Train Trouble

Friday, October 21, 2016
Venlo, Limburg, Netherlands
So, what do you do when you want to take a day trip to Maastricht, a cute town to the south, and you get on the wrong train heading NORTH?
Let me back up ... I had seen what I wanted to of Venlo and heard that Maastricht is a cute town about an hour south by train. It is also the oldest city in the Netherlands. So, I decided to head there today. 
I had a screen shot of the way on the train to Maastricht. I knew the stops and the times, because I'm anal about that. I bought my ticket and asked for a timeline from the man at the counter, just to verify what I had down. 
 He said, 'platform 1 in 2 minutes.' Well, my phone schedule said it left in 15 mins at 9:34 from Platform 4b, but what do I know? And maybe what I took a shot of was inaccurate? He works here. Clearly, he knows. Right ? 
I ran out to platform 1, and there was a train sitting there, about to take off. The sign said something that didn't jive, and I should've went with my gut. But, I got on. After our first stop about two minutes later, I was 99% sure I was on the wrong train. 
There was a lady sitting across the aisle from me with her young daughter. I asked her if we were heading to Maastricht and she said, no, Eindhoven, and eventually Rotterdam. She said, 'my husband works for the train, I will call him and see if there is a connection from Eindhoven.' 
*I'm still not sure what happened. Either he gave me the wrong platform (doubtful) or another train (the right one) was arriving immediately after (more likely). I take things literally at times, and it felt like that train was leaving in two minutes, as he said. At any rate, I was on the wrong one and NOT heading in the direction of Maastricht
The woman calls her husband, talks a bit (hopefully not telling him what a moron I am, in Dutch), and hangs up. She said I should find the conductor on the train and he would help me. He happened to be coming through to check tickets, and when he approached me, I said, 'I'm On the wrong train.' 
I expected to be frowned at, yelled at or maybe slapped on the wrist for my stupidity. Instead, he said, 'oh, it looks like you are. Let me look up how you can connect in Eindhoven.' 
He couldn't have been nicer. He said when I would arrive in Eindhoven that I would have three minutes to make my connection. We would arrive at platform 6. I would have to go down the stairs, to the left, and then to platform 1. It would be tight, but if I run, I should make it. Super.  
Ok, I really wasn't that worried, because I knew there would most likely be another train if I missed this one. But I didn't want to set myself back much more. But I had something to prove, some dignity. I wasn't about to give them the impression that I'm an idiot AND slow.
I asked if I needed to purchase another ticket for my mistake, and he said no. I asked if I had been the first to screw up. He said, no. I said, 'you better not be saying that. And I will have you know that I made my way here from Bulgaria!' By this time I was laughing a bit, and so was he. He said, 'if you made it here from Bulgaria, you are not an idiot. You are doing a good job. It's all an adventure.' 
It certainly is. He walked away, and I talked to the lady . She and her daughter were heading to Eindhoven to do some shopping. She said it is bigger and has more stores than Venlo. I was telling her where I had been, and she was asking how I liked Holland. We talked a bit more and then the Eindhoven station was approaching. She knew this station. And confirmed that if I ran, I would make it. I started to get up so I would be near the door, and I thanked her for her help. She said, 'bye bye and good luck.' 
I made my way to the door, and the train stopped. Had I not been given instructions, I definitely would've missed it. Not that it was difficult, but if you don't know a station and its exits, you just don't know where to go and have to rely on signs. I didn't have time to read signs. 
I ran toward the stairs. There was an escalator, but that would've slowed me down. I got to the bottom and went left. It was busy and I was dodging people, but just kept running. I saw the sign for platform 1. I ran up the stairs, saw the train for 'Maastricht' and hopped on. I found my way to a second class car and sat down . I probably still had a minute to spare, because I hustled. 
This is the the best part of the story. I just sat there and was looking out the window, trying to catch my breath, proud of myself for running fast (fast for me), and maybe, forgiving myself in the first place for the screw up. I am very hard on myself when I make a mistake, especially with travel. It was a double decker train, and I was on the bottom, which meant I was even with the platforms. 
All of a sudden, I hear a knock on the train window across the aisle. I'm like, who would be knocking? I look over, and it's the woman and her daughter from the train! They were smiling and waving, and I laughed and waved back. I had no idea, but they had followed (probably ran a bit, too) me to make sure I made the connection. Had I not, she probably would've helped me find the next one. They walked away to do their shopping, and about 20 seconds later, the train pulled away. 
I sat there and started to sniff. I didn't care that two old ladies were sitting across from me, wondering why I was sniffling and dabbing my eyes . Maybe I felt relief. Or maybe I was just overwhelmed with kindness from two strangers and a young girl. How wonderful that this mother showed her young daughter that it's important to help strangers from another country. Maybe she will do the same thing as a grown up.  
 My mess up today was not the end of the world. If anything, I would've gotten off at a small station on the way and just went back to Venlo. In the end, I only arrived to Maastricht 30 minutes later than I originally planned. I was only going there to walk around and enjoy the city. 
Yes, I do travel alone, but there are good people all over the world, like the woman and the conductor, who help me when I need it. And that is a beautiful thing. :)


* Note: I had no trouble on the return trip to Venlo. :)  
When I arrived back at the station, the signs confirmed that the train I needed for Roermond left from platform 4b, which is what I thought I needed. The sign for the train I took this morning (clearly at a later time) said platform 1. There are only like 4-5 routes in and out of Venlo, because it's a small station, and these trains leave and arrive on the same platforms. All the trains leave a good 10-15 minutes apart. I'm trying to think how maybe the ticket salesman and I miscommunicated, but now I'm convinced, for whatever reason, he made a mistake and told me the wrong train, which really didn't end up being too wrong because I still got to where I needed. I of course, I take responsibility, but my gut instinct was right. And that makes me feel a little better. :)