Today I was finally attempting to bring some order to the literally, thousands of pictures I took during my month long backpacking adventure and it saddened me to realize how much I have actually already forgotten about my trip. In a way it seems that taking so many pictures makes remembering harder, taking a picture almost makes it acceptable to forget something, because you have it on an external storage somewhere. I have made no secret that visiting Mont San Michel in France was and still is my number 1 “bucket list” item, and many of you have heard the devastation upon realizing that somehow my pictures (numbering in the hundreds) from that day were accidently deleted and lost. Yet, somehow that has been a mixed blessing. I have about 4 pictures that I took with my small Nikon as I was walking away from the Mont, but none from the actual Mont itself. Yet, without even closing my eyes I can see the inclined cobbled road winding around the island to the abbey, I can touch the hidden side routes and isolated stairways that I discovered instead of joining the hordes of tourists past the souvenir shops. I can almost taste the salty air on my tongue and the feel the humidity on my exposed skin. With each breath I can feel the wetness of the interior of the abbey, the moisture seeping into my lungs as I explored the unlit passageways and closed rooms. I can see the green edging that formed around the abbey bricks, mold a result of the damp sea air and years of abandonment, the haziness of the light as is filtered in through the aged glass. Although, this post is not about Mont San Michel, but it will come; today I will start from the beginning of my travels from the train depot in Büchen.
I need to start by saying that planning my trip, was utterly exhausting- I was trying to juggle my finances, as well as availability of people and places- Staci and her husband were going to be in Paris for a few days near the start of my trip, then I wanted to visit a friend in southern Germany but she was busy the days I had planned. None of the B&Bs near Mont San Michel had availability, the ones that did had no transportation from Ponterson. It was a nightmare. Finally, miraculously it all fell into place and I found myself over packed with a rollaway suitcase I borrowed from Cat cursing my cheapness because I hadn’t bought a backpacking-backpack.
On the day of my departure, Cat had come from work early in order to take me to the train station. Since I lived 45 minutes out of Hamburg I decided it was easier to take the regional train from Büchen to Hamburg, where I would have a two hour “layover” until my night train departed from Hamburg to Paris.
Cat and I arrived at the train station in Büchen only to realize that the train was running about 45 minutes behind schedule so we stood on the platform and talked to pass the time. She didn’t want to leave me waiting alone and I frankly was happy because I kept crying every so often. I wasn’t scared to be leaving, I’ve travelled alone before but I torn up because I knew the minute I boarded the Regional train to Hamburg I would cease to be an au pair. Stepping on the train signified the end of my “contract” and the beginning of my “fun travels” before I had to return “home”. Cat kept the situation light and kept reassuring me that I would only be gone for a few weeks before I got to see them again. The train finally rolled up and I tearily crossed the threshold only to realize that I had packed every possible item necessary for a month long travel except a coat. I shouted that to Cat and she offered to run home and grab one since it would be about 15 minutes before the train departed, I declined and she came onto the train and sat down next me, allowing me to rest my head on her shoulder in the final 15 minutes as I choked back tears, again.
A chime from overhead signaled the train was about to depart and with one last hug Cat got off the train, tears in her eyes too as she waved from the platform and called to “text every once in awhile” to let them know I was “still alive”. As I felt the train rumbling beneath my feet, I clutched the handle of my rolly suitcase and waved goodbye to my friend as tears burned my eyes and my heart pounded frantically in my chest.
I sat down on the faded train seats and willed myself to look out the window as I attempted to memorize every detail about the small Büchen train station as if it would be the last time I would ever see it. Soon we were traveling through the lush German forest towards Hamburg, a trek I had many times before on my visits into the city.
My train to Paris was set to depart from Hamburg central station (Hofbahnhof- Hbf), the stop before my station was Berliner Tor. I was riding on a Regional train, and the final destination was Hbf, but I could have gotten off at Berliner Tor and taken the metro 1 stop to Hbf. As Berliner Tor approached I contemplated exiting the train and riding the metro (S-bahn) for one stop, but ultimately decided against it coming to the conclusion that it would be faster and safer to stay on the train for one more stop. How wrong I was. Immediately after the doors closed at Berliner Tor and the train took off for 10 seconds, instead of speeding up the train slowed to a stop and an announcement overhead informed us that there was essentially there was a “traffic pile up” at HamburgHbf and we would need to wait until some of the trains cleared the tracks. We ended up sitting in limbo for almost an hour.
Once at HamburgHbf I was supposed to meet up with my friend Kristina while I waited the departure of my night train; we could enjoy a nice dinner together before I left on my travels. Instead, because of the two delays with the train arriving in Büchen late and the pile up at Berliner Tor I had a mere 30 minutes to quickly say hello to her and grab some sustenance at Subway. Seriously, Subway. She also informed me she had a spare backpacking backpack she could have lent me if I had thought of asking her beforehand. We hugged and I waved goodbye and I ran aboard the train, after triple checking it was the correct one. I stood by the hallway window and we chatted for a few minutes before the train began slowing lurching out of the station.
I should mention that until that point, I had never taken an overnight train. My first time “suitcasing” in Europe I had been rightfully terrified by my mother of the horrors of overnight trains, but this second time around I was a skeptic to her fears. My allotted room had the appearance of a large sardine can, not even kidding. It was narrow to the point that if one stood in the center of the room, shoulders would bump each bed (mattress). There were three bunk beds on either side which were narrow mattresses with a shody railing to keep sleepers contained. The bunks were so close together that there was no room for sitting up on the bed, one had to either stand in the outer hallway or lay down on the mattress. I tried lying down, but found that in the cramped quarters I became nauseated as I was on the very top bunk where the movement was felt the most. I spent five hours pacing the hallway outside my room afraid to venture too far lest someone wander off with my precious belongings. Around midnight, when dark had finally fallen I decided it was time to try to get some sleep. I snuck back into my room with 5 snoring people and somehow miraculously climbed up to my bed where I strapped myself in, looping my backpack through my leg, strapping my purse across my arm and my passport in my travelers belt. I remember preferring to sleep facing the wall since I felt more protected, but I was afraid that the shoddy railing would fall off and I would plummet to
my death to certain bodily harm that would effectively put my trip to an end. So, after tucking my shoes safely away in a corner of my room, I unbuttoned my jeans for more room, unclasped my bra and was rocked to sleep by the movement of the train.
Oh, before I forget, here is a doctored google maps that will give you all an idea of where I went. This post covers The (unmarked journery) from "I" to "A" and the night trip from "A" to "B". I'm sorry about boring your ears, err eyes off!