01 April 2012

Train journey, Salzburg to Graz - Day 16

If you have been following my trip then you will remember our stressful experience on catching a train from Vienna to Salzburg. Very swiftly we learned that for an extra 40 euros each, travelling in First Class would have alleviated all of our stress and we would have journeyed in style.

The train to Salzburg was via RailJet which is Austria's high-speed train. Where the route allows it, the train is capable of 230 km/h (143 mph). So there was no complaint with the train as it was brand new, travelled super-fast and regardless of what class you were in, the comfort was there. I just wish that we had caught the next one where boarding would have been relaxed and with plenty of time.

The very sleek and classy RailJet.

However, anyone would understand that the experience between First Class where you have space, generally your own cabin and are waited on is vastly different to Economy Class. With that in mind we obtain assistance from the hotel concierge to book our Salzburg to Graz train in First Class. Pleased with our cleverness we look forward to boarding the train and spending four hours admiring the scenery.

Again we arrived at the train station with ample time (with 2 suitcases, overhead luggage and a small child will do that to anyone), obtained our tickets and waited on the platform. Imagine our dismay though when the InterCity train arrived and all I could think of is "where is my RailJet?".

Yep, not too cool, neither was the interior.

But this disappointment was nothing to what was awaiting us on the train.  Again, incredibly clueless we had no idea where to get on for First Class so we found ourselves yet again, traipsing through the whole train because the First Class carriage was on the tail end of the train as opposed to the front like the RailJet train.  At this point I simply refused to move any further with all the luggage and child until I knew exactly where my seat was.  So John went searching and 10 minutes later he returned to inform me that we are actually in a six seater cabin. 

The train may not be modern but we have a cabin and space for our luggage.  As we enter the cabin we come across a 6'4" male who has taken one window seat and stretched himself and his luggage across to the other side of the window seat.  He promptly informs us that he is expecting four friends at the next station which caused my mathematical confusion.  Our seat numbers are reserved as opposed to taking whatever is available, although he tells me that there are no seat reservations - I'm confused but carry on.  It's a six seater cabin and there's four of us in there already but he's got four more friends to come.  I couldn't add it up but I live in the comfort that my seats are reserved because we intentionally purchased the tickets with a reservation and paid a reservation fee.  He and his friends will have to sort themselves out.

So I proceed to settle ourselves in and lifted Trini to put her on the spare window seat at which point this bloke tells me that the seat is reserved.  I said to him how is it possible for the seat to be reserved when he just told me that there are no reservations.  That means I can put Trini anywhere I like.  I got a little more feisty and promptly overruled him and dropped her on the spare window seat.  I sat down next to Trini fuming but thought we are going to be travelling together for 4 hours so perhaps we should at least aim for an amicable journey. 

I try to grab his attention whilst he was talking on the phone by touching his knee so that I could offer to move Trini when his friends boarded since I knew she would not be looking out the window.  He lost the plot at me.  "Don't touch me" and "You are so rude" and "You better move elsewhere" and "I will have you thrown off the train" are just some of the comments he was throwing our way.  Completely flabbergasted and unsure how to handle this, I started using my head and thought, first step just ensure that we are in the right cabin and discovered that the seat numbers were on the door and they were definitely reserved for us.  As a matter of fact he was sitting in one of our seats.  However, what to do, what to do....  I was raging inside and thought that I would burst a blood vessel but diplomacy is always my first step, avoiding confrontation with strangers was also a consideration.  I have a child in the cabin so can't get into an argument and the fact that he striked me as aggressive I was more concerned about our safety.

Well nothing like spending the next hour or so fuming and passing train stop after train stop and realising that these friends of his just aren't materialising.  Since it was a completely unacceptable way for me to journey, I went off looking for non-booked cabins that we could just move ourselves into.  I found a completely empty one, moved ourselves into it, pushed all our luggage in the way and made sure that no one else was going to try and accommodate themselves with us.

With this move, emotionally I settled down and we had a delightful journey all the way to Graz, with both Trini and I enjoying the window seats.  We had coffee and snacks delivered to us, an amazing scenery unfolded, did princess jigsaw puzzle bought in Salzburg with Trini and every so often found myself mentally replaying what transpired in the previous cabin.  We watched the bloke disembark in Graz with all his imaginary friends and I wonder what the hell just happened.  Was he that desperate to be on his own that rather than move himself with one small luggage he preferred to cross words with a family and create an unpleasant environment.  I have to pity this guy for his way of life.

What did I take away from this experience?  How I deal with a conflicting situation sets an example for my daughter and what I teach her, even if I was caught off-guard and actually didn't know how to handle it.  Blowing a gasket in public to push my own agenda was not going to resolve anything and could have created bigger problems.  That this world most certainly has a percentage of extremely unpleasant people and nothing I do or say will change that.  Thankfully, I rarely come across them.  Finally, it is my choice whether I let this event spoil it for me or find a way around it so the beauty of my trip remains intact.

At Salzburg train station.