Friday, 5 September 2008

20 Years On - Part 15 of Account of Travelling by Train Around West Germany and Austria

This was the day I swore I would never return to West Germany. I was so furious at the lost of my Inter-Rail ticket and the German bureaucracy that all the problems with the frosty reception I had often received came out at once. Ironically of course I would return in January of the following year, but I think this marked the day when any fantasy of ever living or working abroad or having a relationship with a European woman (and as a result of this trip, I began to start using the British distinction between Britain and Europe) were all ruled out. Of course I was going to experience far worse than this when I went to Köln for four months in 1989, which I did more to escape what I was having to put up with in the UK than because I was any kind of enthusiast for West Germany. I also realised that my attempts at speaking German, which had been a key motive for the holiday, were a farce as was to be proved in the examinations the following Summer. I stopped even bothering to try to speak German which made dealings with the police on this day very complicated. Trying to read the counter-foil which I had been promised would get me a replacement Inter-Rail ticket, the police, who seemed to have no other work to do, totally misunderstood the layout of British addresses and filled in their form saying that I had bought the ticket in the town of 'Travel'. One officer plaintively asked if I spoke even a little German and I said I did not and (accurately) that very few British people did. Given the size of the town they oversaw (135,000 people), popular with British coach tours through West Germany, they seemed incredibly ill-prepared for even this minor incident. I broke down into tears in the railway station when I was told I had to wait 3 days for a replacement ticket and was so angry with the elderly women who patronised me so severely about how there was no need to cry. I am still angered by the memory of their behaviour to this day. The people at the train office seemed startled that I did not want to stay in Würzburg and wanted to get out of the town as quickly as possibly. I could not have stayed anyway as there was a limit of three nights you could stay in a hostel and I had already used up one of them.

This day shook me clear of many of the delusions that I had been travelling under, but unfortunately not enough to avoid making many of the same errors and many new ones, the following year. It was also incredibly frustrating, because though Würzburg is a comparatively small place, I kept getting terribly lost and trying to get back to the youth hostel I found myself back at the square close to the railway station from where I had started out. I broke down in tears on the telephone to my mother, feeling I was trapped in something out of 'The Prisoner' television series.

Monday 5th September 1988

Today I woke up promptly and walked to the station where I found that I had lost my inter-rail card so I walked back to the youth hostel but could not find it, so I took my counterfoil to the station and they sent me to the police station where I had a form filled in which I took back to the station where they told me I would have to wait three days. By now I was annoyed and upset. I decided to catch the train to Köln and telephoned home. The fare was less than two days stay in Würzburg, DM85,- [compared] to DM120,-. I left at 12.00 and was in Köln by 16.00 where I bought presents - a coffee table book on the Rhine for Mum and for Dad a beer glass and a beer mug and an illustrated "The Communist Manifesto". I also bought some chocolate. Then I went back, unloaded all that and walked to the cinema where I watched "The Blues Brothers" which was excellent and cheered me up. I then walked back to the youth hostel.

Weather: Dull and rainy.

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