Gene and I woke at 4:30 A.M. and headed for the Kosice train station to begin our 10-hour trip to Krakow, Poland. All went well until we arrived in Zilina and had to catch a connecting train. With a 25-minute layover, we were keeping a close eye on the schedule board to ensure we knew the correct platform from which our next train would leave. As the clock clicked closer to our scheduled departure and no platform number appeared on the board, I began looking for someone who might speak my language. “Excuse me,” I said to a 20-something woman standing nearby. “Do you speak English?”
“A leetle,” she said.
A leetle was good enough for me. “We’re going to Katowice,” I said. “Do you know from what platform the train leaves?” She shook her head but said something about taking a bus instead of the train. I thanked her and ran up two flights of concrete stairs to Gene who was guarding our suitcases where we’d deboarded.
I told him the clue I’d learned, and together we hauled our luggage down the stairs into an underground tunnel. Now it was my turn to guard the luggage while he dashed to the ticket counter up a different flight of stairs to get more information. He returned a couple of minutes later. “Go outside,” he said. “There’s supposed to be a bus waiting to take train passengers to the next city!”
We grabbed our bags and hauled them up two different flights of stairs to a sidewalk above ground. Two buses sat idling there. Gene ran to one and asked the driver if the bus was bound for Katowice. The driver grunted, stared out the front window and waved his hand as if to brush Gene off. One passenger saw what happened and tried to help but his English was as sparse as Gene’s Slovak. Finally Gene saw a list of cities printed on the bus wall and pointed at the one we wanted. The passengers shook their heads. “No, no,” they said. As this was happening, the other bus pulled away from the curb. Too bad – turns out that was our bus.
And so our 10-hour trip turned into 15 hours. Thankfully it wasn’t all on trains. We found a coffeeshop with wireless (albeit intermittent) at the station. We enjoyed ice cream and cold drinks while catching up on emails and working on our Bible studies for the upcoming Polish camp. Chalk it up to adventure. Be still and know that He is God over every little detail. Turns out that we met a guy from Ohio on the train we eventually caught, and we were able to plants seeds of truth in his life through conversation with him.
While at the train station, I had an interesting cross-cultural experience. I had to use the WC (water closet aka toilet), so I found my way to the appropriate room. Two women about my age sat at a ticket counter at the room’s entrance. A sign on the ticket counter window told me that I had to pay 20 cents in Euros (about 30 cents CDN). I pushed the coins through the window toward them. The women smiled and pointed at a roll of toilet paper on the counter. I picked it up, they nodded their permission and I went on my way, mindful to return it for the next customer. BTW, men have to pay only 15 cents to use the toilet, unless, of course they require paper. Then the price goes up to 20 cents. Add that to your travel manual!