Free rides on the Metro

The Covington News - - Opinion -

When my sis­ter and I travel, we go on our own in the U.S., but over­seas, we like some­one to meet us at the air­port and give us a short half-day tour and then leave us alone to do our own thing.

We have sev­eral rou­tines we fol­low. The first thing we do is to get a map of the Metro (sub­way) and bus routes for the city we are in and plot what lines we need to take to get to the places we want to visit. They are gen­er­ally avail­able at the ho­tel main desk. Most ma­jor cities will sell all-day tick­ets or tick­ets good for a cer­tain time pe­riod. These tick­ets will get you on the bus and the Metro. Rarely does any­one check to see if you have a ticket, but if a con­duc­tor hap­pens to come by and check and you don’t have a ticket, it is a se­ri­ously large fine. So I hate to tell you, but we have bum­blingly man­aged to steal rides on the Metro in sev­eral ma­jor cities.

In Rome, you have to buy your tick­ets at the tobacco shops, re­ally stores that sell snack stuff. If you don’t get them early in the day, they sell out. It was Sun­day, and my sis­ter had to re­turn to a store that sold soap with the Coli­seum carved on it. All we needed was about 20 more min­utes to ac­com­plish that and get back to our ho­tel. But we only had 10 min­utes left on our ticket and no where to pur­chase an­other one. So we stole the last 10-minute ride. We were ner­vous, but sou­venirs are im­por­tant.

If you ride the Metro in Rome, you may be ser­e­naded, usu­ally by a man with an ac­cor­dion. His chil­dren (maybe) pass the hat. Be care­ful, they are pick­pock­ets.

We took a fast train from Rome to Florence so we could spend a day in Florence. We bought tick­ets and rode to Florence and no one checked on us. My sis­ter com­mented that we did not need to buy tick­ets. But on the re­turn trip, a con­duc­tor did come by and check our tick­ets. Good thing we had them.

In Vi­enna,

tick­ets are avail­able at huge mech­a­nized kiosks in the Metro sta­tions. The kiosks have ticket in­for­ma­tion in at least six lan­guages, sell a va­ri­ety of tick­ets and take your credit cards. We bought what we thought we needed for our stay in one fell swoop so to speak and then had some left over when the ma­chine at Schon­brunn Palace would not take our ticket. An­other ride stolen.

We bought tick­ets for the Metro in Prague at an­other tobacco shop and man­aged to get this small bit of in­for­ma­tion from the pro­pri­etor who did not speak much English. “Go through the yel­low gates.” We looked and looked and could not find any yel­low gates. We were imag­in­ing large metal gates painted bright yel­low. So we got on the train and rode to our des­ti­na­tion, tick­ets in hand. When we got off, the guard stopped us and noted our tick­ets were not stamped. We ex­plained our con­fu­sion. We found out the yel­low gates are small park­ing-me­ter sized things that stamp your ticket. He let us go be­cause he said we were se­nior cit­i­zens and had paid too much for our ticket. An­other ride stolen.

Prague must have a thing for se­nior cit­i­zens be­cause we never rode the Metro in Prague that some­one didn’t get up and give us a seat. I have never had that hap­pen in any other city.

In Bu­dapest, we had to com­bine trol­ley and Metro rides to get to des­ti­na­tions. The Metro has the stan­dard park­ing-me­ter things to stamp your tick­ets. But the trol­ley con­fused us. You have to get on in the mid­dle of the car and man­u­ally pull down a mech­a­nism which punches a hole in your ticket. We got on in the back and didn’t re­al­ize what we had to do. An­other ride stolen.

But we fig­ured it out. It was a good thing too. The next time we rode the trol­ley, a con­duc­tor came by and checked our tick­ets.

Rid­ing the Metro in for­eign cities is an ad­ven­ture in it­self from try­ing to fig­ure out which line to de­ci­pher­ing the sta­tion names, es­pe­cially in Hun­gry. Luck­ily, the var­i­ous lines are color coded. The un­cer­tainty adds to the ad­ven­ture of our trip.

Paula Travis is a re­tired teacher from the New­ton County School Sys­tem. She can be reached at ptravis@ cov­news.com.

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