Sunday, 12 August 2007

8th August (Day 22) Krakow to Budapest by train

After packing up all our stuff, we left everything in the hotel, and killed time until our train left at 10.36pm. We had run up against the incredibly unhelpful Polish train administrators. We had bought a ticket for the overnight train to Budapest, plus two bike tickets (but only to the border – she had no idea how much it would cost to buy onward tickets, or what currency was required). We then found another place that seemed to be a bit more onto it. The lady cancelled our ticket to Budapest, and booked us into a sleeping compartment…we’d been 100% clear about having bikes. However, once we’d got out of the place we realized that we probably only had a reservation now rather than a ticket. I went back in, and the lady explained that indeed we did only have a reservation, but that our ticket was paid through to the border along with our bikes. She had no idea how much we would have to pay for the Slovakian or the Hungarian leg of the trip. So, off we went to the currency office to get large amounts of the two required currencies, plus some Euros just in case. Also, we had been to see the train the night before, just to make sure that the bikes would indeed squish inside a sleeping compartment (they did – photos to follow!).

Needless to say, we trotted up with our ‘tickets’ only to meet with an officious no (in Polish) and an explanation why we weren’t even going to be allowed on the train (in Polish). Well, John by now is apoplectic with rage. So, I point out, again, and again, and again that we had indeed bought our tickets, and had been sold our tickets, and this in fact should allow us to get on the train. I then followed the guy around while he went to see his colleagues to discuss the problem (after all, we had been sold the tickets thus not our fault). We also had all the currencies that were required. Finally, he caved. Furious, when I asked one last time if we could get on, he spat through gritted teeth the word “tak”! Hurrah –we were on. The bikes were unceremoniously manhandled through the narrow corridor and by dint of wheel removal and the turning of handlebars, we did indeed get both of them in the compartment. The train official did calm down, and was quite cheery by the end. We did manage some sleep – in between hammering on the door by passport officials at regular intervals as we sped across borders.

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