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Train Ride to Rome - March 10, 2003

View Photos from March 10 (25 images)

The night before, we made sure to park the car right behind the hotel, and to get some schneeballen and croissants for breakfast. Monday was an early morning. We woke up at about 5:40, checked out of the hotel right at 6:00, and were road to München (Munich) by 6:15.

We were just awake enough to be able to pool our brainpower to get us out of town and onto the autobahn. We were told it was about a two hour drive, but were a little concerned about the traffic conditions the restaurant owner mentioned. Smooth driving at about 140-160 km/h down the A6 to Ulm, but then on the A8 toward Munich we ground to a halt around Ausburg and things went pretty slowly from there.

Our train was to depart Munich at 9:30 am, and it was already past 8:00. At the current pace, we'd be there, oh, after 9:00, still having to turn in the car and find the train. So we prayed. Again. The trick here is that we didn't know where the train station was. We knew how to get to Munich and, once we were in Zentrum (the Center, downtown), we had a simple map to the train station, called Bahnhoff. The autobahn ended and became a main street with a lot of traffic.

We had to stop and get gas or we'd be charges an arm and a leg for returning it below full. Make that three arms and two legs, since gas was about 1€10 over there. Per liter, not per gallon. So we're looking at 4.545 liters per gallon at 1.1 $/€ = about $5 per gallon. And we Americans complain when our gas gets above $2.00!

Anyway, while Neil filled up with 45€50 worth of gas, Ginger and the attendant inside communicated just well enough to reveal the good news: keep going straight on this road for 12 kilometers and you run right into the Bahnhoff. It wasn't the easiest thing to go straight because of some of the wierd--angled intesections, but around 9:15 am we were circling the Bahnhoff looking for the rental car return. We were told it was in a garage by a certain hotel, but didn't see the hotel. So we pulled into a plaza with a bunch of taxis and put on the hazzard lights while Neil disappeared inside the trainstation to try to find Hertz. Amazingly, no one was in line at the counter and there were two Hertz employees there, so after what seemed like an hour to Ginger, Neil reappeared with the guy who graciously agreed to check the car in at the curb and take care of it from there. We rushed into the station--it was now almost 9:30--and thankfully found the platform of our departure in a couple minutes. The train was a few minutes late, so that gave us a little extra time to calm down. By 9:40 we were on the train and on the way to Rome.

The train ride that day was wonderful. Such a scenic ride Soutward from Munich, through Rosenheim, then into Austria through Kufstein, Wörgl, and Innsbruck, the site of the Olympic Games in 1976, the year Ginger was born. For hours we wound through the Alps, gaining altitude, losing green landscape, then gradually back down again into Northern Italy.

When we leveled out in Italy, we rode through hours and hours of vinyards, recognizable from the blankets of wooden trusses everywhere for the grape vines to grow on. Outside Florence (Firenze), we stopped dead on the tracks for a long time, maybe 45 minutes. Not speaking Italian, Ginger and I were at a loss as to what it was all about. The bits of English we understood ranged from something wrong with the electricity running the train, to a person leaping out of the train to his death. I guess we'll never really know!

It was dark outside for the last two hours of the ride, so there's not much to report on concerning the approach to Rome. We finally pulled into Roma Termini, our destination, about 40 minutes later than our scheduled 8:00pm arrival time. We were supposed to be met in the terminal by a driver with our names on a sign, but saw no such person. Neil figured out how to use a machine that dispenses phone cards for 5€, cards that are the only method of payment accepted at the pay phones. Both "emergency" numbers for the transport company were recorded messages saying that we were out of luck until the next morning.

Wary of the Roman taxi drivers, unaffectionately refered to by the Zum Schwan restaurant owner as "bandits", we got a couple comparative quotes on distance and estimated cost to our hotel, about 10€. We asked the taxi driver how far it was and how much it would cost, and his numbers seemed fairly un-bandit-like. We got to the plaza where the hotel was, and the driver talked to a uniformed guy. Turns out, the plaza was directly in front of a main government building where no traffic was allowed, and the uniformed guy was a military guard who said something in Italian that can be roughly translated as "it would be better if you let them off here and went back the way you came". So we checked into the Colonna Palace Hotel about 10:00, glad to be done with the anxious day of travel and looking forward to exploring the ancient city the next day.