WORST F*CKING DAY EVER!
I don’t want to entirely discourage my blog readers from taking the train between these two cities, because it could be a possibly decent 4 hour train ride with all the necessary information – which no one who works for the Prague Train stations will give you, so pay close attention not to make the mistakes Mikey and I made.
The website I found with the train information for our Prague to Berlin trip said that there was one train at 2pm daily from the main train station, Hlavní nádraÏí. We asked our friendly Elf receptionist for directions and he circled it on the map for us. It was only about a 10-minute walk from the hostel so we said our goodbyes and made our way into town by foot.
Inside the station was hell. It was like a David Hasselhoff concert in Germany; people viciously pushing their way through the crowds, cutting each other in ticket lines, and fighting for a place to stand with a view of the confusing “now approaching” screen.
Mikey and I had a few hours to waste (we thought) until our 2 O’clock train so we thought we’d put our bags in the lockers and roam the city for a bit. Once again the CHANGE booth was no help in providing change and this time the guy screamed in my face “NO!” when I tried to ask him where else I might be able to get coins. My patience was already thinning at this point so I screamed back at him and stormed off. “So now I’m just another asshole American and he’s another asshole Czech,” I thought. I didn’t care at that point.
I ended up buying a bottle of water to get change for the lockers. Give some to get some I guess. Mikey locked everything up while I bought our train tickets. I asked the women for ticket to Berlin and she silently printed them out, I paid, and we headed into cold, rainy mist that is Prague in December.
We didn’t do much in those 2 hours so I’ll skip straight to the part where we headed back to the station to catch out train. Mikey collected our bags and I waited by the departure screen to see which track our train would be approaching at. After a while of waiting I still hadn’t seen anything that said Berlin and I was getting pretty worried. Our tickets didn’t have any information on them other than the destination, date, and price so we waited in line at the ticket counter to ask the woman which track we should go to. The line was long and it was almost 2 so we were getting nervous. We really didn’t want to be stuck in Prague another night.
Once at the front of the line the woman told us we were at the wrong train station and told us to take the subway 3 stops to another station where the train departs. The Czech names for stations are pretty confusing to someone who only speaks English and they all sound alike, but before we could ask her to repeat herself she threw up a “Closed” sign on her window and walked off. As far as we knew there was only one train a day that went to Berlin and there was no way we would make it to another station before 2. We were furious that she hadn’t mentioned this when we bought the ticket and couldn’t understand why we would have to buy the ticket at one station, but depart from another one.
We made our way to the information desk after failing to gain any help from other station employees due to our language differences. Once we made it to the front of the line we tried asking where to go for the Berlin train. The lady printed out a paper that had the departure times, which was a relief since it looked like there were still 3 more trains leaving that day. Before we could ask her which station to go to the man behind us tapped me on the shoulder and made a motion that seemed to be saying “get the fuck out of the way, its my turn.” He didn’t speak English, but mikey and I were obviously angry and told him to fuck off. ‘We waited in line and you will too.” We turned back to the lady and asked where to go. She said the station name but we couldn’t understand. We asked her to write it down for us, but she didn’t have a pen. The information window doesn’t have a pen. Brilliant. Of course she doesn’t have a pen! She is only supposed to be giving people directions all day, why the hell would she think to ever write anything down for tourists in a city like Prague where no one ever visits… I was so so so so so mad at the employees of the Hlavní nádraÏí train station and their lack of helpfulness. As we walked down the stairs towards the Metro (with out paying. Take that Prague) I was furious, screaming and cursing the whole city. Mikey said it was the angriest he has ever seen me. I think it was the most annoying day of my life.
We arrived at the smaller Holešovice Station where the train to Berlin actually does depart from, more than once daily. We waited a while for the 4 O’clock train. A crazy crack-head girl was laughing hysterically all alone. She though whatever it was that she was imagining was so funny that she was falling on the floor and rolling around. I had seen her at the main station too. She was one of the youngest and scariest crazy people I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen my fair share of crazies (I’ve lived in Allston long enough to see it all).
The shit show didn’t end there. We boarded the train, and no sooner did we sit down, a woman got on and, through hand motions she angrily explained we were in her seat. We then realized that all of the seats were reserved and we didn’t have a reservation. Thanks for the warning, station employees. We tried to get out of the woman’s way, but were surrounded by an angry mob of elderly people looking for their seats. It was utter chaos. People were trying to walk in every direction, but no one was getting anywhere since no one would let anyone by. They were all just pushing each other and speaking in angry Czech, but it felt like they were all ganging up on Mikey and I, pushing us and pulling our bags off our shoulders. I wanted to scream.
It took about 15 minutes for us to get out of the lion pit and into another cart. We found two seats in an enclosed area of 8 seats and asked an Italian girl if the seats were taken. She spoke English and German and told us we should just take the seats unless someone came and claimed them. We thanked her while the German guy next to her seemed to be telling her that we couldn’t sit there unless we had seat tickets. I don’t know what he was really saying, but I didn’t like him and I could tell he was the kind of person who sticks to the rules and likes to act as an authority figure without having any authority. It’s funny how much we can understand people without understanding their spoken language. Body language goes a long way.
Luckily, no one claimed the seats and Mikey and I slept off our frustration over the course of the 4-hour ride to Berlin. I don’t think I’ll be going back to Prague for a long, long time, if ever at all.