An odyssey through Europe

It’s the 16th of March 2020, a calm Monday evening, and I’m trying to figure out how to get home from Breda. The corona virus is already all over the news, and speculations are that countries are going to go on lock own soon. I can’t find any trains, can’t find flights back home either – but a friend of a friend knows somebody in Innsbruck, and so I call with him for more than an hour to figure out the train schedule – all the airports are already closed. 

The airports are already closed

Finally we find a way to get home with the train, and it’s already 11 pm. So I book the ticket, and start packing – The train leaves at 6 am tomorrow morning. The plan is to arrive at Brenner on Monday, at 6:30 pm.
I go to sleep around 1 am on Monday – 4 hours of sleep later I have to leave and start getting to the train station. On foot nonetheless, no public transportation is driving anymore, especially not at this hour. 

I’m at the train station around 5:45 am – there is already a train to my first stop, but after asking the conductor, he tells me this is not the ICE I booked. I’m supposed to take the next in half an hour, this is just a regional train.

So I sit down on the almost abandoned train station, and wait for half an hour. It’s eerie, dark and silent. Then the next train to Arnhem arrives, otherwise the train station is completely void of people, and of trains. I enter, and sit down, thankful for having had no complications on my journey so far. 

A few minutes later the train starts – and I immediately realize that the estimated time of arrival displayed on the trains screens is 8:30 am. An hour later than it is on my ticket. I start to freak out, trying to figure out what to do, the next stop is already half an hour in. Several agonizing minutes pass, until I ask a conductor passing by if this is the right train, the one to Arnhem, and why we are late. I ask where the ICE train is that I should have taken, and get the answer: “This is the regional train. There is no ICE.”


“This is the regional train. There is no ICE.”

A few more agonizing minutes pass, while I talk to the train conductor and ask her for help, but she says there is nothing she can do. She suggests to sit back and enjoy the beautiful sunrise…
Absolutely devastated, I decide to text my parents, text my contact in Innsbruck – it’s too early for them to respond, and my correspondent can’t help.

At that point, my attitude switches. I can’t do anything, and even if I could, I can only wait until I’m at my next stop. Before that, all the worrying in the world wouldn’t help. In the end, I sit back and enjoy the ride – and it is indeed a beautiful sunrise, peaceful and soothing, especially in this situation. 

Almost two hours later, I’m almost in Arnhem. There I realize that my ticket, the one I bought yesterday night, won’t be valid on a different train – yet alone a different route to a different city. So I start to look for trains: I find some over Köln, find some over Münster, but the only next train to Duisburg is at 9:45. At this point, I’m already a good 2 hours behind schedule, and start losing hope of getting home on time.

Upon arriving in Arnhem – at 8:30 – I immediately try and find a different route, one that would let me still catch up with my schedule, or at least not lose 3 hours travel time. I find nothing, and after short consideration decide: I can’t do anything. I will live in the moment, drive to the next train station, and figure things out one stop at a time. 

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