Bratislava - GETTING THERE - Day 1
June 20, 2008
I started writing this blog from the plane to Bratislava because the time between getting out of school and actually getting on the plane to Bratislava was pretty much an adventure in itself. I'm gonna start with that and then add the rest afterwards:
"I'm writing this from the plane to Bratislava which we are finally on! It has been quite an adventure to get here indeed! Both Danny and I had an E-mag test today which we spent all of last night and some of this morning preparing for. Therefore, we really hadn't had time to pack or get ready for the weekend. After the test and lunch, we each packed and get directions for getting to our hostel, etc. We planned to meet at the bus stop about half an hour before our train was scheduled to leave. All of that went pretty smoothly and we were at the bus stop well in time to hop on a bus and catch our 3:55 train to Paris - at least we thought.
We waited at the stop for a few minutes and finally the "U' bus turned the corner to approach the stop. It turned into the stop lane but then…it just kept going… Some French kids were waiting with us too and one of them started yelling at the bus, so apparently that wasn't supposed to happen. We checked the schedule and saw the next "8" bus was supposed to come at 3:37 and the next "U" at 3:39. The U gets to the train station faster than the 8 so we decided it'd be pushing it but we'd catch that - we were a little concerned though because we'd seen a time when oe bus didn't stop at the stop if the other one was still there, but luckily the U did stop and we got on. Every time we stopped and an old person or a woman with a stroller or something climbed on, both Danny and I would glance nervously at our watches.
We made it to the train station about right at the time that our train should have been getting ready to depart and sprinted inside. Danny, who only had a backpack on, ran ahead abut didn't know which platform we were supposed to be at. By the time we realized we'd passed the platform (or probably even before that) the TGV was gone - we missed our train.
We tried to see if we could trade or reservationsd in for some on the next train (an hour later) but the lady at the counter said there were no reservations for Eurail holders and that we couldn't eeven get on the train without a ticket. (They will not sell any of the last 100 reservations on a TGV to someone with a Eurail pass.) Well…some of our friends had hopped a TGV to Paris without a reservation a few weeks before and told us they only had to pay a 20 euro fine so we decided that we'd try it. That would put us in Paris by 6:20 and then we had to get to the Orly airport and check in by 7:30. Even that was cutting it close but we didn't really see any other options so we went for it.
We found seats between cars on the TGV train but we didn't know what we should do when the conductor came to check our tickets. HE didn't'c ome until the very end of the train ride and we just told him the truth and ended up paying 15 euros each.
The TGV dropped us off at Paris Gare du Est and the undereground we take to get to the airport train leaves from Gare d'Nord. Luckily Mr. Compass really DID find a direct route to the other station (although we are thinking now there might even been stairs between the two stations). We had to buy our ORLY-VAL tickets and the lines at the ticket machines were pretty long. We each got in one and waited while again nervously checking our watches. Danny calculated that the subway and airport train transport time was about 33 minutes, but that depended on them being there right when we needed them. After waiting at least ten minutes, Danny got to a machine first. The machines only took coins or cards for payment. Our two tickets cost 18.60 euros and we definitely did not have enough change to cover that, so we tried to pay by credit card. We tried 4 separate cards (ALL VISAS) and they all got rejected a message popped up saying the machine only accepted MdasterCard, some travel card, VISA,…we couldn't figure that one out, so we got in line for the ticket counter. There was only one person working the counter, but luckily the line moved fairly quickly. We got our tickets and ran to the subway.
Luckily, we did not have to wait long and we made a plan for Danny to take our passports and ticket confirmation and run ahead to the Orly-Val when we got to that stop so hopefully he could check us in for our Bratislava flight before the check-in time passed. He got off the subway and sprinted ahead while I wove through the crowds with my extra baggage. We both made the Orly-Val train and we were at the airport 8 minutes later…with about one minute to spare. Again, Danny sprinted ahead and I followed quickly behind.
Sky Europe, the airline we are flying, has really strict stipulations that you must be the within forty minutes of boarding - or your ticket is subject to be cancelled with no refund and you may not be allowed to board. As Danny and I were fretting on the ride over, I realized we didn't have any checked luggage so hopefully it would ok if we were a couple minutes late…well Danny sprinted in there and arrived at the counter probably about one minute late. The woman working behind the counter informed him that they WERE CLOSED. At this point, we really couldn't take no for an answer so Danny started pleading with her. Finally he said the magic words that we didn't have any luggage and another counter worker overheard and said it'd be ok, just as I was getting there. They told us we had to hurry to the gate, so again we took off sprinting through the airport.
We reached airport security and wondered whether we should ask to cut everyone. We didn't though and made it through pretty quickly and then continued on our mad dash to the gate. When we got there, sweating from all the running, the screen did not say Bratislava and we started to panic. We asked the ticket checkers and they said the plane wasn't even there yet! We had to wait another 30 minutes…it was RIDICULOUS! That gave us time to cool off a bit and get some water, but it was WAY too much excitement for one day!
As we boarded the flight, we noticed that we were not sitting together. We hadn't specified seats as a ploy to save money - that really worked considering the cost of getting to the airport for us that day!"
None the less, we made it. I had the emergency exit seat, which meant lots of foot room (Danny was jealous). The flight went smoothly and when we got to Bratislava, we pulled money out of an ATM (3000 skk = $150) which all came out in thousand krown bills. We tried to buy bus tickets but you had to have change for the machine only and none of the restaurants in the airport would give us change (apparently it is a hot commodity in Bratislava). We ended up having to take a taxi which cost us 500 skk - $25 which was definitely more than we wanted to spend, but by that time of night we did not care anymore!
We got to our hostel after midnight and checked in. The main reception area wasn't much but the hallways up to the stairs were really cool. We had a 10 person room, which consisted of four sets of bunk beds and then a separate backroom with a table and two twin beds. For some reason, we were lucky enough to get the backroom, which was really nice because we had our own light and didn't really have to worry about waking everyone else up. We'll see what else Bratislava has in store for us tomorrow!