Today is not going to plan. We have had a good run with our arrangements to date, so something had to go wrong sooner or later. We had booked a private car shuttle from Salzburg to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Waddy re-confirmed the booking the day previously. So by now you have guessed – no transfer arrived. Waddy is not happy! I would name the company who let us down, but I suppose I should hold off until we know what caused the problem.
At Salzburg station headed for Linz (courtesy and copyright of Jay)
To cut a long story short, we made our way to the train station, and after fruitless enquiries for alternatives, we took the midday train from Salzburg to Linz, where we needed to make a train connection to the Czech Republic. Our train pulled into Linz station a few minutes late and we had to make a dash for our connection. We think our first guard had rung ahead and let them know about us. The connecting train pulled out the moment we were on board. That guard probably had a chuckle at the sight of four mature-aged ‘backpackers’ running the length of his platform dragging a suitcase each and with day packs flapping on our backs.
Just in case you missed the body language in the group shot
The ticket collector has just this moment come through and told us buses are replacing trains along this route. Of course that would be the case! Some travel days, one just has to surrender the itinerary and go with the flow.
And now we are on the bus, winding our way through, and stopping at, every little village along the train route. Why should we complain? We could be paying a tour company a huge amount of money to take us on a day tour like this. Oh! I just remembered – the train ticket did cost a huge amount of money. More than the private shuttle was going to cost. (And Waddy is still not happy – he has just used our code word to tell me to shut up).
We pass the track works that must be the cause of the bus replacement, and then it dawns on us – the recent European floods must have washed away some of the track. So no complaining about not trying to run a train on it.
The train ticket collector/ guard has accompanied us on the bus, and shepherded us all to our correct dropping off points. We rejoin the train after a good hour or so. He assures me we are still in Austria. Waddy notices we are only twenty-five kilometres from Linz. We would be making more progress with a horse and cart. Waddy is still not happy.
Back on the train, we slide across the Czech border, and continue on to our next changeover point, a major regional town called Cesky Budejovice. We are surprised to discover that somehow we are back on schedule. We anticipate that we will have about fifteen minutes to connect with our final train to Cesky Krumlov. Then another surprise awaits us at Cesky Budejovice. We can hardly believe our luck when we see that the platform actually boasts a lift.
We each have our role to play in getting on and off the trains, and my main task is to make sure we are on the right platform, at the right place, and heading in the right direction. As we load ourselves and luggage into the lift I have a sensation that we are leaving the platform that we need, but a quick look at the indicator board has shown a blank. At the bottom of the lift I split away from the group to check the situation in the main departure hall. Sure enough, our train will be leaving from the platform we just came down from. We have about ten minutes. As I make my way back to the group I see Bill waving frantically. Jay is screaming urgently, “C’mon Gwen!” They are grabbing suitcases and running up the stairs. “What the heck? What’s wrong with the lift?”
As we stand on the platform, they have plenty of time to explain. While I was gone, they asked instructions of a uniformed railway employee, who said, “Cesky Krumlov? Quick! This way!” and he bounded up the stairs two at a time, with them bundling along behind. Obviously he was in a hurry to get up to do whatever railway employees do when a train is due. That is, the train that is due in ten minutes time, just as the departure board had indicated.
I think it is Lonely Planet that says the train trip between the two Cesky’s will give the tourist the authentic Czech rural experience. They are right. Since there is no air conditioning, we leave the windows fully open. The smell of manure wafts into the carriage for the next half an hour. We stop at every station en route, most of them with very small or non-existent platforms. As we approach Cesky Krumlov we have our suitcases ready at the door, but we don’t know on which side to expect the platform. I am peering out the small window in the carriage door, and calling out to Waddy. “Not this side. No. Nothing here. The tracks are converging. Just grass and gravel.”
“Are you sure?” says Waddy, peering down at a gap between the tracks that is barely one person wide. He thinks I have lost my mind.
The train pulls up. It is definitely on Waddy’s side. It is not really a platform as we would know it. Just a space between two railway tracks that has had the gravel compressed to look like a track. As we start to drag our suitcases away, people with bicycles are trying to fit beside us, heading for the train we just got off. Lucky there was not another train coming, or we would have all got a haircut.
Waddy and I have the brilliant idea to buy our train tickets now for our onward journey. As he gets to the ticket counter, the shutter is drawn down. He protests, and the ticket seller points to the hours of operation. They close at 5.10pm
. Waddy points to his watch. It is just about to be 5.10pm
. No leeway. Thump goes the shutter. We find out the next day that this is a lucky thing.
Today’s adventure is not quite over. We find a taxi and the driver knows the hotel, so far so good. We are right in the heart of the old town, immediately beside the Vlatava River. The hotel has a lift! Brilliant! Except they have given us magnificent rooms in the attic on the fifth floor. The lift stops at the fourth floor. One last hurdle. The photograph of the stairwell tells that story.
By the river
Town Square, Cesky Krumlov
So I was expecting to call this post: Some Days it is Just About the Journey. And then we stepped out into the town of Cesky Krumlov. I don’t know who keeps the list of UNESCO world heritage sites, but it must be a very long spreadsheet. Everywhere we go we seem to have found the next spot on the list. And everyone deserves recognition.
One look at Cesky Krumlov and the dramas we have had in getting here fade away. Sitting on the outdoor terrace of our hotel, beer in hand, watching rafters negotiate the fast flowing waters of the Vlatava, and listening to the metallic sound of a busker drumming what looks to be an inverted frying pan come wok, and finally Waddy’s normal good humour is starting to return.<
View from our bedroom window
Thursday 18th July 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Cesky Krumlov