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.
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.
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.
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.