After crossing through the security checkpoint at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, I turned to wave goodbye to my mother and began to walk towards my gate, finally on my way towards catching up with where I was supposed to be by this date on the trip. Or so I thought. Looking out at the various regional aircraft waiting at each gate, I began to realize I was on the wrong concourse and turned around. Soon, I reached the international concourse and saw planes appearing much more capable of crossing the ocean. I sat down and began to wait.
Over the music playing through my earphones, I could hear the various conversations around me, all in German. After a moment or two, I realized I couldn’t understand any of it and started to zone out. A couple of hours later, the jet began boarding and I got onboard for an uneventful flight across the Atlantic.
Landing in Frankfurt, I grabbed my backpack from the baggage claim and headed to find to my way to the train. I was happy to find the station a short walk from the airport. I hopped on the next train to Munich, and began my steep learning curve of the European rail system.
Each seat was reserved by someone who had booked ahead, leaving me in the doorway, alternating between sitting on the floor and leaning against a partition. At each stop, I would step out onto the platform to allows others to climb onboard, before retaking my place on the doorway. Having expected to look out at the German countryside through the large window at my seat, my only view came from the door’s narrow panes.
Arriving in Munich, I searched out a ticket office so that the next leg of my journey wouldn’t be as uncomfortable. Reservation in hand, I made my way to the platform. A train showed up and I hopped on, only realizing it was the wrong one after we started moving. After a strained conversation with the conductor and a couple of elderly passengers who helped translate, I learned that my only hope would be to go back to Munich and take another train into Salzburg.
At the next stop, the small lakeside town of Starnberg, I stepped off of the train and searched to find what platform I needed. Finding their schedule, I learned that it would be nearly an hour before my train would arrive. With nothing better to do, I walked towards the lake and took my first photos of the journey, thankful for the beautiful little detour.
Despite finally headed towards Salzburg, I was still confused by how to use the RailPass I had purchased. While being a valid ticket for the train, sometimes I would need a reservation for a train and yet other times I didn’t. A part of me thought it might be related to the specific cars, perhaps me having failed to notice a designation for First Class or something similarly luxurious. But, if that were the case, there didn’t seem to be anything special about those cars. Regardless, I crossed the border into Austria, arriving at Salzburg without too much lost time.
It was roughly 6 pm by the time I walked out of the station, yet it had been dark for nearly the past hour. Having the foresight to print out maps and directions to each hostel during my week in Charlotte, I navigated my way to the night’s lodgings. I checked in, thankful that they had my reservation and that I hadn’t made another scheduling mistake.
Hours later, I lay awake in my bunk unable to sleep. It’d be easy to say that I was jet lagged, having been on a 9 hour flight that crossed 6 time zones, but no. Instead, my insomnia was due to the intense heat of the room, radiating from the wall beside me. Hoping it would help me fall asleep, I managed to pull out my notebook and began writing a journal, something to chronicle each day’s adventure. Little did I know, this would be a tradition that would still continue nearly a decade later.