Shortly after we got to our hostel in Trieste, we were reunited with Alyssa. She had been there for a bit but sat at a coffee shop before joining us at the hostel. We spent the day catching up and relaxing around Trieste, a smaller city without many large attractions. We got lunch at a restaurant called Spritz@lunch near the canal. I had an incredibly delicious pasta alla arrabiata and then we added to the restaurant’s patron-fueled graffiti, writing “BAD WOLF” and drawing an Illini “I” on the orange wall. Right before lunch, I thought my camera had died so freaked out. While Alyssa and Michael grabbed gelato, I ran back to the hostel and discovered it was only a dead battery. Whoops. Alles gute. We walked to the Piazza Unità d’Italia, a nice pier, and a castle, though mainly we just goofed around. Whoo. We went to a cafe for some whiskey-flavored tea and rum & mint hot chocolate then returned to the Piazza to see it lit up at night. We had dinner at a cafe/bar where we got delicious pan inis, wifi, and the Real Madrid game before stopping for Bailey’s gelato. Yum.
There were a couple attractions nearby, but we didn’t want to risk getting stranded anywhere like we almost did in Tarascon, so we decided to laze around before we headed to Vienna and Budapest, where our days would most certainly be busy. So we grabbed some pastries and coffee and walked around before getting lunch at a place with fantastic gnocchi then some triple chocolate gelato (we don’t have a problem, I swear). We loitered for a bit before going into a grocery store for some food, snacks, and candy for dinner. As our last farewell to Italy (or so we thought), we got gelato once more, this time a delicious chocolate with chili pepper and ginger. Perfection. We got our bags from the hostel and went to the train station, almost 2 hours early, and thus, began the drama, also known as the Great Viennese Train Incident.
We tried to collect our tickets from the self-service machine, but it said our reservation couldn’t be found. Weird. We went to the ticket office and waited in line, only to get a firm “NO.” from the man at the counter, who sent us to the information desk where a lady told us the same thing, both of them saying that our reservation wasn’t showing up in their system. Both were rather rude and indifferent and suggested that maybe we were supposed to confirm our reservation somewhere at some point. We tried calling the number listed as the help desk, but got an error saying the number was unavailable. Frazzled, we headed back to the hostel, hoping to use the internet to look up the reservation, which existed, and check if it had charged my credit card, which it had. Back to the train station. Trenitalia once more told us they could do nothing, despite seeing our confirmation online. We told them about the error with the Venice machine, so the lady called that station, who told her we had bought tickets for blind people. Wait, what?! The kinds of tickets on the website were abbreviated, so we had no way of knowing this. Furthermore, her logic was that the machine in Venice realized we weren’t blind, so cancelled our reservation without notice. Makes sense, right? Given that they were already about 100 euro a piece, we were hesitant to follow Trenitalia’s suggestion and just buy new tickets.
By now, however, it was almost time for our first train, so we bought new tickets for that portion and had a stressful hour-long ride to Udine while reading aloud snippets of Bossypants. Upon reaching Udine, we were unable to buy tickets using the self-serve machines and all the counters were closed. Maddening! We saw a sign that said there was a 5 euro fee if you forgot to buy a ticket and spoke to a conductor right after boarding. Running out of options, we decided to just board and pay for new tickets and the fine. We went to McDonalds for some fries, then paced nervously until the train came.
Once abroad, I approached the conductor of our compartment and asked what we should do. However, he spoke no English and kept asking if we had our tickets. I handed him our reservation and tried to explain to him our situation, but wasn’t sure if anything actually made it past the language barrier. He left for a few minutes then returned and wordlessly ushered us into an empty room where he left us once more, standing dazed and confused. Baffling us further, he returned once more with cellophane bags filled with prosecco, chocolate, and water, a breakfast menu, and a bag with a towel, soap, and water. We were confused and after all we had been through, afraid to be relieved. When he came back to pull the beds down, however, we finally let ourselves feel joy once more and sat laughing nervously as we ate our bread from earlier.
At one point, Alyssa noticed that one of the bags had a note that said it was packaged by some foundation in support of the mentally challenged. Oh. That explains a lot. Given how startled and lost we were, it wasn’t a far stretch for the conductor to believe. Nevertheless, we slept like (god-fearing) rocks. Onwards and upwards!