Imagine the scariest train station in the world. Now, triple the level of shadiness and welcome to the Krakow Train Station. It looked like the beginning of a dicey, urban spy movie. The whole place felt like Eastern Promises on heroin. And we stood around there, clutching our immaculate luggage for dear life, for an hour and a half.
Finally, we made our way to Platform 3 and boarded the sleeping car of our train, bound for Hungary and then, the Czech Republic. The big, broad gentleman that checked our tickets helped my father with the bags.
"Budapest?" My father asked.
"No." He said gruffly. "This Krakow."
And then he broke into a goofy smile, throwing his head back and laughing. "Yes. Yes. We go Budapest."
Alex and I were in beds 41 and 45. Apparently, bed 43 doesn't exist anymore because there is no way three people could fit in our cabin. There was barely enough room to stand next to the beds.
It was late, the train left at 10pm, and we were all exhausted. We said goodnight to mom and dad, and Alex and I settled in. We agreed that I'd take the top bunk, and moved the provided ladder out of the way. It was much easier to just step on the sink and crawl up there. I felt like a little kid.
The percer, the joker who helped us with our bags, had a room near the communal WC at the front of the train car, where we soon discovered he slept with the door open.
It was tough to sleep, mainly because I was rocking around up there on the top bunk with this weird, blue light shining in my face. And also, I think they added a bunch of cars to the train in the middle of the night, somewhere in Slovakia. It involved bumping the entire train repeatedly for an hour.
There were no Agatha Christie mysteries. Alex woke up at one point, and made me a little curtain for the blue light, but otherwise, we read our books and slept. At 7am, I was up. Wide awake, I shimmied into my jeans up there in my bunk, threw on a sweatshirt and told Alex I was going to find him coffee.
"If I'm not back in an hour," I said, "Alert the media."
I walked into the little hallway with snowy fields whizzing by outside the window. It wasn't even dawn yet, but the sky was just started to get the littlest bit lighter. I walked towards the door, passing our percer fast asleep with his door wide open. I then got to the end of the train car, and tried the door to make my way onto the platform and onto the next car.
The door was locked, which I found weird. Usually, you can go from car to car, wandering around. Since the door was locked from my side, the precious first class sleeping car side, I just unlocked it and walked onto the boarding platform at the end of our car, connecting it to the next train car.
No sooner was I out there than the door I'd just come through swung open. It was the percer, wanting to know who the hell was touching his door.
"Hello." I said.
He stared at me, shut the door and locked it.
The percer had locked me out of the sleeping car.
I figured, it's early. I'll go find the little food section of the train, get some coffee, find a snack, check out our fellow travelers for awhile. By the time I got back, I decided, the percer would be wide awake, unlocking doors, cracking jokes.
I walked the four steps to the door to the next car, which I think was the second class sleeping car. It looked dumpier than our car, which is my only basis for that observation. Anyway, I was standing there, in between the end of MY car's platform and the start of the NEXT car's platform, which was basically a piece of accordioned rubber directly over the tracks, moving impossibly fast beneath me.
The door was locked.
Fuck. Now I had to go back to my car's boarding platform, and get the percer, no doubt back in bed, to unlock the fucking door and let me in.
I stood there on the platform for awhile, wondering what would happen if he didn't get up. I'd be stuck there, with 3 more hours of travel time, waiting for someone to use the WC and find me safe-looking enough to let in.
I peeked in the door and saw the percer, walking the little hallway looking pissed off.
I knocked on the glass door. "Hi! Hello! Can I come in?"
He ripped the door open.
"This sleeping car!" He said this as if we'd never seen each other before.
"Yeah. I know." I said, getting ticked off. "I'm in bed 41."
And he just stared at me, trying to decide whether or not to believe me.
I didn't wait for him and just kinda pushed my way through. I walked down the hall fast, fast enough, I hoped, to get my brother to let me in before the percer caught up to me.
Alex had locked our door.
KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.
"Alright, Jesus. Hang on." I heard from inside.
Alex opened the door. "Where's my coffee?"