middle Slovakia to Bratislava
Middle Slovakia to Bratislava…
Our journey home after a relaxing Spa experience, was a little testing…
We set off from Sklene Teplice knowing that instead of repeating the journey we had made here backwards, we needed to alight at the stop before the bus station in Ziar nad Hronom and change to a train, which was 3 minutes’ walk from the bus stop. With the itinerary glued to my hands I meticulously counted the bus stops and was somewhat pissed off to arrive at the bus station, knowing we should have got off at the stop before. Perhaps I should have asked the driver to warn us about the non-descript bus stop for the train station that was invisible from the road…
Off the bus at the bus station. This is a loose term in itself, as it is just a layby with two platforms and a kiosk selling magazines and cigarettes. I asked the driver if this was the train station, he responded by answering “Hlavna Stanica” (Main station), which I could clearly see didn’t serve trains. Oh bugger. Thankfully we had 55 minutes to make the “3 minute” walk, so I whipped out my phrase booked and frantically searched it for the “where is the train station?” part, which didn’t seem to exist. Also, on a Sunday evening there were slim pickings as to whom to ask this question!
I chose the lady in the kiosk and couldn’t remember the word for train, until she came out of her kiosk to mime a choo choo train, using the word “Vlak” (Train!). Hoping she might direct us across the road, she pointed us back the way the bus had come; indicating with her fingers that we walk 2 kilometres and it was 20 minutes. Not too bad I thought, but keeping my phrasebook close to hand for further clarification, we set off in that direction. Not trusting my own Slovak, I wanted to ask another kindly pedestrian in case we walked 20 minutes in the wrong direction. I was thumbing through, desperately trying to find the words for left and right when a man on his bike, waiting to cross the road, turned around and cycled towards us. He stopped so I asked “Kde je Vlak, prosim?” “Where is train please?” He responded in rapid Slovak (which always surprises me when I am holding a phrase book and know I just asked a grammatically incorrect question). He gestured in the same direction as kiosk lady, pointing to the right as well and saying the same numbers. He then asked us in Slovak which language we spoke: offering us Slovak, English, German or Polish. I chose English and he repeated his instructions confirming the direction and distance.
10 minutes later a car beeps at us and cycling man winds down his window pointing to the back of his car and saying (assumedly) in Slovak “I’ll take you to the station”. Using traffic to cause a natural hesitation we weighed up the pros and cons of his offer and on the strength of there being two of us, we took up his offer. Thank goodness we did! We drove a good 2 km, which would have taken more than 20 minutes and turned right into an unsignposted car park that had no indication of hosting a train station at all. Cycle man drove us to the door of the “station” A random building in the middle of nowhere, took us inside and pointed out the train to Bratislava on the timetable. We thanked him as profusely as we could in our limited language knowledge and bought our tickets.
Now for the next confusing bit. The lady in the station was holding her hands up and saying “ten minutes” as I was buying the tickets. I knew we still had another 25 minutes until our train. Perhaps it was delayed? Looked that word up and it didn’t match. Perhaps the previous train was delayed and we could get on that? We go out onto the “platform”. There are two benches. There are 5 railway tracks and some concrete walkways between them. The “station” doesn’t even have a toilet. A train groans into the station a few minutes later and people get off. I ask the girl on the next bench if this is going to Bratislava. A very clear No.
The next train literally limps in. It’s got 3 carriages, it’s not the time that I have on my timetable, but the ticket lady gives a reassuring nod, and the bench girl says “Bratislava” as it arrives. Trusting them more than the information I researched, we climbed onto the train, as it was literally a metre above the track! The train ambles out of the station and whilst I puzzlelled over the size and age of the train going 2.5 hours to Bratislava I felt pleased that we’d arrive home a little earlier – or so I thought.
Ticket man. Tickets handed over. Shakes his head and says something we don’t understand. Oh dear. “ Prepacte, nerozumien po slovensko, hovorite po anglicky?” “ Nie nie”, shaking his head. “Sprechen sie deutch?” Kerry tries, “Nie” I try the same question in Slovak, then try French and then Spanish. All our language options exhausted Ticket man only speaks Slovak. It’s clear by his distress that we are on the wrong train, but he doesn’t have the language to tell us what to do, and we have no idea how to find out. Does anyone in the carriage speak English he asks, no, no, no ( which I found very hard to believe of the teenage girls sitting behind us) This is beginning to get stressful as the ticket man is trying to explain that our train terminates in Levice and will arrive there after the last train departs to Bratislava. That much I understand. He tries to show us the problem on his electronic ticket machine, but since I can’t ask him when the next train is, or where we get off the communication becomes quite stressful. He writes down the name of the stop, which I presume to be where we get off and knowing that we were due to catch the last train to Bratislava, a wave of panic surges up inside me as I really don’t understand what we have to do! I am rapidly flicking through the phrasebook of now useless phrases, as the poor man wants so desperately to be able to tell us himself. He gestures that he will come back, and wanders off down the train. 5 minutes later he returns with some new words and a phone. “Please” he says, handing me the phone to read a text message that another passenger has typed for him, or he’s had a translation sent to him. It reads something like “ You are featured in Nova Bana. You will off the train and wait the next train to Bratislava. You will use the ticket in material now”. He seems please with himself and then asks “ok?” “Yes, Ano, Thank you, dakujem”, he gets his electronic thing out and we count the stops until we have to get off. He manages to get to six in English, and repeats the name of the station we need. Off he goes and comes back a few stops later with some new English words: “ next station”. When our station comes up, he arrives again to make sure we get off and we alight in another middle- of- nowhere-one-building-on-a-railway-line station. Our instructions are to get on the 20.19 train and when 20.19 comes on the clock, but no train arrives, we start to get very nervous. Thankfully though we see the headlights of the train in approaching and it’s an 8 carriage modern cross country train, obviously the one we were supposed to have caught in the first place.
Thank goodness for that!