When you think of a trip to Europe, you may imagine strolling down the Champs-Élysées on a sunny day with several shopping bags on one arm and a croissant in hand. So, basically perfection. And I’m not here to tell you that it’s the opposite. Yes, my time in Europe was fabulous except for that one awful night I will never forget.
I had just spent a glorious three days in Paris: walking through the Louvre (Mona Lisa photobombed my selfie #casual), practicing my French, trying escargots. I remember calling home and telling my family that I would, without a doubt, come back because it was perfect. As I left for the train station to catch a night train to Italy, I remember the sadness I felt, realizing I probably wouldn’t be back here for years.
Paris had been extremely warm (around 90° F!) during my stay so I naturally popped some euro coins in a vending machine for a chilled Fanta as I waited for my train. Finally, with my ticket and all my bags (including the one I’d bought while there) in hand, I boarded and found my coach.
Umm… six beds, triple bunks?! I’m pretty sure the room wasn’t much bigger than my powder room back home. But hey, I was in Europe, right? Remembering the fact that heat rises, I opted for the lowest bunk and tried to squeeze my large amount of belongings under my bed and on the shelf above all the beds. It was exceedingly cramped to say the least.
After waiting for awhile, the train finally started moving. And, at first, it was exciting. But it was hot. And I’m talking sauna hot. Let’s just say it was pretty miserable, and the sun hadn’t even set on this 8- to 10-hour journey yet.
I decided to take a “field trip” to the bathroom at the end of my coach. After waiting in line for some time and losing my balance from the train’s jerkings, I finally got to the bathroom. FYI: I am a germaphobe. And, of course, the running water was not working in our coach. I then went coach to coach begging for hand sanitizer and praying that this nightmare would end. However, it had barely begun.
At one point during the trip, the entire train stopped for 20 minutes. Umm… okay? After some investigation, I learned the story. A girl in a nearby coach had been trying to place her suitcase above the top bunk on the shelf. However, she lost her balance and tried to catch herself. But she caught herself on the emergency brake, which made the entire train stop. And when the train’s off, the air conditioning is off. And in already scorching temperatures, stopping air circulation and cool air flow just made us moan and groan even harder.
Finally, it started getting darker, and we started getting ready for bed since our tour director planned to wake us in the wee hours of the following morning. I threw the provided sketch sheets on the even sketchier bed and tried to lie down. We had propped the small window open to get some fresh air. But the thing is, we are on a high speed train, and it was really loud. Still covered in a layer of sweat, I put in my headphones and turned on some OneRepublic to tune out this terrible nightmare. But it dawned on me that I wouldn’t have time to charge my phone the next day since we started our tour soon after arrival. (And, of course, the outlets on the night train didn’t work.) So I put my headphones away and switched for some earplugs, which did not block the sound out. Like, at all.
After a number of times bumping my head on the bunk above me, tears, bed bug bites and several minor panic attacks (or was it PMS?), we were woken up around 5 a.m. Late. Of course, the train staff did not notify our tour director of the more exact ETA as they had planned. So, we had to scramble to get ready in even less time than we had expected.
Following mayhem, chaos, and checking underneath the bunk for forgotten items, we finally left the nightmare — I mean, night train. In a fog, we all looked for places to buy breakfast. Several problems… One, I haven’t been in a Spanish class since, like, sixth grade. And even so, Italians speak Italian, not Spanish. And another problem is that I’m gluten-free. Language barriers and food intolerances don’t mesh well. So, looking at the food items, I found a drink with fruit pictured on the front. That couldn’t be bad, right? Wrong. It was some chunky peach drink/applesauce something or other with who knows what else in it. And it was disgusting.
Okay, so there must be a point to this depressing saga. Long story short: Europe isn’t perfect. Or anywhere for that matter. Sometimes no amount of planning can ensure you a problem-free trip. It might rain the whole time. The subway might stall and make you miss your tour. Some pickpocket may steal your wallet. The airport might lose your luggage. But nightmares do eventually end. And times like these give you some great stories and long laughs — well, someday.