As any airline employee who has spent a large amount of time traveling standby knows, it can sometimes be very difficult to get to/from a destination. Sometimes you get bumped off a flight and have to take the next one. However, on rare occasions, you end up getting stuck for days, even weeks on end, traversing to wherever you can, no matter how far out of the way it may be, just to get home. Such is the story of the time I woke up in the Italian Alps.
One particular day my brother and I were traveling to Rome to attend a ceremony held at St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of our parent’s 40th wedding anniversary (My parents are kind of awesome). All the signs that this was not going to be an easy trip were there, but we put on our best faces and busted out our problem solving skills and after considering a million options (like going to Venice and having an adventure taking a train down to Rome) we finally forced the universe to send us to Rome a day late. We couldn’t have been happier just to be heading to Rome. The whole trip was lovely (well, other than having my bank account drained by some a-hole in Vegas, my uncle getting robbed by kids, and a super douchey taxi driver), but really… it was wonderful. Getting home was another story.
Remember that adventure I said my brother and I were going to have (the Venice to Rome train ride)? Well, we sure got it, just not at all how we expected. The day we were supposed to leave was a super lucky day (or so we thought). We made it on the plane and had a two-seat row to ourselves. We were feeling like rock stars. Then, after a four hour mechanical delay (in which the crew worked remarkably to get it fixed), the pilot got on the PA and informed us we were cancelled. We weren’t feeling so rockstar-ish anymore. So we took our unfortunate circumstance and went to the hotel to sleep it off and enjoy one more day with our extended family still at the hotel. Back to the airport and disaster struck! Another cancelled flight and every single flight out of Rome to anywhere was overbooked well into the following week. Rome was declared a dead zone for us.
Somewhere in the course of trying to escape a proverbially burning Rome we found my cousin (promptly lost her to some Italian waiters), made friends with another FA and her daughter, and a gate agent. Together we were a force to be reckoned with, holding all the tools and creativity to get us out of there we pieced off my cousin to Amsterdam, and the gate agent to Alitalia. Then there were 4 and we were a solid team of herded cats. Honestly, it felt like we all had super powers, each working tirelessly to piece together a solution. After engaging our super powers, racking up a giant phone bill, connecting to gypsy internet, much fighting and negotiating with the less than pleasant Romans (worse than what your friend told you about the Parisians) and many hours later myself, my bro, and our two new friends were jumping on train bound for Munich in a situation that quickly felt like family. NOTE: For the ease of the rest of this story and to protect their identities I will call them Sorella, the Italian word for sister, and Mama Bear, because she was our fearless leader who has actually fought a bear in her house once (you think I am making this up, I’m glad I’m not). Completely exhausted in every way we all fell asleep in our sleeper cabin, happy in a strange way just to be moving towards some sort of exit.
Waking the next morning was so surreal and unbelievable. Raising the window shades we could see that we had actually woken up in the heavenly Italian Alps (not France like we had somewhat expected… it’s happened to me before). Never in a million years would we have thought that we would be waking up in a train sleeper cabin with two people who, just a few hours ago, were complete strangers and staring out at the most magnificent mountain landscape we had ever seen. All I could think was, how the hell did I get here with these people!? I don’t know why I was so amused, that happens to me a lot, actually.
We had become so close in our trial and sleep that we decided I would, of course, be in Sorella’s wedding and have Christmas dinner with Mama Bear’s family. However, we didn’t know that we were going to be having all of these events in Italy. We had to change trains in this German-Italian mountain town on the border called Bolzano. It was the most beautiful winter story-book town I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating breakfast in (maybe even better than Chateau-deoux, Switzerland). Can you guess what made it even better? CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS! They make EVERYTHING awesome. They even had a chocolate Krampus, the demon to whom Santa feeds bad children. There was also a phantom sausage, potatato, and onion smell wafting from some shop we couldn’t find, just taunting our hungry bellies. Should I return I will find this sausage-potato-onion phantom and devour it!
Piling into our new Deutch Bahn cabin we made a new Italian friend who also doubled as a European who actually lives in Europe for Sorella to marry so we can have the aforementioned wedding in Bolzano. The scenery the entire way (including the attractive Italian) was spectacular. We passed through Austria and the German countryside with gliding ease and lithe conversation. The whole train ride was probably the smoothest part of our entire journey.
Our arrival in Munich brought on a whole other slew of troubles, which we simply quelled with beer. I mean, what the hell else are we going to do? We finally arrived at our hotel only to find our reservation had been incorrectly booked and would now cost twice what we expected (Remember how my credit card got ransacked? Yeah, no money on my end except the few Euros I still had). Thankfully the beautiful receptionists took pity on us and allowed us to stay at our usual rate. So, we celebrated with much beer and a warm, meaty meal at the Hofbrau Haus, followed by more beer and local friends at Schneider Weiss. Let me tell you, beer solves all your problems… almost.
The final adventure was to get home and I had to separate earlier than expected from my group of weary travelers and navigate the trains alone. I left them perfect instructions for getting to the airport, but did I also save those instructions for myself? No. That is a preposterous idea! I have navigated the DB before and I can do it again! Or, I can just show up at the train station, ticketless, and hop on the train marked Flughafen and pray to God that no one realizes that I bought the wrong train ticket.
In the end, we all made it to the airport, caught our flights, and landed safely in our respective homes. It was a strange and wonderful journey. I would like to offer a special thank you to my family and all the wonderful people I met along the way.