Most people are probably thinking, HOW did this happen? Or “that would never happen to me!” Well, let me tell you I never thought it would happen to us either, but like all good stories, it did happen to us.
We were about 9 or 10 days into an Eastern European vacation with myself, my husband, our two babies (23 and 5 months) and my mom and step dad. So, 4 adults and 2 babies. This is our second trip to Europe with kids; our first time we only had one baby. We’ve ridden trains all over Europe. This was my FIFTH European trip with trains. Anyway, you get it….it wasn’t our first day or our first rodeo.
We started the morning off at our AirBnB in Vienna, Austria. We did our normal morning routine of getting the kids fed, dressed and then ourselves ready. We knew we wanted to catch one of the earlier commuter trains to Bratislava, Slovakia so that we could maximize our time there. We were surprisingly out the door by 8:20 AM. After a short walk to the Hauptbahnoff (train station) we were ready to get tickets and get out of town!
So, first thing we did is get tickets at the kiosk. The way these tickets work is you buy one round trip ticket and you can get on any train, any time of day headed to Bratislava and then you can choose your return as well. Easy peasy. No set times. We took our group over to the giant departures screen and found Bratislava – 9:15 departure! Sweet! Perfect timing. OH WAIT! An 8:47 train is also leaving. After a quick agreement, my husband and I decide to race everyone to the platform to see if it’s still there.
After some quick movements & an elevator ride, we made it to the platform. The train sitting there is not going to Bratislava, so we all conclude it must have already left. Since we know there is a 9:15 train, we decide to send Jimmy (who is babywearing our 5 month old) off for food while we wait; the second poorest decision we make all day.
As soon as Jimmy disappears down the stairs to get food a train pulls up. Destination: Bratislava. YAY!
I was pretty thrilled with myself because I knew I would have time to get seats and get situated and all Jimmy would have to do is get on the train and give us food!! PERFECT!! We board the train. (<-- WORST decision we make all day) My parent’s grab a table and the 4 seats and take Charletta with them. I am battling bicyclists to get our giant double stroller on the train. After they finally get their bikes loaded and I get the stroller situated the door to the train closes and the train starts moving. IT. STARTS. DRIVING. AWAY.
WHAT IN THE?!?!
This train, or so I thought, isn’t supposed to leave until 9:15!! STOP THIS TRAIN!!! I start yelling, but obviously, that isn’t going to stop this giant steel bullet. ……and then it hits me. I didn’t just leave Jimmy. MY BABY IS IN VIENNA TOO. My nursing baby. My baby that hasn’t nursed since he woke up at 7:30. My gigantic fat baby is going to STARVE TO DEATH. (OK, I admit, that was dramatic, but I was pretty frantic and upset.) Another thought hits me: Jimmy doesn’t carry his cell phone because I am the one with an international plan. This means there is NO way to simply call him and tell him what happened.
I didn’t know what to do but talk really loud and frantically while turning my cellular service on and begging for anyone to help me.
Two Austrians came up to help. The bicyclists. Turns out THIS is the 8:47 train, not the 9:15. And it was late, so it left immediately. As a matter of fact, the 9:15 was leaving from a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLATFORM. [FACEPALM] O-M-GOODNESS.
These two SAINTS pulled out their phones, tried to help me calm down, and started googling the Vienna train station’s phone number. My parents and Charletta are now standing with us. Everyone trying to calm me down while also giving advice/thoughts on what our next move should be.
- My mom thinks Jimmy will just get on the 9:15 and that we should just ride it out to Bratislava. (Time elapsed before Latham could nurse again: 2 hours 45 minutes [IF Jimmy actually gets on that train] and if he waits until the 10:15 train: 3 hours 45 minutes
- Ed (my step-dad) thinks we should get off the train at the next stop and go back to Vienna (Time Latham hasn’t nursed: NO idea because I didn’t know when the next train would be headed to Vienna AND we risk completely missing Jimmy if he DID get on a train)
- The Austrians think we need to call the station, get in contact with Jimmy, get off at the next major stop and wait for him to meet us there once all parties know what’s going on.
- I am panicking and not helping in anyway except crying and imagining my baby starving. I realize this is not helpful or productive, but this is what really happened....
I choose to go with whatever the Austrians say.
The woman (Barbara) has gotten customer service on the phone and was actually able to get the train station to make an announcement asking for “James Carlson” to go to the information desk. At this point, Jimmy appears at the desk and communication begins. And also a text message comes through to my phone. “You F*#king left me?” Apparently Jimmy decided to carry his phone (CHEERS!) and had accessed wi-fi.
The conversation from there has many explicit words and lots of confusion. I was talking to him on text. I was talking to Barbara in person. Barbara was talking to the train station on the phone. The train station was talking to Barbara on the phone and also talking to Jimmy person. It’s hard to describe the chaos. We ended up getting off the train with the Austrians.
Barbara and the lady from the train station were speaking German to each other, but English to me and Jimmy. The translations and instructions were all over the place.
Here is what we decided:
We stayed at the stop we were at. Jimmy was going to get on the 10:05 to our stop. We would rendezvous at 10:42. After we all agreed on the plan Jimmy bought tickets. We waited. We said goodbye to the Austrians & our only real contact with Jimmy as he lost wi-fi when we went to the train platform. Now we waited and hoped he showed up.
At 10:40 Ed and I went and stood on the platform the train was coming in on. I was anxious and upset and crazy. I wanted so badly for Jimmy to come bounding off the train with Latham and everything be right in the world again. The train pulls up. Ed goes to one end and I go to the other. No Jimmy. No Latham. The train doors close and the train leaves. THIS CAN NOT BE REAL LIFE.
I go into full melt down again. The train station employee who came up to see this fairy tale end was a little surprised Jimmy didn’t get off the train. He makes us go with him and tells us a bus is coming but he didn’t know enough English to explain. I assure him my husband and baby are NOT arriving by bus. I am BESIDE MYSELF. He insists we go with him.
I pout my way up to the bus stop. Cussing everything I see. Crying a little. Pouting and trying to think of ANY way to get a hold of Jimmy who is clearly on THE WRONG TRAIN to WHO KNOWS WHERE right now. I convince myself Latham is going to starve. I imagine him with Jimmy crying from hunger, but not having any solace. (Yes, I really am THAT dramatic)
A bus pulls in.
I know they aren’t getting off, but I entertain the worker by standing with him. Still pouting.
AND THEN I SEE HIM. A man with a baby carrier on. I literally SPRINT to the bus and basically leap onto Jimmy and force him to give me the baby. Jimmy is clearly furious. (and to be fair, I would be pretty upset myself)
The train Jimmy was on had broken down one stop after Vienna and they decided to load everyone up on a BUS and drive them to their train stops. Of course.
In the end, we made it back together safely. The baby ended up napping (twice) through the entire thing. Also, he didn’t starve. We only lost 8 Euro in train tickets and we all made it TOGETHER to Bratislava by about 12:15. We spent the rest of the day in Slovakia, met a really cool American girl touring Europe by herself & got to see downtown Bratislava & Devin Castle; the oldest Castle in the country.
What should you take away from all of this?
- Make sure all adults on the trip have an international cell phone plan AND carry their cell phone always
- Check and double check train timetables and platforms
- Don’t ever get on any train without EVERYONE you’re traveling with
- Again, all adults need phones that work internationally. ALL. OF. THEM. This could have been solved in 2 seconds if Jimmy had been able to answer his phone.
Let us know if you’ve ever had a crazy travel experience with your family!! We want to hear about it!
Fly Brave. Travel Often. See everything.