Eurasia: On to Munich

This is the fifth installment of a story chronicling my travels in 1994 as a college student. The six-month journey took me to 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

My journey from Frankfurt, Germany to Graz, Austria by train was filled with experiences that I will never forget—meeting interesting people, carrying an insane amount of baggage after my luggage carrier broke, and watching a mix of scenery pass by the window that left me feeling both satisfied and disappointed. This, after all, was my first trip to Europe, and I thought the landscape would fit my expectations. The train trip from Frankfurt’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, on February 28 lasted one and a half days with stops and transfers in München (Munich) and Rosenheim, Germany and Salzburg and Bischofshofen, Austria.


When I planned my itinerary, I decided to travel by train because I’d heard the rail system in Europe was one of the best options for point-to-point travel in a continent compact enough to traverse in a matter of days. I bought a Europass in the United States that let me travel around most of Europe for a couple weeks. A poor college student, I was grateful that I could be mobile for a pittance. At the time, before the advent of no frills discount airlines, rail was the only practical way to experience Europe on the cheap.

I made arrangements with my German friend Brigitte to spend one night with her family in Rosenheim and hopped on a slow-moving train to her berg about 60 kilometers from Munich. Brigitte and I had written to each other for several years as pen pals exchanging stories of life in America and Germany, but we had never met in person, and I was looking forward to a glimpse of the life she shared in her letters. She wrote me in nearly flawless English, but I would soon find out whether we would be able to communicate.

Without a shower and paltry sleep for the last two days, my jet-lagged body cried out for relief as I waddled through Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof with my luggage in tow and Europass in hand. My mind screamed for a bathroom and a bed, but time marched on toward my evening departure. The bags weighed me down like oversized balls and chains with two duffle bags slung over each shoulder and an overstuffed suitcase smacking my heels and the ground. I felt the unforgiving urge to find a toilet minutes before the train departed, but to my misfortune, I discovered that the only W.C. (or “vay-say,” as they say in Germany) in the train station was located in the farthest corner of the basement. My immobility and imminent departure kept me rooted to the platform. I tap danced to get my mind off the uncomfortable feeling gnawing at my abdomen.


When the InterCity high-speed train bound for Munich pulled into the station, I tried to board as quickly as possible, but my ticket relegated me to second class at the rear of a long line of train cars. The ones nearby were reserved for first-class passengers. I jogged along the platform with luggage flailing behind me to the rear of the train in a 100-yard dash around a crowd of bystanders that would have impressed any obstacle course enthusiast. The hiss of stream and shrill whistle signaled that the train was leaving as I approached my assigned car. My teeth gripping my ticket, I jumped aboard as the impatient engine began to pull away from the station. I leaned on my bags piled against the wall next to the W.C. and chuffed with relief, catching my breath. I made it!


My victory was short-lived when I peered into the adjacent passenger cars and saw that every seat had been taken. I would have to stand or sit on the grimy floor in the breezeway for who knew how long.

As the train made stops at stations from Stuttgart to Regensburg, passengers began to file in and out and pushed me aside in their harried rush to reach their destinations. About half way to Munich, I managed to snag a seat in one of the rail cars and hoisted my luggage into the rack above, leaving my jacket in the seat to stake my claim. Rummaging for my toiletries, I commandeered the W.C. and transformed it into a makeshift grooming parlor. I did my best to clean up as the rails jostled the small space and sent me swaying back and forth. The face looking back at me in the mirror was that of a vagabond with red eyes, ruddy complexion, and the start of a beard that looked like patchy scruff. I looked like hell. Not a good first impression for Brigitte’s family. I fished out my shaver and tossed it back when I realized it needed a European-style electrical plug adapter. My American one was useless.

Hunger drove me to search for something to eat. I stumbled to the dining car but headed back to my seat empty-handed when I noticed a hamburger cost U.S.$7.00 in deutschmarks and drinks $3.00. Instead, I nibbled on some snacks I packed for the trip. The sacrifice saved some money but didn’t satiate the unfulfilling feeling gnawing at me. The glamour of European travel diminished with each crunch in my mouth.

