I did not have a good experience with the rail system in and around Vienna or Wien as they seem to call it. My train was from Prague to Vienna and that is where it terminated, (more or less). However in Austria the region is called Wien, its not as big as a state, more like a county, or valley (I think). So the last two hours of my train journey had stops like Wien Nebanflatz, and Wien Houfbanfd. As we were still in the country I gathered these were names like Vienna Village, or Vienna riverside. The difficulty came when we got close to Vienna, the actual Vienna, as in the big city I was going to, the train went underground and started stoping for every subway station. These are all named Wien-something (for example New York-5th Ave, or New York-Broadway). That wasn't a problem but we were still 1 hour from our arrival time, so the question was "were we early or are we going to be stopping and starting at every metro stop from here to the main station for the next hour?"
Again no announcements in English, and I had not seen a conductor or any staff the entire trip. I could have taken the trip for free except that I already had a pass. I consulted my guide book and found out that Vienna has 8 different railway stations, and all incoming trains use the metro lines for easy stops through out the city. So I just held tight, the ticket says Praha to Wien with no further detail as to which rail station, and I know the train terminates in Wien so I decided to wait for the train to stop. We were 20 min late for our arrival when we came out of a tunnel. Once above ground I could see nothing but fields. "Its ok to panic now", I told myself.
I walked along the empty train through 5 carriages, the concern and desperation was getting worse with each one, until finally I found a passenger. I asked if we were still heading toward Vienna, or if we will be heading back at some point. She politely said "oh no that train terminated in Wien, this train is now bound for the south." I was confused by the term "That Train" I am still on "That Train" I haven't moved (I don't think). So what she meant was, that the train I was on stoped, changed its name/number/direction, then started again. I wouldn't say that the train even stopped longer at any one station than any other, I know because I was confused I had been paying attention for almost an hour just to be sure I didn't miss it. They probably told every one to get off at some point, but as I said there were no English announcements. In fact there were no French announcements, or German for that matter. In Prague I was reading plaques in French when there were no English versions, and I had been in Germany long enough to know the words "next stop ______, exit here for _____, and this tram is head in the direction of ______) so even a German announcement would have been something. Its not like I was being complacent, or had fallen asleep. I was trying really hard to listen and to observe. However I was also ignoring all of my screaming instincts that told me to get off the train because I thought that was just me stressing again.
I was obviously having a small internal mental breakdown, because the nice woman had to say "excuse me" to get my attention. Then she delivered the final blow, "I hope your not lost because the next stop is an hour away." I smiled and said thank you, then quietly walked back to my seat to wait. I was ok, a bit numb and in shock but not freaking out. In my wisdom I had planned About 5 hours in Vienna for sight seeing, so 1.5 of that was already gone, I still had time to catch my night train.
I got off at the next station, and saw to my delight a member of the platform staff, who kindly directed me to a train leaving for Vienna in 2 min. The conductor bought my story and did not kick me off the train, but helped me to find the right station for my Night Train to Venice. The sad part was that the train that I took out of Wien for an hour was an express, but the one I was taking back to Wien was not. 3 hours, one train, and two trams later I was in the right place. Having lost 4 hours and 20 min to the Wien rail system, I had 30 min to wait. I did not see any of Vienna, I got a small bite to eat, reserved my seat on the train, and then washed my hands and face in the toilet. It was less than exciting!
The good things about this night train are that I only paid 7.00 Euros this time, instead of the 73.00 I had to pay in Spain, and I have an entire 4 bed cabin to myself! The annoying thing is that the free water is sparkling water, the tap water is not drinkable and the bar only sells big fancy bottles of water for 10.00 Euros. So in my Scottish way I'm choking down the complimentary bottled water cause its free!
I'm off to bed, and I shall awake in Venice. Squeeeee!!! Lots of love, xxx