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I arrived in the Frankfurt Airport tired, nervous, and jet lagged, and needed to get to Berlin. I also assumed German trains ran on time. I went to the DB (German Trains) office and bought a ticket with a reserved seat to Berlin.
Thirty minutes after my departure time, a fuzzy announcement notified me that my train had been canceled. Back at the DB office they told me to get to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to catch a different train to Berlin without a seat reservation. I found a short train to the Hauptbahnhof and then got onto a train packed with commuters visibly annoyed by my mounds of luggage.
After standing with my luggage and getting jostled by disgruntled Germans for a couple of hours, I got off at Fulda to transfer to the Berlin-bound train. Unfortunately, that train had already departed and I would need to find a different train to Berlin. I had already used up all of my Euro coinage, so I had no way of informing Alfa (my contact in Berlin who I would stay with for my first night) as to when I would be arriving. I found the next train to Berlin, and luckily the Ticketmaster was understanding about my situation and allowed me to stay on.
In Berlin I bought a coffee to get change so I could call Alfa, who was already back home, but gave me directions to get there. At this point it was so late that my complimentary public transportation ticket was about to expire, so I quickly hopped onto a bus with the right end-station. Evidently that’s where the bus was coming from (not going to), but it was too late for me to get off and onto another one because my ticket expired, so I stayed until the route turned around. Finally, I reached my destination.
Alfa had basketball on the TV and a beer ready for me, just to ease the culture shock.
~Arthur Gutzke, Illinois Study Abroad Office Peer Advisor