Just a bit over a week ago, I took my first trip into the former 2nd World. To get there,I traveled by what would have been the Eastern Block approved method-public transportation. Namely: a bus, a trolley train, two Deutsche Bahn railway trains, and one most unusal train-like thing that I will describe more fully in just a bit.
It had snowed the night before I set off, so my first train from Weinheim to Frankfurt had a 20 minute delay, giving me exactly one minute to catch the next train in Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. Luck was with me, though, and I made this second train in the nick of time; panting like a crazy woman from my under-one-minute mad dash from platform to platform. Although we left Frankfurt on time, we arrived in Nürnberg exactly 2 minutes too late for me to catch the direct train from there to Pilsen (my final destination. I ended up with having almost two hours to kill in the Nürnberg train station; where I passed the time drinking a coffee, and chatting with a most interesting shady character, who told me he earns his living by being the middleman between international sales transactions of highly controversial substances. He called himself "Wolf", and was a civil and friendly enough guy. Wolf's bits and pieces about how he manages to travel so much for his "business", and how he avoided the long arm of the law that he was sharing with me were certainly fascinating to listen to. I kept wondering whether he was telling me the truth, or making up stories to test how gullible I am. It didn't really matter though anyhow; because listening to him was certainly more entertaining than sipping my coffee and checking my watch every 4 seconds. The next leg of this journey was on a "Bimmelbahn" or local regional train that seemed to stop at each and every Bavarian village along the way, endstation Fürth im Wald at the Czech border. As THIS train was also behind schedule, due to snow, I was really sweating whether we (Wolf was sitting with me on this train, still telling me of his adventures) would make the last train from Fürth to Pilsen, or whether we would have to find lodgings for the night deep in the Bavarian/Czech border wilderness. It was getting towards evening at this point, and I was also getting just a wee bit travel-weary. Thus I was relieved to see that our "train" (explanation for train in quotes coming in just a second) was waiting for us, at the very last German railway station destination. After getting about a 4 second look at Fürth, it seemed slightly unlikely that would have been so easy to find somewhere to sleep, had I been forced to spend the night there.
So now about this "train". The amazing vehicle consisted of only one car, and looked like had been built in about 1957. It resembled a bus that ran on the railway track more than any sort of train I had ever seen. The sight of this "train", after initial sense of relief to see it at all, caused me to laugh and scramble for my camera. Had no time to take a picture though, because the conductor/engineer was looking very stern and grumpy, so I thought it a better idea to not delay any further, and board right away. Inside this thing (sort of an inner room on the bus-like train) there were two rows of wooden benches bolted to the floor. Very uncomfortable benches, by the way. This "train" started to move in a bone-rattling style, and crossed the border into the Czech Republic about 5 minutes after leaving Fürt im Wald. I was disappointed that it was already dark by then, so could see very little of the Czech countryside we were passing through. Had another laughing fit when we stopped in a tiny village called Babylon, which had me frantically fumbling for my camera again, in order to have photographic evidence of the fact that I had been to Babylon on this journey. But we pulled out of Babylon before I had the camera ready-another wonderful missed photo opportunity.
Finally, a good 11 hours after I left home that morning, this strange little train (oh I forgot to mention that in each Czech station we stopped in, another car was added to the mini train-very disappointing, but still interesting to watch), I reached Pilsen, where my Czech contact was waiting for me on the train platform.
Reality Czech Parts II and III soon to come.