That One Time Our Travel Went Horribly Wrong

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We are quickly running out of places that are within driving distance, and those that are left, we want to leave until later this fall and winter when flying will no longer be an option. But when a good deal on flights to Barcelona popped up a couple of weeks ago, we jumped on it! The flight out was on Friday night after work, returning on Monday evening. Despite excellent planning, I feel that everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. Let's start at the beginning.

We booked a train from Mannheim to the Airport. We've done this many times before and it's always been quick, efficient, and usually cheaper than parking the car. This time, our train was on time and arrived at the train station with plenty of time to catch our train. We got on and quickly found seats. About 45 minutes into what should have been a 30 minute trip, we realized the train must have been delayed. No problem, we had planned to get to the airport early so 15 minutes or so was not an issue. When the train made its next stop at the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, we realized that we had no idea where we were.

An ICE train pulling in to the Mannheim train Station

Instead of getting off, we made the decision to stay on, thinking that the airport would be the next stop. Just as the train started moving, we realized that the next station was Hanau, not the airport. It was now 7:00. Our plane left at 8:00. Starting to panic a little, I checked the Deutsche Bahn app on my phone only to discover that they had CANCELED THE AIRPORT STOP! There was no announcement. How can they just cancel a stop without saying anything?! And then the train between Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and Hanau was delayed. What was supposed to take 12 minutes took 20. We ran out, hailed the first taxi we saw, and high tailed it back to the airport. I ran in to check us in while Aaron grabbed the suitcase and settled up with the driver, only to find the check in counter closed. 

And that is when we realized that our worst nightmare regarding air travel had just occurred: we missed our flight.

Thankfully, there was an airline agent at the last minute booking desk who helped us. He called the gate to find that everyone was already boarded. He then helped us figure out our options. the first was simple: stay home and forgo the trip to Barcelona. The other was to purchase a one way ticket from Frankfurt the following morning. Since we had already booked tickets to see Sagrada Familia, Montserrat, and a hotel, we decided to book plane tickets for the following morning. The flight would get in around noon, meaning we really only lost about half a day. But when the trip is only 3 days to begin with, it's still a hard pill to swallow. 

The next stop was the Deutsche Bahn desk. For now, we just asked that they extend our ticket to include back to Mannheim Friday night and then back to the airport the following morning. After getting a little snippy with us (''Well why didn't you get off at the Hauptbahnhof? It's only 10 minutes and Hanau is much further'' Yes, I am fully aware of that fact now, but unlike you, I do not have the train routes memorized.), they obliged. We plan to request Deutsche Bahn to reimburse us the additional expenses that we incurred as a result of their problem, but I don't have high hopes. Germany isn't exactly known for their customer service. The train back to Mannheim wasn't due for another hour, and then it was delayed. First by 25 minutes, then by 40. But we did meet an interesting Native American shaman from Canada that we talked to for a while. 

The train finally arrived, we got on, and thankfully found a seat in one of those little individual compartments that has its own climate control. Now that the train was over 40 minutes delayed, it was hot, and nearly midnight. I was ready for a shower and bed. But nope, the delays didn't end there. We got stopped on the tracks and were delayed even further. There was an older German gentleman in our train and when one of the train staff walked past, he grabbed her and started complaining about train service in Germany. I couldn't catch all of it, but I do know he said that the privatization of the train was a horrible decision and called something (someone?) a schwein (pig). It was slightly comical, but I did feel bad for the poor girl he had trapped. She had nothing to do with the issue, and there was nothing she herself could do to remedy the situation.

Around 1 in the morning, we finally made it back to our apartment. A few hours of sleep and we were back up, catching an early train back to the airport for our flight to Barcelona. This time, everything went off without a hitch (except for the ridiculously long line to check in). we arrived at the airport 2 hours before our flight, breezed through security, boarded the bus to go to the plane, and found our seats with ease. 

But alas, the flight was delayed. Not before take off, but in the air. Apparently there was a strike of air traffic controllers in Barcelona, which meant that planes were required to come in slower than usual. I'm not sure if at this point the pilots coordinate themselves and are all like, ''Hey, Flight XYZ here, I am 20 minutes out from Barcelona. Mind if I land?'' and the next one replies, ''Sure, I'm 25 out, I'll wait for you and then I'll land.'' Or another one says, ''No way man, I was here first, I'm landing first.'' And then you hope and pray that the landing of the planes is not like the mad rush of people trying to get on and off German public transit. If it was, the whole situation would probably end in a fireball or a deadly game of aerial chicken, neither of which do I want to experience.

Thankfully, we landed safely without any mid-air or tarmac collisions. The delay did mean we missed the Sandemans Free walking tour that we had planned on doing, but this was a little bit of a blessing in disguise. Instead, we found a little hole in the wall tapas bar at the end of a dead end street in the Gothic neighborhood where they served craft beer (oh, glorious, craft beer!), frozen drinks, and a delicious assortment of tapas. After an eventful 20 hours, it was a welcomed break.

Do you have any stories of travel going horribly wrong? I guess I have to admit that in all the traveling we have done, this is the first hiccup that we've had and our track record is pretty good so far. Let's hope this is the last time!

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