I wasn’t planning on writing another blog post before my Erasmus stay in Spain ended, which is in about three weeks. Then again, I wasn’t planning on being stuck in Ávila and spending the night here. Thank you, Spanish public transport.
Okay, so today was supposed to be the day that I flew back to Spain and then took a bus from Madrid to Salamanca. Badabing badaboom. But, of course, as my luck would have it, there’s some pretty heavy snow in Spain at the moment. This complicated my travel plans quite a lot. This is the story of how that happened.
Disclaimer: this post will be rather short and it won’t contain any pictures.
11 steps of public transport horror
The original plan
According to the original plan (plan #1), my dad drives me to the train station, I take two trains to get to Brussels Airport, where I catch a flight to Madrid. After that, a bus takes me from Madrid to Salamanca. By now, it should be clear that that’s not how it happened.
1. My dad drove me to the train station
We had a family Christmas thing yesterday, so nobody was looking forward to driving me to the train station. Eventually, we decided that my dad was the person who had to get up at 6:30 to drive me. (Dad, if you’re reading this: thank you!)
So far, so good.
2. I took two trains
I managed to buy a train ticket before my train left the station, and I caught the train. Luckily, it was one of the newer trains in Belgium, equipped with an electricity socket. I say ‘luckily’ because – for some reason – my phone refused to charge last night. No harm done, because I was able to start charging my phone on this train.
I also watched two episodes of 11.22.63 (a show about an English professor who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy). I highly recommend you give this show a try if you’re into history and conspiracy theories.
3. I took a plane
This is where things started to go wrong.
Well, nothing too big happened. I didn’t miss my flight. It did leave about half an hour late, though. Presumably because of the bad weather conditions in Spain. This meant that the time that I had counted on for lunch (and to find my bus) was cut short, which started the avalanche of stress.
4. I ate at Burger King
For lack of a better alternative, I ate at the first airport restaurant that I came across, which happened to be Burger King. Add to this the fact that I wasn’t even sure I was going in the right direction and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
5. I waited for my bus
I had booked a spot on a bus from Madrid to Salamanca at 3 pm. After losing half an hour on the plane, I finished eating my burger and fries at around 2:30 pm, which gave me plenty of time to find out where my bus was supposed to arrive. And I did.
I went to the bus parking, and I started waiting for the bus.
This is where the public transport system of Spain started to fail me.
6. My bus was cancelled
After waiting for the bus until 3:20, I saw people start to leave the bus parking, heading back inside (where it wasn’t as cold and it wasn’t raining). I obviously found it rather odd that the bus still hadn’t arrived, so I decided to check Twitter for any news.
And that’s when I found out about the snow crisis in Spain. This was the Tweet that informed me about the fact that all buses in Castilla y León (which is where I had to go) had been canceled until further notice.
Información sobre corte de servicios y carreteras por temporal. Servicios AutoRes. Día 7. Todos los servicios Castilla Leon y Galicia están suspendidos en la AP6. Disculpen las molestias.
— Avanzabus (@avanzabus) January 7, 2018
7. I took another bus
This is when the “Googling for viable alternatives on my phone, which desperately needs to be charged again” started. I looked at taxis, buses, trains, Blablacar, hitchhiking, … You name it, I probably considered it.
In the end, I decided to go with an updated plan (plan #2), involving another buttload of public transport.
I take a bus to Terminal 4, I take a train to Madrid Chamartín, I take another train to Salamanca, and that’s it. Can you guess whether or not this plan worked? (It didn’t)
It started out fine, though. I feel like I owe you a bit of an explication as to what Terminal 4 and Chamartín are. Let’s see: Madrid Airport (full name: Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas) consists of two buildings. The main building houses terminals 1, 2 and 3, and it is (obviously) the largest of the two. The second building takes care of terminal 4, and it’s smaller and newer (built in 2006) than its big brother.
When my plane landed, I was in the big building, and my bus was supposed to be there as well. Upon finding out that it wasn’t going to come, I found out that the train station was located in the other building, so I had to take a transfer train (which was free, thank goodness) to T4.
8. I took a train
The transfer train took me to the T4 building rather quickly. This was when I was introduced to the wonderful world of Spanish trains, Renfe. I bought a ticket to get me from the airport to the main train station of Madrid, also known as Chamartín.
This was rather stressy, as I couldn’t find any way of finding out whether or not I was waiting at the right train track. Turns out I was.
9. I took another train
Once I arrived at Chamartín, I started looking for a train to take from Madrid to Salamanca. The ticket machine told me that every direct train between those two cities had been fully booked, so that wasn’t an option any more.
My dad recommended that I take a train to Ávila, and then transfer to another train to Salamanca from there, which was what I was about to do anyway.
I bought a ticket to Ávila, and I got on the train.
10. I’m sleeping in Ávila
Now, I’ve arrived here, and I’ve figured out that there is no way I’m making it to Salamanca today. All the trains had been booked again, the buses are still not driving, there are no Blablacars and a taxi would be way too expensive.
I informed my family, and they told me to stay here and take the train tomorrow. My dad booked a hostel room in my name (again, thanks!) and he gave me the address.
I’m now in my bedroom as I am writing this blog post. I’ve just gone out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant and I feel like I’m about to fall asleep any moment now.
11. I’m taking yet another train tomorrow
I’ve booked a seat on a train bound to Salamanca tomorrow morning. It might be a little tight, because the train leaves at 9:15, and breakfast in this hostel only starts at 8:30. And it’s still about a 15 minute walk to the train station. We’ll see how it goes.
With a little bit of luck, I’ll be in Salamanca by lunchtime tomorrow. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Thank God for public transport. Right?