I stewed in my seat as the train blew through the German countryside that I could not see except for the faint twinkle of lights, recounting in my mind what had gone awry since I touched down in Europe. Regret that I had bought an unwieldy suitcase and two overstuffed duffle bags instead of a backpack fell heavy on me. The reality of moving from station to station and train to train with such bulk blew away my assumption that I was on a one-way trip to student life abroad. I would have been better off a penguin herding my progeny.

I dozed off as the monotonous sound of the train wore on, broken only by the abrupt screeching and sudden silence that came with each station stop. I counted them like sheep as they passed one after another on the way to Munich, careful not to fall into a deep sleep and miss my connection. The stretched cloth-covered chair that barely reclined would be my bed for the night, a rare opportunity to rest before arriving in Rosenheim late in the evening. Who knew whether Brigitte would be there to meet me. We had spoken briefly on the phone to confirm my visit a couple weeks before I left the states; that promise seemed tenuous now after my recent misadventures.


To be continued.

Previous installments of Eurasia

1. Leaving America

2. Vancouver to Frankfurt

3. Adventures in Frankfurt (Part One)

4. Adventurers in Frankfurt (Part Two)

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Images courtesy of Microsoft.


M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Eurasia: Adventures in Frankfurt (Part Two)

This is the fourth installment of a story chronicling my travels in 1994 as a college student. The six-month journey took me to 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

Frankfurt 2

Thomas and Francisco, two acquaintances I met after I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, waited for me to respond to their offer to help carry my bags to the lockers in the main train station. I was unsure of their intentions and wondered how I could bid adieu without creating a scene. I suspected that they had ulterior motives, perhaps to relieve me of my wallet or other belongings, but I couldn’t dismiss the possibility that they genuinely wanted to help. What a mess I’d gotten myself into just hours after arriving in Europe! I hoped my brief stay in Frankfurt would not devolve further into a comedy or tragedy.

“Really, guys, I can take it from here,” I told them. “I really appreciate your help. If there’s anything I can ever do to thank you…”

Francisco held up his hand without a hint of malice and stopped me in mid-sentence. “Say no more, my friend. We’re happy to help.”

Thomas nodded, smiling. It dawned on me that the two were merely being helpful. I pursed my lips and chastised myself for being too mistrustful. Francisco held out his hand and shook mine. He said, “We wish you all the best with your travels, Michael. Take care of yourself. See you later.”

“Thank you very much,” I said, feeling a bit sheepish. “‘Bye…I mean, auf Wiedersehen.”

“Bye, Michael,” Francisco and Thomas said. They waved and disappeared from my life. I realized then that meeting strangers was one of the more fulfilling aspects of traveling abroad and that it was best not to assume the worst in a person at first meeting. Had it not been for their assistance, I might never have been able to square away my belongings. Instead, I might have spent time in a police station reporting some lost or stolen items. Francisco and Thomas were the greeters in Frankfurt that I expected all along.

I gathered my two suitcases, duffel bag, and shoulder bag and shoved the pile toward the locker room at the opposite end of the terminal. I moved them in stages, thinking each time I went back for an orphaned bag that I had a long trip ahead of me to Graz, Austria. I rented the largest locker available and stuffed the three large pieces into it and kept my shoulder bag to use as my daypack. I still carried my travel documents and wallet in my fanny pack, an accessory that I did not realize at the time was a great target for thieves who would rather have stolen small valuables than unwieldy suitcases.

Unfettered, I was all set to spend the rest of the day touring Frankfurt, but I wasn’t in the mood to see it. My ordeal from the airport to the train station soured my disposition. I still had more than three hours before my scheduled departure and did not want to linger at the station, so I headed to the city center for my first taste of Europe. I was not impressed. Despite being a major European city and the financial hub of one of the world’s largest economies, Frankfurt was a forgettable urban metropolis with a dearth of landmarks. Allied bombing during World War II destroyed the city, and most rebuilt modern architecture was rather bland. Die Römer, Frankfurt’s city hall, and the Opernhaus (opera house), were beautiful but nondescript gems hidden amid the high rises. Apart from street signs and billboards written in German, I saw few signs of Germanic influence.

Frankfurt 1

I missed home, my family and my girlfriend. I had no way to contact them with nary a phone card or a cell phone, which would not become an indispensable, disposable travel item for another decade. I told my family that I would contact them in a few days after I arrived in Graz and had no idea what I would have done if I got into trouble. With no travel insurance and on a limited budget, I needed to travel with care.

