Time to get on the road again, only with a slight change of plan. I’d originally intended to get the ferry from the Hook of Holland back to the UK tonight but having seen the way punctuality of the German rail network isn’t what it was – and my connection in Rotterdam being tight I’ve decided to have one last night in the Netherlands and not have to stress about connections as I change trains four times on the way. Right now, I’m ready to begin the first leg from Frankfurt (Oder) to Berlin. Let’s see what happens…
I had a pleasant stroll to the station as the weather’s still mild here. En-route I passed this sobering reminder of the country’s dark past. These two brass plaques were sunk into the pavement outside an apartment block. They’re a permenant reminder of local Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.
I’d given myself plenty of time to get to the station so that I could get some shots on the way. I’d hoped to get a selection of the meter gauge tram network but the little buggers proved elusive. It was only when I was almost at the station that a gaggle of them appeared, including this example.
The weather turned gloomy by the time I’d dug the camera out at the staion which was a shame as it’s a busy place. Rehional services to Berlin are interspersed with local trains and even international expresses from over the Polish burder just the other side of the Oder river. Heavy freight trains pass through every few minutes, carrying mix of containers, new VWs, minerals, chemicals and steel.
Not wanting to push my luch and knowing just how unreliable DB are nowadays I decided to hope on an earlier train (the 09:34) to get me to Berlin Ostbahnhof rather than my booked 09:58. It was a wise move. Despite starting from here it left 20 mins late at 09:54 so I hate to think what time the 09:58 will run at! My connection time in Berlin’s 24 minutes…
In reality the journey panned out OK. Yes, the train I should have caught was late, but only by six minutes. The extra time I had in the bank allowed me to have a wander before my train arrived in the shape of a pair of the older Intercity (ICE2) sets. I’m now set up in the quiet coach, laptop plugged in and charging. The advantage of getting the train from Ostbahnhof is the sets arrive empty off the depot, so you have plenty of time to settle in as only a handful of other passengers do the same. Next stop is the Hauptbahnhof which is mayhem as the platforms are full – and now so is my train!
It was all going so well until we left Stendal…
A few minutes later we ground to a rather rapid halt. Not quite a full ‘drop the lot’ emergency stop, but a very rapid deceleration ending in a slow stop. Then the crew call alarm went – which is normally a bad sign. It means the driver needs to talk to the train manager. After a while the train manager explained the delay was down to unspecified ‘engineering work’. As I’ve bought my ticket online from the DB website, I get regular email updates about my delayed trains and suggested revised onwards connections. The latest on also mentioned engineering work and also told me I’d still make my onwards connection – which was reassuring. Of course, that depends on nothing else going tits up! With that news and the fact I’s no idea how long we’d be stuck, there was only one thing to do. Find the bar car…
The delay’s annoying as I was looking forward to some spare time as Duisburg to get a few pictures before boarding another train. Now we’ll have to see. Right now we’ve just pulled into Hannover Hauptbahnhof at least 25 minutes down. The train’s getting even busier too. One or two have got off but far more are joining and, on my trip, back from the bar car I had to step over young people sitting in the vestibules.
I’m now relaxing in my hotel in Rotterdam after completing the trip, so I’m resuming where I left off earlier. My eventual arrival in Duisberg was over 30 minutes late which was a great shame as it looks like a fascinating station to take pictures at. It’s old and untypical of many German stations as the mix of shops in the subway is a mix of the exotic and the down-market. It was also incredibly busy. I had enough time to grab something to eat, find my train and that was about it. The station reminds me of Crewe back in the UK. It shares the same levels of faded glory and decrepitude – but with better food!
I was hoping for a more relaxed train across the border to Arnhem, but it wasn’t to be. A pair of units turned up which were busy before they arrived and absolutely rammed when they left, but at least I managed to get a seat. I’ve not travelled on the lines around here or through Oberhausen for years, so I was rather taken about by how much weeds and bushes are taking over. Again, it reminded me of the UK, apart from the fact German railways are so much bigger. The amount of freight is staggering, but then Germany is still an industrialised nation – unlike the UK, where most of our comparable industries were run down during the Thatcher government years.
I changed trains yet again at Arnhem, a recently rebuilt station which (compared to Germany) has few facilities. A Dutch four car double-deck EMU arrived to take us forward but this was far too small for the numbers and left hopelessly overcrowded. I ended up standing in a vestibule all the way to Utrecht, where I changed for the final time. The next train was another hopelessly packed EMU where I had to stand almost all the way to Rotterdam. Both trains contained lots of young people heading for a night out in various places, which may have exacerbated the situation. On the bright side? Both trains were spot on time. The downside? They were all dirty and graffiti covered, not that it seems to put people off from using them.
People often make unfavorable comparisons between the UKs railways and those of Europe. I can only assume the majority of those people have never spent much (if any) time actually travelling in trains in Europe, because if they had they’d know what simplistic nonsense is talked. The UK network is far from perfect, but the trains are in far better condition than those of many EU countries and that applies to the stations too.
Right, I’m going to bring this blog to a close. It’s time for bed. There’ll be time for a lot more thought tomorrow, before my return to little Britain…
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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