We mainly talked about Egypt’s GREAT Revolution & the Arab Spring, her daydream of going to Africa, her engagement party and wedding that should be arranged soon, our different perspectives of marriage and relationships, my love and passion for travel, etc.
We finally arrived at 1am in the morning at Hauptbahnhof which is Munich’s main station, I was drained, wanting nothing but a bed to lie my head on. Caroline’s friends greeted me, while trying to read the map that I have, to show me directions to the station, but they couldn’t tell where Meininger Hostel was, luckily somebody overheard us and showed me directions, he told me that it was a 10 minutes walk from the station, I was tired to the extent that I couldn’t ask if I could go by tram, or is it too far from my hostel, or from where to get tickets, I was not ready for any surprises, I didn’t feel safe to take a cab at 1:10am, and I didn’t want any more adventures I just wanted to follow the said directions, arrive at the hostel & have a nice sleep. I walked for over 20 minutes, as I was walking art a very slow pace, every part of my body was aching hard. Everything was closed but the city was not dead, there were lights everywhere, lots of people in the street mostly driving or cycling, or coming out of night clubs, I felt safe so I decided to keep walking, I was impressed to see Sofitel Munchen that seemed very fancy. Finally arrived at the hostel, only to discover that it was 4 tiny stations from the main station, the tram was a minute walk from the hostel -how stupid I was- entered the room while walking on my toes, it was 1:30am, the girls whom I shared the room with were already sleeping, I put my jacket and tripod, climbed to my bed while carrying my backpack, was tired to the extent that I only took off my pants and slept…
And yes this is what should be called a journey from HELL…
After all, all I wished for was attending a football game in a European stadium and being at Allianz Arena is truly to die for 🙂