I sought comfort in the refuge of an American fast-food chain and ordered a hamburger, a dish that ironically originated in Germany but was as far from German cuisine as I could imagine. The burger tasted no better than it had in the United States, and while I thought it was a cheaper option than eating at a local restaurant, the meal cost more than I had budgeted. Leaving the restaurant, I went outside into the cold February afternoon and inadvertently stepped into some wet dog excrement waiting for me on Römerstraße (Römer Street). I rolled my eyes and growled with clenched teeth, “Crap, can anything else go wrong today?”

Scraping the feces from the bottom of my shoe with some tissue, I regretted my words for fear of jinxing myself. The day was far from over; there was still plenty of time for more things to go wrong. Jetlagged, frustrated, and dissatisfied by the bad meal that started to turn in my stomach, I opted to head back to the train station to wait for my departure. The last thing I wanted to do was miss my connection and find myself stranded in Frankfurt. So much misfortune had befallen me in Frankfurt that I was sure that fate would intervene again. As I sat in a subway car hurling back to the train station, staring out the window at the fuzzy emergency lights passing by me in the dark tunnel, I moped and hoped that the situation would get better.

Frankfurt 3

Previous installments of “Eurasia: A Poor Student’s Trek through Europe and Asia“:

1. Leaving America

2. Vancouver to Frankfurt

3. Adventures in Frankfurt (Part One)

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. Visit his web site at or contact him at Find him on Facebook or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Eurasia: Adventures in Frankfurt (Part One)

This is the third installment of a story chronicling my travels in 1994 as a college student. The six-month journey took me to 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

After a 19-hour journey from the Western United States to Germany (26 counting the 9-hour time difference), I landed without fanfare in Frankfurt. The transoceanic flight, the longest flight I had ever taken, was uneventful and monotonous. I hoped that something, anything, memorable would happen when I reached Frankfurt, although I had no idea what I wanted to transpire. Perhaps some imaginary people could wait for me at the gate to welcome me to Europe or congratulate me for surviving my first long-haul flight, although I thought nothing of the sort would occur after I touched down. I should have been happy to be alive. Not that I was at a major risk of being involved in a plane crash, mind you, but it would have been just my luck for my trip to be cut short by death.

I landed at Frankfurt International Airport (Flughafen) at about 3 a.m. local time. The time difference messed up my internal clock. Even though I arrived at the wee hours of the morning, my head thought it was noontime, and I was wide awake. I knew that I would be worn out long before the end of the day and that inevitably drowsiness would set in sometime after noon. I needed to conserve my strength for the long day ahead and straighten out my days and nights as soon as possible. I was on a new continent and needed to get used to it.

Far from extraordinary, Frankfurt at first glance did not look much different than what I left behind in America. The aircraft landed smoothly and taxied from the runway to a stop on the tarmac far from the terminal building. Except for the German phrases on billboards and runway markings, Frankfurt’s airport seemed like any other. I bid goodbye to my seatmates, disembarked from the plane, walked down the airstair, and hopped on a shuttle bus that took me for a ride to the main terminal. It dumped me off at an entrance, and I went inside without fanfare.

I followed a herd of passengers to Immigration and Customs and waited my turn to flash my passport at an immigration official. He waved me on without a word. Although I didn’t need a visa to enter Germany, I was surprised that he did not make me fill out an entry form. Incredibly, I had more trouble entering Canada, where the Canucks bogged me down with declaration forms and confiscated an apple that I brought from home. (Never mind that the apple grew up in shadow of the Canadian border – disallowed). Passing through German Customs without so much as a cursory baggage check, I made my way to the baggage claim and waited more than 45 minutes for my belongings. There was something to be said about being held up by border control while waiting for bags to arrive.

At the baggage claim, I met a nice Hungarian lady waiting for her luggage named Rosa, who spoke a little German and even less English. I enjoyed talking to her with a mixture of German and hand gestures. The time passed quickly while chatted. Finally, my checked-in baggage spilled on to the conveyer belt and passed twice around the baggage carousel until I collected them. I had two oversized suitcases, a large duffle bag, and a carry-on bag that must have weighed more than 45 kilograms (100 pounds). While I should have grabbed an airport luggage cart, I opted instead to use my own luggage carrier that I bought for my trip. I piled the mound of bags onto it. The thin metal frame designed to accommodate far lighter bags groaned under their weight.

