The day after the program ended I spent most of the morning packing and cleaning up the apartment. It was the first time I was reluctant for a semester to end, and I knew I would probably never see this apartment again. Campbell had already left for Istanbul and Stan was leaving later that day to stay with his grandma in a small Czech town. Molly was off seeing the European Union’s longest escalator while I finished packing my bags for the train to Amsterdam later that day. I then realized that the train left in only forty five minutes and Molly was not back yet. I still wasn’t finished packing, so when she finally got back to the apartment it was a mad rush to get to the train before its departure.
With only a moment to look back at our apartment on Benedikstka street to appreciate all that had happened here, we ran towards the tram to get to the train station while I carried everything we owned. What followed were some of the most stressful hours of my life.
Our train was the furthest platform in the station, so we had to sprint to make it in time. The handle of my bag on wheels was broken so I constantly had to readjust it and I was definitely cussing with frustration the whole way through the station. It was my first time riding the trains in Europe so I wasn’t exactly sure where to go, but while roaming the narrow corridors a bag fell off my shoulder and was grabbed by an elderly man, who handed it back to me. I thanked him, and he asked in broken English whether or not I had gotten my ticket stamped. I told him no, and he looked alarmed and told me I needed to go to the officer right outside the door, about ten yards away.
I resisted at first, but the man insisted this was absolutely necessary for every passenger. Molly had already walked down the corridor looking for our seats, and I was too stressed and too tired to remember any of the stranger-danger lessons I had been taught. So I put my bags down and walked over to the officer who would stamp my ticket. I looked back and the man on the train was urging me forward and pointing out the officer who I needed to speak with. So I turned around and handed him my ticket, but he gave me a curious look, and in that moment I realized what I had done.
I sprinted back to my train car to see the man had disappeared along with my backpack. I was too shocked to realize what had just happened, and this backpack contained my most prized possessions: my laptop, camera, kindle, movie collection,and books. Within only a few seconds I heard a voice speaking in Czech over the intercom and the train began its journey out of the station. That sneaky thief had conned me out of all my stuff, and if I didn’t get it back my valuables would probably be sold over the black market.
Molly came back and I told her what had happened, so we both split up wandering the train telling everyone that my bag had disappeared. The customer service on the train was awful, the worst I have ever experienced, which made it particularly disappointing considering the severity of the situation. With only one exception, every train employee who I talked to simply shrugged their shoulders and told me this wasn’t their responsibility. I was livid.
I called the ISA office and Lucie and Daniela were very helpful and called the Czech police to try to track down the man that stole my bag. I even called the Apple store to see if there was any way to track my laptop. My heart sank as I realized there was nothing they could do; my stuff was gone. The next hours were without question the worst of the semester, as I sat trapped in my tiny train bunk with my computer gone, thinking I would fail my classes as I had to start all my final papers over. I had not finished all my projects and since I had not e-mailed them to myself there was nothing else I could do but start over.
I’m sure I must have been a terrible travel companion that day. Molly tried to cheer me up by saying that someday I would look back on this day and laugh. “Well I’m not laughing now!” I snapped. What made the whole situation worse was being stuck in a cramped sleeper car with nowhere else to go but wander the corridors.
When we got to Amsterdam the weather was gray and gloomy, fitting for what my mood was like. Amsterdam is very beautiful but I was in no mood to enjoy the city. I wouldn’t have time to anyways. I called the ISA office again and Daniela explained to me that I couldn’t have any more than an extra day to finish my finals, so I headed to the Amsterdam Public Library to write all my papers while Molly saw all the tourist sites and explored the city. In the hours I spent re-writing my finals in the library, I realized for the first time since I arrived in Europe that I was sick of traveling and really just wanted to go home.
I did get a chance to walk around Amsterdam a bit and explore the city, although I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more under better circumstances. I was also planning to go to Brussels after Amsterdam but I had too much to get done and really wasn’t in the mood, so after a few days in Amsterdam I booked a flight back to Prague, which I decided was a much better option than taking the train. Although I wanted to go home, that wasn’t really an option considering my family was coming soon for a two-week vacation, so I went to the closest home I had at the time: Prague.
When I returned, Prague felt empty, and I had booked a bed at the only hostel I knew of: The Old Prague Hostel, which unfortunately was literally right across the street from my old apartment on Benedikstka street. All my friends had left Prague and I spent all my time between the Prague hostel and the library rewriting my papers. I also went to the police station to file a police report with Lucie, and although I was hopeful, the chances that they would find my computer were miniscule, and they never ended up finding anything.
Although this week was the worst I had spent in Europe and I felt angry, stupid, and embarrassed for stepping away from my bag and having it stolen, the next two and a half weeks were much, much better. My family soon arrived and we traveled around four countries and I finished all my finals in time so everything worked out alright in the end. Having all your possessions stolen is always a terrible way to end your semester, but it had already been the best semester of my life, so besides that unfortunate event, I had loved my time in Europe and really had no reason to complain.