The HPSG conference rotates between the US, Asia and Europe. Since I did not go to the US in 2017 and Japan in 2018 because of Trump and climate concerns, I had to go this year. The conference took place in Bucharest. Since the conference was scheduled in the middle of the school holidays we had to plan our holidays around it. The holiday trip went to Stara Fuzina a great location in the Slovenian Triglav national park. It features the Julian Alps and Lake Bohinjsko jezero. It is reachable by train from Germany and probably from any other western European country as well. There were free shuttle buses into the hiking areas, no need to come by car.
On the way back from Stara Fuzina to Salzburg a conductor (not on duty) was sitting in our compartment. She told us that this year more people took the train, which we considered a good sign for some change in travel behavior.
Salzburg-Bukarest: 1424,4km, 22:22h
We stayed a day in Salzburg and then I went on with the Austrian railjet xpress to Budapest. I had 51 minutes for catching a train to Bucharest there. The train was 50 minutes late but I told the conductor that I wanted to catch this train, so he called Budapest and asked them to let the train wait. I nevertheless run to the other track. I saw the train and jumped right in, glad to not have missed it. I walked from compartment to compartment just to realize that the door to the compartment with my reservations was locked from the other side. I left the train again and finally arrived at my car.
The train went from Budapest directly to Bucharest. I had a sleeping compartment, which I shared with a couple from France and an older women speaking Romanian to us. The French couple wanted to go to Bucharest as well but left the train when they saw the mountains in Sinaia. This is something you cannot do when traveling by plane.
The trip Salzburg – Bucharest took me 22:22h. Apart from the delay of the train in Austria and the snoring Romainian woman, it was a pleasant trip: There was a power supply in the compartment and the LTE supply was good most of the time so that I could use the time to get work done.
The trip back was more adventurous. The original tickets were for Bucharest – Budapest – Prague – Berlin, 1862km, 27:56h.
The day before the trip I checked the journey in the DB Navigator app and discovered that parts of the trip were now scheduled as a bus trip with a later arrival time in Berlin. I also noticed that two different train stations were involved in Budapest: the train from Bucharest arrives at Budapest-Keleti and the train to Prague leaves 50 minutes later at Budapest-Nyugati. The trip planners reserved 30 minutes for changing stations. There is a metro connection that requires changing metros once. The Bucharest train reached Budapest with 15 minutes delay. I already checked the car connections and found a hint at trip advisor to not take taxis waiting at the station but rather call a taxi. I installed the Bölt app on my cell phone the day before I left Bucharest. I was ready for the things to come. I left the train, run to the exit and there were several taxis waiting. I asked them to take me to Nyugati (10 minutes by car) and they said they would drive for 20€. I said that this was way too much for this short distance and that I would call a taxi. They just shrugged their shoulders and pointed to their supervisor (the bad cop?). I called a Bölt taxi via the app. It was there in 2 minutes. The app displayed the license number of the car and the name of the driver. The driver took me to Nyugati as quickly as possible and the trip did cost 1800 Forint = 3€. The driver gave me a surprised look when I gave him 2€ tip. I was at Nyugati 10 minutes before the train to Prague was supposed to leave. It left with a bit of delay. Unfortunately the delay was not made up for: when we reached Prague the train had a delay of 40 minutes. The time for changing trains was 25. No chance of having the train wait. The conductor told me that more than ten people wanted to go to Berlin. Since I am a frequent traveler I am entitled to call bahn.comfort, a special hotline of German rail. I did so and asked for options. Dresden would have been the only destination I could reach by train on this day. German rail would pay for a night in the hotel or the cost of a taxi up to 80€. I discussed the option of taking a large taxi for the crowd that wanted to go to Berlin and sharing the bill.
The guy sitting opposite from me overheard the conversation and told me that he just checked and that there was a Flixbus from Prague to Berlin. Of course, bahn.comfort would not have send me to flixbus. There were two connections from Prague to Berlin: one going from Prague bus station and one, one hour later, from the train station. My companion was for the relaxed version, one hour later, but I checked with google maps where the central bus station was and saw that it was just 6 minutes away from the train station. I used my phone to book two seats in the early bus, just in time for our arrival in Prague. Checking google maps again, I noticed that I made a mistake and that it was 6 minutes by car not by foot. We jumped off the train and run to the exit to get a taxi to the bus station. There were two taxis and three guys hanging around. We asked for a trip to the bus station. They said something about 300 Crowns. I did not know how much this is but my companion said 10€. Since we were sort of in a hurry, I agreed and hey, the third guy took us into his car, which wasn’t a taxi. Arriving at the bus station he wanted 300 Crowns. I gave him 10€ but he insisted that it was 15. So in the end I gave him 15€ (=386 Crowns). It was great that I was so clever in Budapest just to spent my money on a similar gang in Prague.
Anyway we made it to the bus in time. In fact we had plenty of time since the bus was delayed. We got good seats and the bus went right away to Dresden, Dresden Neustadt and then to Berlin Südkreuz. We arrived there at 21:45 with just 15 minutes delay. Almost home, I thought. But then there were rail replacement buses for parts of the S-Bahn trip. Anyway, I was home at 23:00.
So, summary: All sorts of things can happen. Be prepared for delays, be flexible, consider taxis and buses. I guess the most relaxed way to travel is staying over in the major cities. Going to Prague for a day and then continue to Budapest and after another day continue to Bucharest. This way, there would not be any problems with delays. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the time for this.