Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Readying Ron

We took the train to Vienna yesterday with Ron’s luggage. He has an unholy early flight tomorrow morning from here to go to the States. There are some disturbing things about sending Ron off alone. In the 12 ½ years we have been together, this is the longest we will have been apart. He will be gone for three weeks. All I had to pack was my toothbrush, toothpaste, and a good book. Since it was cold in Budapest, I had my coat with me thinking Vienna would be similar or colder.

The more worrisome thought is that Ron is a leaver. He carries a black shoulder bag that he refuses to keep close to his body when he is not walking. When we stop for a coffee off comes the bag and it gets set on a chair. The chair does not have to be in close proximity to him either. His ability to trust that no one will grab and run is beyond human comprehension. Other’s horror stories have not affected him in the least, so his habit continues. In our time together, I could probably recall a list of 300+ times when he left something behind: his bag, his hat, his cigarettes. His guardian angel is overworked and on the ball, keeping his goods safely protected until he has that “Aha!” moment of remembering something familiar is missing and he returns to find it untouched. As much as I trust his guardian angel, even angels may find it a valuable lesson to make you learn the hard way, so I fear for his passport and now his Residency Card.

Having been to Vienna a zillion times, this was not a particular treat, but a second homecoming of sorts. Ron wanted to visit the Belvedere Palace grounds again, so we did. We wandered aimlessly and went to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. I am not sure we ever remembered the name of it, but we refer to it as the Purple restaurant since the building is a soothing lavender color.

We stayed the night at Hotel Pension Wild, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The beds were sumptuous, though Ron had much less time in bed than I. His taxi was due at 4:30 am to take him to the airport. I woke, dressed and set him off in the taxi only to return to bed until 8:00 am. After a shower, I went for breakfast and then back to the room to read until 10:00. Check out was 11:00, but I decided to take some tram rides to pass the time. I had checked on return trains to Budapest when we arrived, but had not written them down. I had a memory of a 1:38 train, but was not positive I was correct about it.

The weather was warm approaching hot and my usual nasal condition was acting up again. My nose was running like Niagara Falls and thoughts of investing in tissue stocks seemed like a good venture. After finding a quaint little café with outdoor seating, I ordered a coffee and sat immersed in reading my book.

At 12:30, it seemed like a good time to wander in the direction of the train station since having taken trams around, I was no longer sure of where I was or how far the train station would be. Dragging a coat in toasty weather was getting cumbersome and dissuaded me from further explorations, though my transport pass was included in my train ticket.

I found the train station like a homing pigeon, so there was more than enough time. After finding a seat, I tried being engaged in my book yet again; however, I was having difficulty reading/concentrating being worried about Ron’s travails. He had more flight and airport changes than most flight attendants do in a month of work. I could see his bag sitting lonely in some airport while he was in a panic wondering where he had deposited it last. He also mentioned that since he had an E-ticket, he was assured that he did not have to reconfirm the flights. I had hoped this proved true and had visions of him pleading to get on the plane or to be stuck mid-route with no seat assignment.

As much traveling as I have done alone, the thoughts of the difficulty in traveling single with stuff in your hands still bother me. Going to the bathroom is a chore, buying a cup of coffee, and so on when you are lugging all of the luggage and have no one to watch it for you.

As I was having these reveries, I happened to look up at the train board with the schedule only to spot BUDAPEST and the track number. The train was earlier than scheduled, but the thought that I had missed one when reading the schedule occurred to me, I ran out to catch it. The sign in the window had Budapest on it. What luck!!! A minute after I jumped on and found a seat with two women, the train left the station. I was praising my good fortune of getting an earlier train, getting home earlier than expected. Within seconds, the little inner voice was questioning my luck. On the empty seat across from me was the trip route and schedule often found on European trains. I looked at it and my heart dropped. I was on the train FROM Budapest on its way to Dortmund, Germany. I did everything in my spiritual power to have the train stop at the first station before the conductor came for tickets. The thought of financial fines shouted at me by an irate conductor made me break out in a cold sweat. I hid most of my Euros so I could plead poverty if caught. On the way to Vienna, the conductor did not approach our compartment for our tickets until an hour into the trip. My hope was that it would be the same this time. The first stop was St. Polten, forty-five minutes outside of Vienna.

Using every affirmation I could think of, my spiritual powers are not honed. The conductor arrived for our tickets 15 minutes before the first stop. Sheepishly, forcing an embarrassed blush, I explained my circumstance. With a sympathetic chuckle, he told me to get off at St. Polten. Where was this saint when I needed him? At St. Polten, I immediately went to the ticket office. The next train was 2:50 back to Vienna and then the train to Budapest was 10 minutes later. This was a narrow escape since if I missed it, there was only one more train that evening.

I bought a one-way ticket for 9 Euros and explored the town. It is a lovely little place and the entire downtown area of what looks to be about 10 blocks by 10 blocks are all pedestrian walkways. I returned to the station with 10 minutes to spare. On one schedule board the train said Budapest, but on the other it said Vienna West. I hopped on and hoped for the best. Once I arrived in Vienna again, I had to change tracks, but made my train back not getting home until after 7:00 pm. The positive was that I had a full compartment all to myself the entire trip and finished my book as we pulled into Keleti station.

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