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An hour outside of Bratislava, on a train that can only be described as “Soviet”, my friends and I feel the sensation of slowing. Looking out the window we see the beginning of a rail yard. Oh, we are making the first stop; Except not. Our train comes to a halt about 200 yards short of the Nové Zámky train station. People are looking around, maybe something is on the tracks. The looks on their faces show an expectation of us moving again. Nothing.

For a few passengers, Nové Zámky, or New Castle, is their destination. They grow impatient, grabbing their bags, opening the train doors, and stepping off of the train into a foot of snow. As we watch those passengers drag their bags through the snow we wonder what is actually in store for us. Eventually a conductor makes his way to our car. We attempt to signal him for a quick explanation of what is happening with the train. He says he will explain in a minute and passes us, then proceeds to give a lengthy explanation to the Slovak speaking contingent in our car. A nice woman who knows we do not understand what is being said takes the time to inform us that the train is broken and that the delay will be at least an hour.

Our Broken Train

Knowing we have at some time to kill, Seth decides to make the most of the delay and hops off the train into the snow. We don’t see him for a while but when he returns he informs us that the pantograph, the device that draws current for an electric train from an overhead catenary, is broken. The pantograph had fallen and there was no immediate way to reconnect it.

Our Broken Train

We did not really want to sit around anymore so we grabbed our cameras and left the train. We walked to the front of the train, where a number of workers were surveying the issue. We started taking pictures and pretty soon a maintenance engine was pulling up to our train. A Slovak rail worker walked toward us, yelled something we didn’t understand, but got the gist of, “get back on the train”. Twenty minutes later and we were moving toward Budapest again.

Our Broken Train from Stephan Segraves on Vimeo.

Sure, this was one of those experiences that would frustrate most people. And yes, we were trying to meet up with friends in Budapest. But following Seth’s lead, we made the best of an inconvenience that we had no control over. Much like the experience of hitchhiking in Germany, it is a travel moment I never intended but enjoyed nonetheless. Being delayed on a Slovak train and walking around it while stopped is what makes travel interesting. It is what trips are about. Make the most of the bumps in the road and cherish these types of experiences. I assure you that you will look back on them and appreciate that they occurred as much, if not more, than the actual destination you were trying to reach.
 

On Monday I flew Lufthansa between Budapest and Munich on one of their Airbus 320 aircraft (registration D-AIPP). When I sat down I started looking through their magazine and noticed an extra insert in the seatback pocket. On the insert was a description of the new in-flight entertainment system that is being tested and how to use it on this particular flight. I read through and downloaded the required application for my iPhone, called “my mediaworld”, to test it out. I registered the application (required before using the system) and was all set.

The system works off of a wireless signal that starts transmitting as the aircraft passes through 10,000 feet. You select the network and launch the app. You are presented with a number of options including WatchEnjoy (television, movies, etc.), ListenRelax (music, spoken work), eJournals (newspapers, magazines), and FlyLufthansa (flight information).

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I played with each of the options just to see what was provided. The only one that did not really work for me was the magazines and periodicals section. I could never get it to actually load. I ended up selecting a movie to watch and it immediately started playing. The video quality was great and there was no lagging video artifacts that one usually sees with streaming video.

When I watched a few of the TV shows, they were only in German and there was no option to for subtitles. Not having subtitles was a little disappointing, but they are a German airline so having such content isn’t all that surprising.

Shorts Content Image

The video quality was just as good as what you would have if you downloaded the content yourself.

Video Quality Screenshot

There is also an inflight moving map that shows your current position and a few flight statistics. The application launches the web browser, in my case Safari, and presents the flight data and map there. Great information if you’re an aviation nerd like me.

Moving Map Launch Screenshot

Moving Map Screenshot

One of the neatest features is that when an announcement is being made over the aircraft’s intercom, the system pauses the content you are in. I was still a little sick and could not hear well enough to tell if the sound from the intercom was being piped through my headphones as well.

Public Announcement in Progress Screenshot


Overall it’s a very cool system and if this is the direction that United is headed with their inflight entertainment, passengers will be very happy. The only concern I had with the Lufthansa system was the lack of power ports in their short haul product. If you are doing some of their longer flights on a short haul aircraft, there are no power ports. Heck, even on Lufthansa’s new A380, there are no power ports in coach, meaning you’ll only be able to watch content until you run out of juice.

This really is the future of inflight entertainment and it’s good news for passengers. No more giant content boxes under the seat in front of you, no more watching movies on a tiny screen three rows in front of you, and no more watching the same content over and over on a loop.

Next time you are on a Lufthansa flight, be sure and check the inflight magazine, you may just have a wireless content delivery system installed on the aircraft (currently, this particular A320 is the only one with the system)! Also, I have included a few more screenshots of the product below. Lufthansa also has a full description of the “my mediaworld” system and available content on their website.

eJournals Screenshot

TV Series Screenshot

 

Movies Screenshot

Moving Map Screenshot

Music Screenshot