Monday, July 11, 2016

Other modes of transportation

Vacation is often a chance to use other modes of transportation than one normally does.

We enjoyed the good systems of public transit in both Budapest and Vienna.

Tram in Budapest.

Train stations in Europe always have great atmosphere.

Looking for the track for the Railjet from Budapest to Vienna.

It *looks* like we are bicycling here, but really

we are waiting for one of the many ferries across the Danube (Szob, Hungary, in this case).  This one only runs once an hour, so people riding the EuroVelo 6 route tend to concentrate at the crossing point.

Our route also involved a short regional train transfer from Mosonmagyarovar to Gyor.  Incidentally, the train station in Mosonmagyarovar was the one place on the whole trip where the lack of Hungarian was problematic -- I pulled up to the train station and tried to ask the woman how and where to board the bikes.  Mutual incomprehension ensued, then this useless conversation:

Me: "English?"
Train attendant: "[insert something I couldn't understand at all here]"
Me: "Francais?"
Train attendant, shaking head: "Deutsch?"
Me: "No."

Chad decided his residual high school German was not up to the task.  Meanwhile, a British family that we had been leapfrogging with on bicycles for pretty much the whole week pulled up.  They asked us if we knew what to do, I explained the situation, and they sent Grandpa (who supposedly spoke a bit of German) in to ask.  After a few minutes, he came out and said "She said something about four.  Four something.  I think she said we could get on the train, but only four bikes."   You could see the calculation in his eyes as he looked at his group's six bikes plus our three.

Hmmm, I'm thinking.  That can't be right.  The tour company wouldn't send multiple groups down this route without warning if there was that significant a limit on bicycles.  Even if the train runs multiple times a day, there is a natural amount of time it takes to do any given day's ride, and the groups tended to run into each other at points like train stations and ferry crossings.  I decided that Grandpa's German may have been less than Chad's, and went to look for other people with bikes who might know more.

And who should show up next, but more people with bikes.  A giant gaggle of several dozen French cyclotourists all riding together in an amorphous safety-vested flock.  They milled around outside the train station for a few minutes, noisily loading their bikes onto a truck.  Clearly *they* didn't need to figure out the bike+train thing.

I was all ready to just try to get on the train without instruction, playing the dumb tourist card, as it worked out just fine on a trip in Sicily back in the late nineties (to the great exasperation of the train conductor when we got on the wrong car), and to also use my mom's traditional strategy "When in doubt, follow!"  Never mind *who* you are following...

Fortunately, I found another couple, who did speak German, and thus were able to get useful information from the woman behind the counter.  "Track four, once they open the gate"  That's what Grandpa's four was all about.  We followed them out, the gate opened, and we all lined up next to the track.
This all seemed manageable, until the flock of French piled out to the track and crowded chaotically in front of our tidy, well-prepared-for-boarding arrangement with absolutely no appreciation for the fact that we needed to be able to lift the bikes up onto the train, despite the fact that they, also being cyclists, ought to have realized the challenge and filled in behind us.  By and large, the French don't queue.

Eventually, we all got on board the train for the short ride; Chad was trapped on the opposite side of the bike car from us.

More riding, more ferries.  At one point, we stopped for a late lunch near at an outdoor cafe near one of the ferry crossings and had to laugh as we watched a couple of successive big bike tourist groups come across: first, a well-organized German group, who disembarked quickly and efficiently; then our friends the noisy French, who milled around half an hour to get themselves organized after getting off the boat.  I could see the wait staff at the restaurant get visibly nervous as they watched the large group approach, and then relax when the realized that it was just a bathroom break for that loud group.

The very last leg of the bike trip was also by boat -- a bigger one this time.  We got to the ship station about 45 minutes early, Nim and I figured out how to exchange our voucher for tickets, and Chad relaxed with a beer. 

While we were waiting, who should appear, but the French!  Chad suggested the very wise strategy of letting them all board first, so our bikes would be last on and first off.  This mostly worked, except that as we were trying to get our bikes off, the French tourists were all trying to crowd onto the deck to get their bikes, which were buried several layers behind ours.

All very cheery and good-natured but just clueless!  I had to repeat myself several times "Please, if you wait outside that door, we can come out and then you can get your bikes out."  Eventually we escaped and navigated our way through some major road construction to the bike drop-off hotel.

Parking in the hotel garage.  Bye-bye Bike-Shaped-Objects!

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