You must understand by now that my misadventures are my adventures. Ending up in the wrong place is often as interesting as ending up in the right place. Sometimes more.
So with that said… I find myself at an AOL Kiosk in an American themed bar/resturant next to my indoor soccerplex-hostel. Country music on the stereo and belt buckles and cowboy hats on the staff, including a giant backdrop of Monument Valley behind what I imagine would be the dancefloor on a busier night….
But getting here is the story.
Leaving Antwerp was my first use of the Eurail pass I bought. 3 months unlimited rail travel throughout 18 countries in Europe. After validating the ticket at Antwerp Central I recieved an itinnerary consisting of 4 train changes to get to Essen Germany. It should have taken about 4 hours… There was another option that would have arrived there later but with less train changes (and the insidious “suppliment”: extra money for better trains)
In the end both would have arrived about the same time.
I was dozing in and out of conciousness on the first 45 minute leg and phazed in at one point right around the time that we stopped at a station. We’d been traveling about 40 minutes at the time and other people were getting off so I switched into lemming-mode and got off as well.
After the train pulled away the sign on the station was revealed. At that point I realized I had made a mistake. The sign read “Essen.” There is an Essen in Belgium also, just before the stop I wanted.
An agent happened to be standing on the opposite side of the tracks facing me. “Rosendaal?” I said, pointing in the direction the train had just gone. He nodded in reply.
“Oops.” I said with a smile. He was able to print me another series of connections to get to Essen (Germany) and I went back to the platform to wait the 50 minutes for the next train.
So after the first goof I had an hour to study the train schedule and, although it was in Dutch, it was making sense. My guesses prooved correct for the next two changes.
Upon arriving at Venlo I turtled my way over to platform 3b where the train was waiting (changing platforms requires that you go down a flight of stairs, through a tunnel and up a flight of stairs). It was early and the doors were open so I got on board.
The train started moving early. “Do they leave early?” I thought to myself as we pulled away from the station. As we passed the first stop I recognized the name.
Getting all my gear together and through the doors in my way didn’t happen in time and I was still heading in the direction I’d just come from. Oops.
I was able to hop the next Eastbound at the following stop and get back to Venlo, where I waited for the next version of the train I’d missed. During this time I realized I had entered a new country. Not because of any change in the people or architecture, but because the sound of the dominant language had changed. The more gutteral sounds of German were everywhere.
Dutch and German sound similar. I’m told by a Belgian that when the English came to Belgium they heard the language and thought it was German (or Deütch) which was then softened in the telling to “Dutch.” Also now with the announcement there was a very helpful English translation which was never present in Belgium.
Arriving in Essen (the right one) I was tired, hungry, and done with hefting my bags around. I hunted for the busses the info booth told me would be needed to get to my destination. After walking around for a little while I decided on a cab with a very nice Iranian exile for the driver. All the streets are closed for the Love Parade tomorrow so we had to take the long way…
Love Parade = up to 1,000,000 people filling the streets to enjoy dance music from DJs on floats. Google it. It should be interesting.