We have finally made it to Oxford, England. And what a journey it has been. Plane rides, bus trips, metros, taxis and the general transportation system have all been obvious obstacles for American students traveling from country to country.
But what you may not think about is how to get around the cities once you’ve arrived. We have had very different adventures on several of the different transportation systems in the various cities that we have trekked. It was even more interesting when the directions and stops were in different languages.
In Berlin, after a long day of sightseeing and walking tours, followed by an amazing meal, getting back to our hotel was our first priority. Our bellies were full and our feet were tired.
Of course this is the perfect recipe for having things go awry. We found the right platform as well as the correct route and direction of the train we needed. But since everything was in German, we did not realize that there were A, B and C trains, with C being the express train.
You can guess where this is going… aboard the wrong train. We passed our stop; the C train kept moving for another twenty minutes. No one around us spoke any English.
Our train finally stopped on the outskirts of Berlin. It was already nearing 11 o’clock at night. Luckily, we were able to catch the next train heading back into the city. Thankfully, the train operator saw that we were just lost students and only charged us for buying another ticket rather than fining us the ridiculous amount of money that he could have. We eventually made it back to the hotel safe and sound, having lost only a few Euros and an hour’s time on another train ticket odyssey.
Rome. The city is an amazing historical archive. The traffic really is as crazy as you have seen in any movie and worse than anything in Atlanta. The gelato is better than what you’ve heard. There are an infinite number of possibilities for pizza toppings and pasta combinations. The smorgasbord of Italian food is amazing.
While their food options were plentiful, it seemed as if there were even more ways to get around the city. You could take a tram, a taxi, dozens of different subway and bus routes or even a horse drawn carriage if you wished. Let me rephrase. You could get lost on a tram, a taxi, dozens of different subway and bus routes or even a horse-drawn carriage.
Onto Paris, which was a different story entirely. The entire subway system was much more organized. The routes moved from point A to point B and they were easily recognizable by our foreign eyes. The first night, from the ticket machines to the gates to the train cars to getting back out was simple. It was nice not feeling like an ignorant tourist for a few days.
Now we are in England. The trains and buses here are much different, though it is a nice change to be able to completely understand the posted signs.
In our first weekend here, my friend and I decided to catch the semi-finals of Wimbledon. That was an interesting introduction to the London tube, it being the first time that we had traveled completely alone using our BritRail passes.
The BritRail web site told us that we would just need to change trains twice. It failed to mention that we would also need to take the London tube as well. After navigating the train station that also doubled as the tube stop, getting Oyster cards (similar to MARTA), and finding the right platform, we were not too keen on how the rest of the journey was going to unravel. But after navigating the tube, we finally got to the our stop relatively unscathed.
While traveling here has at times been misleading, I have had an incredible experience abroad. It sure has been an adventure learning and relearning how citizens of each city travel. Whether it is in the morning during rush hour(s) or on a weekend getaway, the people around me seem to know where it is they need to go. I just seem to be along for the ride.