Final installment…the long journey home –
Before checking in to our hotel, we went to the DB booking office at Hamburg to see if we could get our tickets re-issued…because I had the next two days train tickets in my, now lost bag.
However as DB doesn’t record passengers names…they just allocate seats, there was NOTHING the otherwise helpful and friendly booking clerk at Hamburg station could do.
Also, with our travel agent closed on the weekend and we couldn’t contact them for advice and flying home in 2 days from London so we had to wing it and Julie dipped into her emergency credit card and bought three First class tickets for her and Ross to Brussels and for me to Frankfurt as I had to stay over at least to the following Wednesday…just in case and in all likelihood that my bag would never turn up.
Not having slept very well, I was a bit of a wreck that weekend but fortunately the thought of a high speed, typical German efficiency ICE train to Frankfurt took my mind off things…for a moment and when we arrived in Frankfurt off that expensive to use, 30’ late running, dirty windowed, dirty exterior, filthy and stained interior carpets in First class and the seats also needing a thorough shampoo with little explanation as to why we were late and combined with our earlier example of the broken down train from Cologne to Copenhagen had us strongly questioning the once efficient German railways which V/Line would definitely give a run for its money against.
Luckily for me we were to meet up with Julies life-long pen pal and long-time flight attendant Betty and her family who we all met at Frankfurt station and we all walked across the road to the hotel where we all checked in …and I went up to the room to try and change my flight which I was due to be on within 48 hours.
A couple of observations:
- International manual telephone operators no longer exist.
- Press button hotel room phones are not necessarily compatible with press button prompts.
- German telephone codes are difficult to learn (do I drop the ‘0’ etc)
We went out for a nice stodgy German meal and then to a cocktail bar where I was plied with schnapps and other concoctions to try to lighten me up a bit…it worked
Next morning (Sunday) we went to the station and I waved off Ross* and Julie* on the ICE to Brussels and London, whilst I went back to the hotel room to work out how best to walk to the Consular–Generals office. It was about a mile away so I did a dry run to see where it was and so I’d go straight there the next morning (Monday).
Frankfurt has its share of down and outer's and they seem to congregate around a block from the station. There were users openly injecting poison into their veins in full view of the public which sent a signal to me that Germany’s welfare system is somewhat lacking in its support of these people.
Arriving at the multi-storey building I explained to the concierge my plight and I went up to Level 23 and was given a form…and instructions to go to a professional photographer to get appropriate sized portrait photos done and to be back at the Consular-Generals office by 2PM.
All along though, my Commonwealth Bank Travel card in my wallet in my missing bag, loaded with Euro’s remained untouched and this gave me the impression my bag was in a safe place as nobody had spent any of the easy to spend cash on this card.
I walked back to my room with form in hand and decided to look up photographers near Frankfurt station and I also checked emails at the same time.
Then…from Scandicline the ferry operator was an email saying my bag had been found and had spent all weekend in the captains office sailing backwards and forwards between Germany and Denmark…and could I come and collect it.
Sure enough, confirmation by phone…it’s not difficult to make a German domestic call once a few tries have been made, so I said…I’ll be on the next train and to expect me the next morning. So I head up to the station, purchased my ticket and off to Hamburg with enough time to walk back to the concierge to let the Conculars office know I wouldn’t be at the 2PM appointment
The next morning the train to Puttgarden and to Copenhagen leaves with me on it and after an uneventful journey, we arrived at Puttgarden and I was able to watch the train loaded into the ferry.
I walk upstairs to the office passing the spot I was certain I left my bag…and sure enough it’s there and no contents had been disturbed or were missing etc…so I was re-united with my bag and I was back in business…less all those train fares.
As I’d already said to the booking clerk that I was in no real hurry tomorrow to get back to Frankfurt, I was booked on to the slower train that took 8 hours from Hamburg to Frankfurt…and as it turned out this train went via the Rhine valley.
The Rhine valley wasn’t part of my itinerary as we didn’t have enough time to do it justice…however this last minute decision by the clerk to put me on to a slower train ended up being one of the highlights of the holiday.
Next day off towards Brussels in another dirty ICE train with all the same dirty exterior and interior furnishings of the earlier trains. Arrival in Brussels, via a secondary line due to the main line having a signal failure…there’s a recurring theme here…
and I’m overnight in Brussels…and happy just to stay in my room without wandering too far.
Next day…on to an equally dirty Eurostar train…one of the newer ones and we are in London in under 2 hours including a stop in Lille. 17 mins through the Chunnel @ 130Km/h.
A pleasant day for a walk, I head off from St Pancras towards Paddingon and the £
6.20 tube for the 50 min journey to the airport.
Fortunately arrival in Melbourne was 45 late…at 4:15 which gave me an hour or so to catch the Skybus without waiting too long at Southern Cross for the 7:16 DOWN ballarat in the freezing Saturday morning just gone.
A couple of standouts:
GWR is liberal with free on-board refreshments in First class.
DB, is very tight with refresh and offer a tiny cookie and a cup of tea or coffee.
Dogs...dog urine everywhere around stations, particularly in Copenhagen as dogs on the continent travel on trains.
Fares are just outrageously expensive…AU$1400.00 or around $1.00 a Km, that’s the equivalent of paying $160.00 return from Ballan to Melbourne.
Trains on the continent in every case need a good detailing and in many cases a thorough run through the car washing plant and nightly cleaning of windows at the least would be a good start.
The presentation of the trains in good weather where they would stay reasonably clean is very bad and a poor advertisement for the various European railways during the peak Summer season.
*Names have been changed