Melissa and Abby's Trip Website travel blog

It stopped snowing yesterday early enough for us to make it to Zagreb in time to catch our train. We all drove together, again, and played the Name Game, again, for hours. It was cold out, but it got warmer and less snowy as we drove closer to Croatia. When we got there, Amer, Ivana, and Denise all waited for us to leave, and when the train came we said goodbye, and left to head back to Venice, where we were going to catch a night train to Nice, and then Marseille.

The train ride was uneventful, until about 40 minutes out of Zagreb. At that point the conductor came in and asked for our tickets. Of course we gave them to him with no hesitations. Almost immediately he looked at us and held out the tickets, saying "These are the wrong tickets". Naturally, we were more than a little bit confused. All three of us were. Melissa and I had specifically spent a long time buying those tickets and making sure they were the right ones, because as nice as Croatia is, we pretty much didn't want to be stuck there. So, we took back the tickets and looked at them while he explained that we were on the wrong train. Melissa and I both realized what had happened as soon as he said it. The moron woman who had sold us the wrong tickets to Zagreb in Venice, had also sold us the wrong tickets to get back. They did, in fact, get us from Zagreb to Venice, but they went a completely different way that we had come. Essentially, she had sent us the Northern route through Slovenia to get there, and the Southern route through Croatia to get back. So, since Croatia is not part of the EU but Slovenia is, we had no paid the correct fees to the EU when we had bought the return tickets through Croatia. So, while we're sitting on the train moving quickly through the Croatian countryside (which looks a lot like the countryside you might find drawn in, oh, I don't know, Hansel and Gretel) the conductor tells us that we either have to get off the train or pay the necessary fees to make up the difference. Now here's the kicker. First of all, the fees he was asking for were ¨30, and our tickets only cost ¨26 to begin with. So, we were going to have to pay more than double what we had paid in the first place as a penalty. Second, we had a total of ¨20 between us, and he didn't take credit cards. I would have happily gotten off the train to get more at an ATM in the train station, but come on. We were in the middle of nowhere. And the train stopped for approximately 4 seconds at every stop, so there was a pretty distinct possibility that if I did miraculously find an ATM, I would have the money, but no train. So, it looked for a little while like we were going to get completely screwed and stuck in the wilderness in Croatia. Obviously, I didn't like this last option, so I started to get a little bit snippy. Luckily, the conductor had figured out that this was not our fault. So, instead of kicking us off the train, he told us he would take our Eurail passes and go talk to someone else, and then come back with a plan. And with that, he left, taking our tickets and passes with him.

He was gone for a long time, about 2 hours, and during that time I had figured him out. He was going to keep our Eurail passes until we had passed the last stop in Slovenia but before we were in Italy, then come back when there was no other option but to give us our passes back and tell us he had solved everything. And that's exactly what he did. We passed into Slovenia (we knew we had because every time you pass into Slovenia about 75 armed guards board the train and all of them check your passports with extreme doubt and suspicion in their eyes) and about half an hour later, our conductor came back with our Eurail passes. He announced that we had passed the last stop in Slovenia, and wondered if we had found any more money. Obviously, since we had not left our little compartment, we had not found any more. So, looking slightly proud of himself, he told us that we could have our passes back and we'd have to write down the date to use them in Italy, and since we still had the wrong tickets, we would have to give him all the money we had and promise not to say anything to anyone (because they never do this for people, we just seemed nice), and he would just pretend that this whole thing hadn't happened. On his way out the door, I made sure to mention that I hoped he enjoyed his time at the bar on us. I don't think he heard me. If he did, he ignored it.

So, about an hour after that debacle, we arrived in Venice again. We had about 2 hours to wait, but it was night time and we had nowhere to go. So we sat in the cafeteria in the train station until they kicked us out, and then we had to go wait outside in the station. Train stations in Europe are open. There are no walls and hardly any seats, so sitting and waiting for a train at night in the beginning of March is not a pleasant experience. It was freezing cold, and we were tired. Plus, we knew that we were going to have to take another night train and, if it was going to be anything like the first one, we were not really looking forward to it. But it was our only option, so we waited outside. Finally our train arrived and we, along with everyone else in the station, ran to get good seats. The way these trains work (in Italy) is that there are couchette coaches and there are regular coaches. The couchettes cost about double what a regular seat costs, and the only difference is that the door locks. Being budget travelers, we always went with the regular seats which are situated in little compartments along one side of each car. Each compartment has six seats, three on each side facing each other. At night, if the compartment is not full, you can pull the seats together, making three little "beds". On the night train to Milan, we had had a compartment to ourselves, so we put all of our stuff on the far inside by the window, and then laid out the seats. We tried to figure out a way to lock the door so no one could come in in the middle of the night and take our stuff, but all we had was some yarn which kept getting broken when people would open our compartment to see if there were any seats. Needless to say, it's hard to sleep when loud drunk people board the train at 3 in the morning, spend about an hour opening your door, and then (since there are no seats available) standing outside your door singing and yelling.

So, back to the train from Venice. We got on the train and quickly found a compartment that was not occupied. We sat down and made ourselves comfortable, spreading all of our bags out to make it look like all the seats were full. Unfortunately, we were not alone. Shortly after we sat down, the door opened and in walked two dirty, drunk Italian men. Melissa and I promptly moved into bitchy American mode, and spent the next 20 minutes or so alternating between shooting dirty looks, lying about where we were from, moving our bags so that they couldn't touch them, and generally trying to ignore them. Eventually they got the point and got up to leave. I followed shutting the door behind them. As the door was closing, one came back and stuck his hand through. I'm sure he said something inappropriate, but I have no idea what it was because instead of listening, I continued shutting the door, slamming his hand in it. They didn't come back. However, we did have extra space in the compartment, and a guy came in and sat down. He was much more pleasant, and didn't bother us at all. Melissa and I had already decided to take turns staying up to watch our things. I slept first, and a few hours later Melissa woke me up. I was awake for a while, reading and trying not to wake up the guy sleeping next to me. No one came in, or even looked into the compartment, and around 3 AM Melissa rolled over and told me not to worry about it, just to try to sleep. So, we all slept, and about 8 AM a conductor came in and woke us up to check our tickets. Surprisingly, we were still in Italy, but we were getting close to the boarder with France. So, we sat up and watched the scenery until we got to Nice, where we had to switch trains.

Eventually, we made it to Marseille.

(I know that the map shows that we just flew over Italy and Croatia and the Mediterranean, but really we went through Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, and Southern France. It was a long ride.)

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