Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Great Train Robbery

Thursday was a looong day, starting at 7.30 am (hey it's super early for me!) in order to catch the 9 am train from Reading, via London, to Stansted Airport. I arrived at Stansted well early, as is my way, and was all checked in and through security with two hours to spare. Oddly enough, no-one but the check-in agent checked my passport until arriving in Prague, but whatever. I arrived in Prague about 4.30 local time, then at Carolyn's at about 6 pm, after the epic bus/metro/tram journey which is required to get across the city. Lucky I know what I'm doing as far as Prague is concerned.

Our Prague-Krakow night train was at 9.20, so that left us a few hours to kill at hers before setting out. First we debated our plan of attack for the 8 hours of overnight travel. My suggestion - pills comma sleeping, hers booze comma vodka. A combination of the two was briefly considered, before we decided that this may cause too much trouble for the authorities of the countries concerned in deciding which side of the Czech/Polish border we'd died on. So booze was selected as the more fun option of the two.

Prague hl. n. train station has been considerably jazzed up since the last time I had the misfortune to transit through it, although it's probably only moved up to a slightly cushier circle of hell. The same goes for the trains. While the overnighter from Moscow to St Petersburg was pretty luxurious - fold-down bunks with mattresses, sheets and blankets, and secure bins under your beds to stow your stuff - the Prague - Krakow variety just had the standard hard vinyl-covered bench seats as on any Czech train, with only unsecure overhead storage and no sheets or blankets. Upon boarding the train, we were immediately accosted by a girl who apparently spoke only Czech (I tried asking her if she could speak English, French, or Russian [check me out!] but no, no, and only a tiny bit). After inititally thinking she was telling us we couldn't stay in the compartments, we eventually clicked that she was asking if she could share a compartment with us. The conclusion was that, as a woman travelling alone, she probably felt safer along with us, although as we shall see, we now have our doubts...

The boozing proceeded well, while Czech girl just sat in the corner and read a book and dozed. Somewhere around 1 or 2 am we started to crash out by mutual consent. I asked the Czech if I could turn the light off - no problem, and stretched out on my bench (she was on Carolyn's side). Shortly thereafter, we pulled into a station and she left. We both settled down to sleep with our heads on our handbags, only to wake up about 5.30 am, with only about an hours' journey left.

It wasn't until I got my wallet out to pay for the taxi ride to the hostel that the penny started to drop. I was certain that I'd put 30 zloty in my wallet for that very purpose - but I had nothing. At the hostel itself, I remembered that I'd had change from buying sandwiches at the station - very glad I was to have it, too, because I'm always running out of change to buy metro tickets in Prague. Carolyn looked in her wallet - yep, empty too.

The weird thing was that they took all the cash and coins - well, they actually left 50 hellers in my wallet, further proof that 50 hellers are the world's most useless unit of currency, seriously you can't buy anything with them - but left all the cards intact. I'm very glad that most of my cash was in my travel wallety thing in my other bag (which I was also sleeping on top of) and that they didn't take my phone, camera or iPod, which I would have been very pissed off to lose. I probably only lost in the region of 10 pounds. Still, it's a seriously creepy thought that people came into our compartment when we were asleep and somehow rifled through the handbags under our heads. I'm mystified as to how they managed it - it inevitably takes me at least 5 minutes to locate my wallet in my own bag, and sometimes I have to empty out all the myriad contents to do so. Probably the girl who was sitting with us was entirely innocent and got off the train, but we can't help wondering if she perhaps sat next to us, saw us getting drunker as the night progressed and then left as soon as we showed signs of falling asleep to alert the rest of the gang...


  1. very comma stink although kinda comma funny. x

  2. in my op; it was the female wot dunnit , luv hercules ,

  3. twas the booze what dunnit !

  4. oh yeah, blame the victims!


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