Friday, July 10, 2015

Changing trains with a bike in Austria or the tri-international incident on Schwarzach-St Veit station

We took the EC train from Mannheim to Klagenfurt on our way to Zell am See. I had booked the tickets three months before to obtain two of the contingent of the cheap Eurospezial tickets. My pleasure at obtaining these blinded me to the fact that we had but three minutes to change trains in Schwarzach-St Veit. We arrived in Schwarzach, left the train, looked up the platform and saw the IC that we should take to Zell am See. We pushed the bikes along the platform, looked for a bike storage slot and saw a bike logo on the window. Unfortunately ÖBB (Austrian Railways) model their trains on the Eiger North Wall and there were three or maybe four steps into the train. I staggered up the stairs with each bike. We discovered there was only one hanging space for one bike. At this point a guard appeared and explained to me in what I felt was a rude tone that I should have gone farther along the train to hang up the bike(s). It was not clear whether there was one or a pair of hooks farther along the train. I was not gruntled and so expressed my displeasure with the design of Austrian railway carriages, his tone of voice and the lack of  signposting on the station to allow bewildered foreign cyclists find somewhere to pop their bikes. I have lived in the Fatherland for forty or so years and so can on occasion rattle off an acid phrase or four in German. The guard fell back somewhat surprised and left us. Judith squeezed her bike into a corner and my bike blocked the entrance to an out of order WC. The train climbed through territory that resembled the Canadian Pacific routes through the Rockies. We cycled it a few days later and it is well worth visiting. The guard was very helpful in Zell and helped us dismount. Probably he wanted to see the back of us.

When we arrived at our hotel, our friends were surprised to see us so soon. They had travelled down the day before from Germany on an Intercity train, but had changed along the way to a local train which had very easy access. It left Schwarzach 20 minutes later and stopped at more stations, but was a delight to load the bikes. If only we'd waited.

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