Travel experiences gone wrong : Night buses taken and missed

, par Juuso Järviniemi

Travel experiences gone wrong : Night buses taken and missed
Sunrise by the sea in Helsinki, Finland.

They say travel broadens the mind – not least because travelling means unexpected experiences. Juuso Järviniemi recalls taking a night bus across Germany with a brutal action film playing on a loop, and later walking across a forest with a suitcase.

I attended the 2016 European Youth Event in Strasbourg as one of the finalists of the previous year’s Charlemagne Youth Prize contest. It was a European month of May between my rentrée from the Finnish military and starting university in Edinburgh the next September : After two days at the European Parliament, I travelled straight to the International Berlin Seminar of JEF-Germany.

Eye-stabbing all night long

Having been invited to Strasbourg by the European Parliament, I had my travel to Berlin covered by the European taxpayer. [1] I was originally meant to take an overnight train but after some confusion with the European Parliament, I ended up hopping on a bus late on Monday evening.

As we took off, the driver made an announcement in Polish. “Did I get on the wrong bus ?” I asked myself – and it quickly turned out it wouldn’t be easy to ask anyone else. I turned to passengers sitting close to me, but none of them spoke a word of English.

“Berlin ?” I asked. “Wrocław”, a middle-aged man finally answered.

The elderly woman I ended up sitting next to saved me from panic. She didn’t speak English either, but we found a common language in French. Tucked underneath a blanket, she explained that the bus was going from Lyon to Wrocław and that it was also going to stop in Berlin. She was a Pole living in France, but she was now on her way to a wedding in her town of origin. I thought my eight-hour journey was long, but it paled in comparison with the 24 hours she was spending on various buses to see her family.

Darkness was setting and most passengers were trying to catch sleep, but a film was still playing on the small TV screens above our seats. There was no sound or subtitles, but evidently a wealthy, busty American woman had a bone to pick with a man.

Scene after scene, the woman or her acolytes battered the man in a variety of ways. They finally killed him by smashing his face repeatedly with a sledgehammer and sticking knives up his eyes. Tall fountains of blood spouted from the pierced eyeballs.

When I said the film wasn’t exactly ideal for passengers who were trying to sleep, the elderly Pole told me the same film had been running on a loop for at least twice before. And indeed, it started again from the beginning after the end credits.

The rest of the journey went somewhat smoothly. As we arrived in Berlin and I picked up my suitcase, I saw one of the two bus drivers wake up in a small, coffin-like space next to the suitcases. Presumably, it was my driver’s turn to crawl in and get some well-deserved sleep. The bus continued onwards while I went to meet a fellow JEFer who had come to see me at the station.

Disko Partizani in a Finnish forest

Exactly a week later, after the Berlin seminar, I flew back to Helsinki – logically, via Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, I rushed onto the aeroplane after my flight from Berlin was slightly late, and made some small talk as I squeezed through to my seat. “You must have flown from the UK”, the man next to me said, commenting on my accent. “Ah no, I came from Berlin, I was at a seminar”, I answered.

We spoke for a couple of hours, including about how I was soon moving to Scotland for my studies. For the fun of it, I deliberately refrained from saying where I was from – as I parted ways with the Dutchman who worked near Helsinki, I could only guess what he thought my story was.

I was going to attend a JEF-Finland event in Helsinki the next day, so I was staying the night in the empty flat of a friend of mine, who was still serving in the military himself. He had hidden the key and sent me video instructions for finding it – like Easter egg hunt, but with house keys.

It was midnight, and I was meant to change buses halfway along the route. Problems began when I failed to find my way between the two bus stops as I was changing buses : I missed the second bus and learned that that bus was the last one.

It was past 1 am, I was in the middle of nowhere, and the only way to get to the flat was to walk for several kilometres. On the positive side, I wasn’t in a hurry, it was soon going to be light again (we were in Finland in late May, after all), and it was warm.

For the next couple of hours, I was walking on footways, on the side of a country road, and across a small forest with my orange suitcase. The only sounds in the quiet early summer night were the rolling of small plastic wheels against the ground and Shantel’s Disko Partizani which I was playing from my phone.

As I found the key to the seaside flat and gazed at the sunrise, I felt as though I had gained new life experience – and the adventures of the past week had again made me feel a little more European.

What’s your most unexpected, embarrassing or hilariously catastrophic holiday story ? Send us your contribution at tnf [at] jef.eu !

Notes

[1If I got it right, on average, each European had to pay around 0.00000012€ for my ticket. If you and your 100,000 friends are appalled by this lavish spending of EU funds, I’m happy to send your 1.2 cents back to you. Just give me your bank account number !

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