After a tearful train-station goodbye in Salzburg, layovers in Wels and Passau, and almost getting charged €40 for riding without a ticket, I finally made it to the train station in Vilshofen. It was a nightmare getting there, though!
I figured I’d elaborate on the train travel horror story since now that it’s over, I find it highly amusing. Mischo and I spent the morning in Salzburg exploring the fortress and had everything planned out just so, so that we’d have time to take a bus to our hotel, pick up our luggage, take the S-Bahn to the main train station and have more than enough time to catch our respective trains. Well, the bus going from the center of town (where we were) to our hotel (where we needed to be) was a bit late, so by the time we picked up our luggage and made it back to the bus stop we were just in time to see our bus leave. No big deal, right? They come every 10 minutes so we’d just take the next one. That would mean we’d miss the S-Bahn, which comes only every 30 minutes, but we could take a different bus to the train station and still be there 10 minutes early. So we get on the second bus, and lo and behold, it actually BREAKS DOWN on our way to the station. Sooooo we have to get out and wait for the NEXT one, and by then we’re 20 minutes late and have no chance of getting to the station on time.
So we get to the station when we get there and have some time for some snacks (and some tears) before the next trains come. I saw that the next train going to Wels (where I’d need to transfer in order to get to Passau, the closest major city to Vilshofen) took twice as long as the next one, so I figured I’d wait 5 minutes and take the faster one. What I didn’t know, however, was that my ticket was not good for the fast train, only the slow one, which I found out when I got my ticket checked. Luckily the Austrian train service is much nicer than the German one and the ticket checker said I could either get out at the next stop (and have to wait 2 hours in a strange Austrian city and still take the slow train to Wels) or buy a ticket. I decided to buy a ticket, but wound up having to wait 2 hours ANYWAYS at Wels because the trains were running on a limited weekend schedule. By the time I got to Passau I was so relieved it was on the same track as the one I’d just come from and I wouldn’t have to drag my 32-kg suitcase up a flight of stairs, I jumped on the train without thought of buying a ticket.
Although it’s only a 15 minute train ride and I figured I could get away with a little “schwarz fahren” (“riding black” or riding without a ticket) in that time, I was sitting right at the front of the train and was one of the first to get my ticket checked – which of course was an Austrian train ticket and only valid until Passau. I was devastated. So close, and yet so far! The ticket checker told me, “You can’t buy a ticket on the train here like you can in Austria. Oh, no. With the Deutsche Bahn you have to pay €40 for riding without a ticket.” I panicked. I didn’t have that much money on me. Maybe I could have them send the bill to my Berlin address and conveniently never receive it? “But you’re lucky it’s the week before Christmas. I’ll let you buy one.” Relief washed over me, followed by annoyance that I had to pay almost €6 for the remaining 10 minutes of the train ride. In Berlin, you can get a single-use ticket valid for 2 hours on ANY of the public transportation in the city for €2.80.
Hungry, exhausted, stressed out but incredibly relieved, I finally made it to Vilshofen late in the evening on Saturday, Dec. 22, where I spent the remaining 5 days of my trip with my host family.