Leaving Berlin for southern Germany
07.09.2008 - 07.09.2008
We packed up our gear and made our way to the train station with the hope of a small line at the glass dome to finally climb it, but after we carried all our gear there and discovered the line was longer than we’d seen yet, we lugged everything back to the station. Now, sitting outside a café by the train station, reality began to sink in. It was the end of this road, and a new one was about to start. One that didn’t include a different hostel bed every night, eating wherever and whenever we could, and lugging our lives around on our backs. It did, however mean the holiday was nearly over. It would soon be back to the reality of work, routine and a (somewhat) normal daily life.
We ate a last bite together of paninis and sweet treats, and bid farewell to Andy, off to catch a plane back to London. It was sad and strange to wave goodbye to our travelling companion of seven weeks. It felt like we were leaving something behind… Josh and I made our way to the train platform, Josh elated that he would finally get to ride a high-speed sparkling new ICE train. We were heading to southern Germany to stay with friends of Josh’s family, in a small town called Biberach. It would be a few days calm before the foreseeable storm of Amsterdam. Waiting at the platform, we were glad to see the train arrive on time, but it didn’t look like the ICE trains we’d seen before. Boarding the train through the old, tired doors, and glancing down a rundown passage with faded compartment seats, we were a bit confused.
Grasping our seat reservations, we entered what we thought was our cabin to see our seats occupied, and angry passengers saying that since the ICE train hadn’t turned up, everyone’s reservations were void. So much for paying for a reservation… We scrambled to the next available seat so at least we could sit down for the journey, which was with four middle-aged Germans. As all of the announcements were in German, and German only, the gentleman of the group became our translator. The story was that after problems with the ICE, a normal train was sent (the one we were enjoying the un-comfort of as they spoke), and since it couldn’t run at high-speed, we would be 90 minutes late. Josh and I were going to miss our connecting trains, and weren’t sure how we could make it to Biberach.
Everyone is the cabin was clearly peeved off, as we were. The ticket officer arrived at our cabin, and her explanation of what was going on was translated by our new-found train friends, and scribbling over our ticket, the officer rewrote our entire journey plan. We could still get to Biberach that night, although it would be a bit later than our original arrival of 7.30pm. Passing around our bags of lollies, we listened to German cursing about the way the day had turned out. Our hosts, Fritz and Hilde Gruner, didn’t have a cellphone number to reach them on, but we managed to contact their son, Patrick, who we’d visited in Munich. He passed on the message that at this rate, we would hopefully get there by 9.30pm.
Jumping on a different connection, we finally made it onto an ICE train in Ulm, which is incredibly fast to ride on. The train tilts as you speed around corners at almost 200km/h. We had beautiful seats in first class (thanking those winning train tickets again!), and it was surely a step up from the first part of the journey. I grabbed a bite to eat at the onboard café while Josh looked after our gear, and a lovely German woman struck up conversation about our travels and how far we’d come. I still couldn’t believe we were at the end of this phase as I rattled off country after country that we’d visited. The food was pretty good for a train meal as well…
Looking at the time now, it appeared that our new ICE train was running a bit slow. Typical. We still had one more connection to make in Ulm, about half an hour from Biberach. Josh hailed down one of the train staff to see whether we would get there on time, and after to-ing and fro-ing, and checking and re-checking, he informed us that no, the connection couldn’t wait, and we would have to wait another hour or so for the next train. Back on the phone to Patrick, and our hearts sunk as we arrived to hear the whistle of the conductors and our train pull out of the station. Another round of waiting… and finally, at 11pm, we pulled into Biberach station. Exhausted and red-eyed, we could see the Gruner’s waiting patiently with open arms. We drove back to their place, and were so grateful to be nearing a proper bed. After a quiet drink with them before bed, they insisted we sleep in as long as we liked the next morning, and that we would all share breakfast together when we rose. Basically already asleep at the table, we crawled into bed.