I pulled my poor luggage carrier aside and recounted my plan to travel from Frankfurt to Rosenheim, Germany, a city outside Munich where I would spend the night with a friend. I would depart by subway from the airport to the Hauptbahnhof, Frankfurt’s main train station. I would leave my luggage in a locker at the station and spend the rest of the day exploring the city before taking an evening train to Munich, where I would connect with another train bound for Rosenheim. With this plan in mind, I set off with my overloaded baggage cart and headed for the subway level.

My trip took a turn for the worse when my fragile luggage carrier broke as I tried to pull it into the elevator, spilling my bags on the floor. Embarrassed, I abandoned the elevator to reclaim my luggage. I groaned and pulled them out of the elevator’s path. I squatted next to the pile that had once been my carefully crafted plan and set my most important possessions — my passport, Europass train ticket, traveler’s checks, and plane ticket — on the floor as I contemplated what to do. In my distress, I forgot that I brought along a fanny pack to secure my valuables. Suddenly, I had to figure out how to transport two suitcases, a duffle bag and shoulder bag — virtually my entire life — hundreds of kilometers to Austria. The luggage carrier lay at my feet in a twisted heap. I thought about using an airport baggage cart, but it would only get me as far as the airport subway station. I wished I traveled light, but it was too late to shed all those things I thought I needed but could have done without.

“May I help you?” a voice asked me. I looked up and saw a man standing next to me. He was casually dressed in a t-shirt and jeans with a small shoulder bag. I immediately answered, “Sure, thanks.”

“My name is Francisco. I’m from Venezuela but live here in Frankfurt,” the man said, holding out his hand. I shook it and introduced myself. “Nice to meet you. Thanks for your help.”

Unsure whether he was trustworthy, I scooped up my papers and money and stashed them in my fanny pack. Francisco helped drag my suitcases to a money exchange office, where I changed U.S. dollars into deutschmark (DM), Germany’s currency until it adopted the euro in 1998. Francisco waited patiently for me. As I gathered my belongings to go by myself to the subway, he said, “Look, I’m going that way. Let me give you a hand.”

I appreciated the help and agreed, giving him a suitcase to carry. We took the elevator down to the subway level of the airport. I bought an all-day pass for the Frankfurt subway at a kiosk. Again, Francisco waited for me. We took the train to the Hauptbahnhof. As the train barreled toward the city, the nondescript suburbs passing by in a drab blur, my newfound friend explained that he grew up in Venezuela but came to Frankfurt to study architecture and never left. He spoke excellent English with a Spanish accent. When I asked him how he learned the language, he responded that he needed it to communicate with colleagues and clients from around the world.

Frankfurt 2

I started warming up to Francisco but was still on my guard for suspicious activity. Something about him gnawed at me. Perhaps it was because he was willing to go beyond the call of duty to help a stranger for seemingly nothing in return. I heard stories of tourists who were conned and fell victim to scams — or worse. Nevertheless, I figured that I was relatively safe accompanying him in a high-traffic area of a low-crime city. And his story seemed credible enough. He explained that he had dropped someone off at the airport and was on his way home. He needed to take a train home from the Hauptbahnhof and did not mind accompanying me. He said with pride, “Frankfurters are friendly people who go out of their way to help those in need.”

After we arrived at the main train station, Francisco happened to meet his friend Thomas, a German man with unkempt blond hair who was dressed in fatigues, strange attire for someone living in a European city. Their happenchance meeting seemed to be more than a coincidence. Thomas had a look in his eye that told me he was a streetwise sort. The fatigues made him look as if he were ready for jungle warfare. I could not help but be suspicious of my new acquaintances. I wanted to trust these would-be Good Samaritans but could not get past the nagging feeling that I was being set up. Francisco had one of my suitcases. I had to find a way to get it back and say goodbye before they separated me from my luggage — or worse.

I asked them where I could find the lockers in the train station, hinting that I wanted to go alone. My apprehension turned to distrust when Thomas said, “You have to be careful here, man. The train station is in a bad area of town where a lot of people get robbed. We can help you out.”

Alarm bells went off in my head. I needed to get my belongings and bid them adios as politely as I could, fast.

Click here to read the previous installment of Eurasia.

Frankfurt 5

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