When you’ve been traveling for several years, you end up accumulating a bunch of travel anecdotes that you find yourself telling over and over again when people ask you (yes, yes, they still ask us! They’ll probably ask us not to tell them again soon…) or when we gather with others and start sharing stories like grandparents.
We always believe that people are good and that they’re always willing to help. I suppose we might be wrong someday and get taken advantage of, but so far, every time we’ve asked for help or looked lost, someone has lent a hand.
Trains, Transfers, and Mishaps
In Lisbon, we had our hotel in the Expo area and had to return from the Jeronimos area. At the Belém train station, we were studying the railway map carefully to figure out our journey. Suddenly, a man started asking us where we were from, if we liked the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery.
At the end of the conversation, we asked him if he could tell us which line goes to the Expo area since we had come from a different direction. Well, he invited us onto the train. As we had to make a transfer, he got off the train, escorted us across bridges and tunnels, and seated us on the train taking us to the hotel. When we asked him to sit with us, here comes the surprise: he said no, he had to return to the other train to continue his journey.
We spent at least 20 minutes walking between trains to change lines, and this man did it with a smile, never thinking he had to do it all over again. We’ll always remember it as a great gesture.
On the last day we were in Turkey, we wanted to visit San Salvador de Cora in Istanbul. We knew we had to take a tram and then the metro because it was quite far from the hotel. We went to the tram platform where the ticket booth was, and since my Turkish is still rusty, I took out my map and pointed to the mosque for the ticket seller. He asked for a couple of coins and gave us our tickets.
We had no idea where to get off, so I showed my map again to the first person next to me. Seeing that we didn’t understand his explanations, he turned and shouted something in Turkish in the middle of the carriage. Suddenly, a young man turned to us and asked in Spanish, “Can I help you?” After showing us where to get off, he explained that the previous person had asked loudly if anyone spoke Spanish or English.
When we arrived at the station, half of the carriage signaled for us to disembark. We had a good laugh that day.
Another travel moment was when we were going from Kyoto to Nara. We got up early to spend the day in Nara. In principle, it’s easy to go from one city to another due to the quality and quantity of trains connecting all of Japan.
On the way, we stopped in Inari to see the famous Torii gates.
Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari
Here’s where the adventure began. We bought our tickets in perfect Japanese, using the famous technique of showing the guide/map, and the ticket seller said something we didn’t understand. As it was supposed to be a long journey, we started listening to music and playing with a DS. Suddenly, an elderly lady began making gestures to get our attention.
So, with a surprised look, I took off my headphones and heard her say, “Nara, Nara,” while pointing to the open train door. Since she saw that we didn’t understand, she stood in front of the door to prevent it from closing and practically pulled us out by the arm. T
hank goodness she helped us, as what the ticket seller wanted to convey was that we had to change trains if we didn’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere. From here, I want to thank this lady for her assistance.
In Japan, we also learned what punctuality means. If the bullet train leaves at 10:32, it’s at 10:32, not 10:30. We traveled from Kyoto to Tokyo on the Nozomi, the bullet train par excellence. We had purchased reserved seats for a more relaxed journey. We arrived at our platform at 10:25 and asked a conductor if we were in the right place. This man told us we were. Here’s where our odyssey began.
When a Japanese person says 10:32, it’s exactly 10:32, not 10:30, because if you board that train at 10:30, you’re wrong, and you have to stand for half the journey.
Thank goodness it was also heading to Tokyo, and they must be very accustomed to this because the first thing the conductor said was, “Don’t worry,” and directed us to the unreserved seating carriages. But first, we had to discuss with two elderly folks who were sitting in “our seats” and looking at us like, “What are these foreigners saying?”
These are the first anecdotes we’re going to share. We had to split the travel anecdotes post into several parts because it was starting to look like an encyclopedia.
Do you like reading about our anecdotes? Tell us yours in the comments so we can all have a good laugh together.