Travel

The Longest Ride of Our Lives

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This is an image-heavy travel post

We left Krakow by train

We were bound for my friend Ina’s farm that is outside of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Our plan was to mosey over by way of Warsaw and Berlin, and maybe a stop in Hamburg. (I want to add that the “our plan” bit there isn’t some royal “we”; I actually sat down with the kids, a map and a European rail guide and we talked through it.)

on the train in europe, image of two children by the window with windmills outside

I’m pretty sure I had fantasies of slow train meandering and sweet, easy get-on and off’s that were based on the week my family traveled AmTrack across the the US when I was a kid. You know? You just kind of plunk down on a train and don’t move much for 5 days.

Well, Europe isn’t like that. 

You don’t plunk on down for 5 days; you get on and off the train a lot and each switch-a-roo for me involved this mad rush to get ALL THE THINGS AND KIDS off, find the next car/train/track and race wildly for it, then sweat through getting ALL THE THINGS AND KIDS back on and forward to the appropriate seats or cars in between all the other people who are waiting to get on or off.

I think it’s a great diet, because each time I did it, I swear I lost 5 lbs from the sweat and revved metabolism with racing and throwing luggage around. But it’s a pretty lousy way to spend time! Added to that, it kept Micah in a high state of anxiety, which is just not fun.

So we decided instead of spreading out the stops and kind of drawing it out, to just GO and get it all over with. Like ripping the bandaid off.

When we were in Krakow, I went to get the reservations from the Eurail office, but the only things that she had available in which all 4 of us could sit together were in these knarly connection times. Like, boarding at 11;30 pm in Berlin and then switching at Hamburg at 3:30am?!

We had a similar schedule on the flights over to Europe and they had been almost impossible for me to work with (– yes! all the luggage and 2 children dead asleep and an inability to use the stroller! no problem!). I was really nervous about some of those connections, but I wasn’t sure what else to do (given everything).

That’s what we did: the bandaid ripoff of train rides

Warsaw, quick look-see and a train delay

child in train…before moving right along to Berlin, this intensely cool-looking city just dripping art and fun.

Berlin, with an enormous train station that threatened to scare me, what with its 7 levels and multiple food courts and all the glass. That place is outta control!

Berlin train station

We ran around the Berlin station and had some fun at Burger King (don’t judge; the kids were so happy!) and figuring out the next leg of our trip.

All of this was still fun

I was getting a little tired by Berlin, but I was okay. The kids didn’t seem tired at all, but I knew how that could change in a flash. We just waited around, played and were ready for the next train.

Which came and we got on board, headed for Hamburg (I think – it’s all fuzzy now). At Hamburg we had to get off and transfer at 11-something pm.

We were definitely getting tired, and it was a real shock when we saw that our seats were just… seats.

In a car that did not even dim the lights and had the air conditioner on full blast. 

That. Was. Miserable.

an exhausted woman looks into the camera
#reallife

I can’t sleep with light – sound, sure, no problem (haha), but light?! No way. 

I was struggling to get even a little sleep and trying to keep covers on the kids because it was so freaking cold in the car. And it was like the hours just stretched on and on and on and on and on and blurring around and yet I had that train transfer looming over me at 3:30 or 4:00 am.

I had no idea how I was going to get the kids and the stuff out and over the tracks, wait on the tracks for an hour, then get on the next train…

But then!

It turned out that our train was actually bound for Copenhagen, and the 3:30am transfer wouldn’t be necessary if no one came in to claim our seats. In other words, as long as stomping horde of people did not board the train at the transfer point in southern Denmark, we would be fine staying on the same train.

Whew!

copenhagen train station

Rarely have I been so happy to see a place as I was to see Copenhagen.

I felt like my eyeballs were about to bust out of my head and my limbs would dissolve in unmitigated fatigue. 

copenhagen train station mcdonalds

We went to the bathroom and McD’s – in that order – and went on over to figure out how to get the train to my friend Ina’s station.

Figuring out how to use the train in a given country is always a fun part of traveling for me, and it was fun seeing Micah get into it (and leading the way).

And wow!

But those trains are made for people!

Wide berths for bikes and strollers, visual signs, they have it all. Fully accessible.

I turned a minute and saw my kids like this.

I thought of how much my brother Dana and I fought when we were kids, and how traveling and moving around ultimately made us so close. I see the same thing happening with my kids now – how all of these adventures bring them together and in this space where they connect. It’s one of the best things about parenting that I’ve been able to witness; this drawing together that they are doing.

We scrambled off of the train when it came to Ina’s station, walked down to the grass way and simply sat there until (without phone reception) Ina heard the messages that we left via stranger’s phones and came to get us.

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor, teacher and blogger. Single mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E), she is also a cat-loving Trekkie who likes her coffee hot and black.
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1 Comment

  1. I would take Micah’s lead any time. [though possibly not when he and I were in high anxiety].

    If he were not there – probably a group of anoraks/trainspotters who know [for example] Warsaw or Berlin and a companionate presence.

    And when you’ve had week-on-week-off train experiences like the ones at Amtrak…

    So that’s what McDonalds looks like in Denmark!

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