As with all love stories, things started out great between the busses and I. They were always on time and I always walked away happy. I have spent the first half of my trip convinced that bus travel was the best way to get around Europe. Sure, it takes longer than a plane or train and you get no personal space, but it is so much cheaper and I am on a budget. After my experience last night, however, I have been brought back to the reality of the situation.
Clean, bright and colorful. Surely there is no room for bad times here.
We’ll start with the not-so-great and work backwards to the good times. Last night I took a night bus (through Flixbus/MeinFernbus). Due to my own apparent inability to count and tell time, I left the comfort and free wifi of my hostel and hour and a half earlier than I needed to. This meant that I got a lot of extra time to enjoy the wistful ambiance of the nightlife at the Berlin Central Bus Station. There is only one waiting room, filled with the slight yet ever-present smell of urine. The air pierced by the crying of children, the grumbles of a drunk man lulling asleep followed each time by screams from his wife to keep him awake, and the intermittent announcements in German that I cannot understand at all and can only hope have nothing to do with my bus. A thin layer of grime covers the walls, the floors, the mustard colored chairs and everything else in sight. This is not the station I remember coming in to a few days ago. Do places always change this much after the sun goes down?
Finally, after what seemed like forever, my bus pulled up and everyone planning to get on made a b-line for the door in the hopes of getting a good seat. I managed to get on and grab a window seat, and almost had both seats to myself until at the last minute (literally 11:54 on a bus leaving at 11:55) and girl hopped on and out of all the empty seats in the entire bus she decided to sit next to me. I guess I should take it as a compliment; I must not look like I smell horribly or am an axe murderer or anything. But there is always a wave of disappointment that floods over me when the double seat gets taken away from me at the last moment, even though the other person paid to be on the bus just like me and is allowed to choose any seat they want. The ride, while quite uncomfortable after hour three in the cramped quarters, was thankfully uneventful (save for the three Germans seated behind and to the side of me that decided they wanted to start yelling to one another at random intervals throughout the night.) I arrived in Munich this morning ten minutes early and only had a short walk to my hostel.
I actually started writing this while still on the bus, dealing with the lack of legroom and yelling Germans. In hindsight, this honestly wasn’t such a terrible time. I didn’t get stabbed or mugged or anything. Bad smells and obnoxious noises are par for the course for most public transportation. I think I had just had my standards raised a bit too high by good experiences, and this was just a little kick from the universe to remind me, “Nope, this is how it is. Get used to it.” So while not every trip is going to be ideal, I have to say that I still recommend taking the bus if you’re looking for a cheap ride in Europe. Just remember to bring some good headphones and do some stretches beforehand.