Wednesday, April 7, 2010

En route from Berlin to Hamburg

March 30, 2010
5°C, Overcast

Today was a travel day not unlike the epic train journeys from India. Last night we flew into Oslo and found that the “super easy” train transfer to the hotel was not going to happen because the trains in Oslo had been completely shut down. Instead, the airport had chartered buses, and there was a hoard of people crowding to get on the bus. You’d think we were starving and fighting for hamburgers or something. The first charter bus was almost filled up, except for a few seats. Liz, Matt, Swaffie and I tossed our luggage on and sat down. We were surprised that nobody else in the group followed us to take up the last remaining seats, but suddenly Liz yelled to me that it was the wrong bus so everyone but Swaffie quickly shuffled off. The bus driver got very angry. “What are you doing?!” we told him that we wanted to go to Oslo Central Station, and he said that he was indeed going there. “I am the driver, you should listen to me!”
Liz and I got back on the bus, and we took off. Matt was nowhere to be seen, and as we zipped through the Norwegian countryside, we accepted whatever was to come and assumed we could meet everyone when we got to the train station. I talked a bit to the guy next to me, and he let me know when it was time to get off. When we stepped off the bus at the Oslo Central Station stop we were in front of an “Opera Hotel” which played nonstop opera and had quite a few costumes on display. Liz, Swaffie, and I loitered and waited around. Denny hadn’t known the name of the hotel One of the people at the front desk told us that the train station and bus terminal were actually behind the hotel, and after about half an hour of waiting, Swaffie took off to scout out the terrain.
Not five minutes after he left, a van and a bus showed up with our group in them. I ran out of the hotel and ran up to them. Anh told me later that she wouldn’t have stopped the van had she not seen me run out of the hotel. I felt like my flailing, frantic scene had been validated. Once everyone was reunited, Anh and I went to go look for Swaffie. Even though we only walked over a few city blocks, it felt like Oslo was a gigantic city when we looked through the train station and bus terminal for him. When we got to the end, we gave up and went back, only to find a small group – including Swaffie—waiting for us. We trudged to the hotel, and I noticed that Matt didn’t have his suitcase. When I asked him where it went, he told me that he had left it on the bus and was not able to retrieve it when we thought it was the wrong bus, then the driver shut the door in his face and left.
Once we were reunited at the hotel, the group went out to dinner at a strange little restaurant run by an Indian man. Huge chunks of ground beef were brought out, with potatoes drowned in gravy. I was told this is similar to what is called a “Salisbury Steak.” It wasn’t that tasty. Then I went back to the hotel and passed out until the morning, when I got up grudgingly for breakfast. We left for the airport train at 9:55am, and just as we arrived and were receiving our tickets and the train was about to leave, Denny realized that he didn’t have his backpack. So he left to go retrieve it, and the train arrived and we all faced a dilemma: should we split up again?
Matt had to pick up his bag at the airport and so Michelle and I went with him. We arrived without a hitch at Oslo Airport (by the way, I really think that the United States needs a more extensive rail system – these airport express trains were awesome and looked like spaceships and got you to the airport very quickly. Europe is way better at “being green” – everywhere in Germany there are these huge windmills and gigantic solar panels. Most of the time I feel like being green in the United States is just a cute thing to put on packaging of “organic” products). The bag was supposed to be at Platform 2, but the official at Platform 2 directed us to the Lost and Found, and then the person at the Lost and Found directed us to the Information Desk, and the person at the Information Desk directed us back to Platform 2, and when we asked a different official, he said, “Oh? You mean this bag?” and picked up Matt’s bag, which was sitting right behind the Platform 2 desk the whole time.
Then we took our plane to Berlin, and then caught a bus to the train station. The bus was extraordinarily crowded, and we had all our luggage with us, but we finally arrived at the Haupfbohnhoff and found the correct platform. Then we loitered for two more hours, and now we’re finally on the train to Hamburg. As much I will miss traveling to all these cool places and seeing so much of the world, and even though there is so much left to see, I am so tired of carrying my bag through all these different types of transportation and wheeling it through muddy streets and shoving it into undersized compartments. This morning, on the Airport Express train, this man’s bag fell out of the compartment and went flying down the center aisle, and almost careened into a baby’s stroller. When he sheepishly retrieved it, I wanted to give him a hug because I felt empathy: that moment is a perfect representation of my relationship with my luggage for the last three months. My twenty kilo huge red duffel has become a cancer on my trip; if I ever travel the world again, I’m going to pack everything I need into a smaller and more portable bag.
But once we get to Hamburg, it will be our final destination. After that, our next flight will be the flight home. I can’t believe it.

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