The painter Bob Ross used to call mistakes “Happy Accidents.” Mistakes .that turned out to be a hidden blessing. Many of my mistakes weren’t necessarily happy, but all of them were opportunities. Often times, when we travel mistakes, can actually change the course of our journey. That’s why I am such a notorious planner before I leave on a trip. I read and research everything. But as the saying goes “God laughs when we make plans’. Either an accident or an unplanned turn of events throws the entire trajectory off. Many times it turns out to be something wonderful. Here are some examples of unexpected twists and happy accidents I’ve had traveling.
St. Elizabeth cathedral glows in the early morning rain.
I owe it all to a missed train. I was in Krakow, Poland looking for a train to get back to my work camp in Poland. I needed a train to Katowice and asked the window attendant, who didn’t speak any English to write down the gate. She wrote 7 which Europeans write slightly differently. I ended on platform 1 and ended up in Wroclaw instead. I knew I was in trouble when the train took much longer than I expected. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English to tell me where I was. I panicked for a moment then just took a breath and thought “where I end up is where I’ll end up.’
Where I ended up at was Wroclaw. Fortunately for me, I found someone who did speak English, and they said the next train to Katowice would be leaving in about three hours. It was about six am, so I went for coffee and just walked around and exploring this fantastic city I discovered entirely by accident.
So this isn’t so much an example of a mistake as it is an unplanned turn of events. I was in Rotterdam, Holland and buying a ticket to London. The lady at the ticket office said I would need to change buses at Brugge in Belgium. I’ve met several fellow travelers who I’ve mentioned that I’ve been to Brugge to and they always say ” I’ve always wanted to go there.” But for me at the time I hadn’t even heard of the place. The city was just a place where I was just going to need to change buses. When I arrived at the city my other bus was running late, so I just walked around. It was late November, and the leaves had turned, The city is ringed with canals, and the leaves were falling into the water like brightly colored boats in regalia. I feel so hard for the city, if I didn’t have an important meeting in London, I would have totally ditched going to the UK for a day or two. Brugge is at the very top of the “I must go back” list.
Another missed train story. Well sort of. I was actually on the correct train, it was just that half the train was going one way and the other half somewhere entirely different. I had purchased a ticket from Glasgow to Fort William in Scotland. I was planning on going to the Isle of Skye. The train actually split cars at one of the stops and I was in half not going to Skye. I ended up at Oban. I wouldn’t be able to get another train until the next day. I found a place to stay and headed over to the local pub for dinner. I was trying to lay low. There was a guy there a little intoxicated and boisterous. I remember the bartender saying to the man in her thick brogue “hush MacMahon, we have a guest here tonight.” Later the gentleman came over and apologized. I told him there wasn’t any need, we ended up chatting for a couple hours. He suggested I take a tour of the Isle of Mull which was close by.
The next day I boarded the ferry which was nearly empty. ( I was there in December, so it was the low season) I got to see a castle Monty Python used in the “Holy Grail” film and had a beautiful island all to myself.
Hlboka Castle, Czechia
I had to do a work camp at a zoo near Prague when one of my coworkers mentioned they had an assignment near Ceske Budovice that they were going to have to cancel. They were concerned about the nonrefundable fee and asked me if I would consider filling in. It was in the southern part of the country near the border with Hungary. Since I wanted to get Hungary anyway, I agreed to fill in.
The assignment was grounds work at a castle Hlboka. The villa was breathtaking, and the grounds were very well maintained. The people who ran the work camp kept us busy. The days were tiring, but on the weekends we got to explore the city. Ceske Budovices German name is Budweis and is where the original Budweiser beer was first produced. The Czech version of Budweiser is much better than the watery American counter version.
Sometimes international pop-ins are a terrible idea. I was in Budapest and decided to take a train down to Istanbul, Turkey to visit my friend Yusef. I didn’t contact him in advance, I just thought I would surprise him. I was the one surprised when I found out he was out of the country for a few weeks. At the hostel, I met a guy from Leicester, England named Ian who was heading to Israel to work at a Kibbutz. I agreed to tag along. Since he had made the trip before, I let him lead. He suggested going to Ephesus to see the ruins then stop at the hot springs at Pammukale.
The whole area was a treat. The Romans had an entire resort there, and the bigger pools still had some of the Roman tiles left on them. It was a very relaxing couple of days. I also met the niece of Lauren Michaels at the hostel. He’s the guy who produces “Saturday Night Live.” She had some great stories.
The downside of a Britrail Pass is sometimes it is so easy getting on the train you take the wrong one. That’s how I ended up in York. Old York is a lot smaller than its newer version but is still pretty densely packed with things to do and see. The city has a really nice wall and massive cathedral.
I was on a cruise last in 2016 of the southern Caribbean. The stops included Grenada, Saint Lucia, Antigua, and Barbuda as well as Dominica. So it wasn’t a surprise stop, but I had just planned to go to the beach and relax. There was a sudden change of plan for some reason, and the excursion was canceled. As a fill-in, they offered a waterfall tour instead. It beat just sitting on a beach. I got to see waterfalls, colored parrots and meet some Caribe indigenous people who were the first people to settle in the Caribbean area. I thought Saint Lucia would be the most beautiful island I would visit but ended up liking Dominica better.
It was the train from Hell. I was riding from Budapest to Sofia, Bulgaria. The train was so crowded and full of cigarette smoke, by the time I got to Belgrade, my throat was raw, and my eyes were almost fused shut. It was so crowded I actually fell asleep standing up. I needed to get out. I decided to take a break in Belgrade and hope the next train was better. I had to wait a day and actually enjoyed the city very much. It was the perfect place to recapture my wits.
This time it is a missed bus instead of a missed train. I was on the way to Derry in Northern Ireland. I was just supposed to connect to a different coach but totally changed my plans. I’m blaming the “Craic” (the Irish word for “good times”) I went to a pub and had too much fun singing with the locals that the bus went on without me.
Donegal had a great castle to explore. The Monastery where the book of Kells ( a famous book of the history of Ireland) was written and a beach that I had all to myself. I eventually got to Derry but was glad I had a few days to enjoy my “happy accident.”
So tell me about some great accidental discoveries you’ve had. Your comments and questions are always welcomed,