People were running past us, bumping, pushing; a chaotic spectacle. There was an announcement over the PA system, but it was in German. We had already carried the heavy panniers up the long, steep stairway to the rail platform in Mannheim, Germany. Rushing to catch our overnight train to Berlin and with my pre-surgery hip, I was already exhausted.
We were exhausted.
We had just finished a 5 day bike tour from Heidelberg to Rothenberg, returned the bikes to Heidelberg and now starting the final leg of our tour by train. Heidelberg/Manheim station to Berlin, Prague, then finishing in Munich.
Panic was setting in with all the passenger commotion on the platform, all charging towards the exit stairway. Old men with canes were stumbling and young people were struggling with heavy luggage.
â€śWhatâ€™s going on here?â€ť Chantal hollered, â€śDoesnâ€™t anyone speak English here?â€ť
A man, rushing by, heard her and exclaimed, â€śThe Berlin train is on platform 8, weâ€™re on platform 5, and it leaves in 3 minutes.â€ť
German trains are famously punctual so we picked up the heavy panniers and hauled ass towards the exit. An engineer, leaning out of a train window, who had heard this exchange said to us,
â€ťYa, das is Germany, ve speak German here!â€ť and laughed. I also laughed and almost tripped, with my pannier arm disconnecting from its socket.
But we did make it and found our seats. It was midnight, the doors closed immediately and we were on our way to Berlin.
As we settled in to try to get some shut-eye, there commenced much laughing behind us and every once in awhile, there was a whiff of schnapps. Turned out there was a soccer team on the car and they were just getting warmed up for a night of German soccer songs.
Chantal spoke into my ear, â€śCanâ€™t you do something?â€ť
But mixed with the sonic blur, there was the occasional frĂ¤ulein squeal, so I knew that it would be futile to dispute. And also detrimental to my physical health.
Gradually the singing, the laughing and the screeching subsided and all you could hear was the noise of the electric train â€“ metallic with a soft whisper, exhilarating yet hypnotic. I fell asleep.
I woke up with my face pressed against the window. The car was as quiet as a passed-out German soccer player with the stillness of an empty church. The sun was just about to sneak over the horizon. Wind turbines in the distance were strung out like a necklace. I looked up at the display above the doorway and the digital readout showed 240 km/hour.
The train finally pulled into the underground Berlin Hauptbahnhof. We dragged the panniers up the escalator, walked outside into daylight on a quiet, early Sunday morning, and sighed, â€śAhhh… Berlin… we made it.â€ť
Following are photos of our first European bike tour in 2005, after which we became addicted with cycling in Europe. Hopefully these will give you some relief from the lockdown.
[Click on any photo for the slideshow. Please leave comments at the bottom of the page]
January 14, 2021 at 4:27 pm
Very interesting. Like usual.
January 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm
January 14, 2021 at 4:52 pm
Great photos, as usual, Len. I have very fond memories of Heidelberg (in winter though), and hopes of getting to Berlin one day. In the meantime, I’m enjoying your blogs!
January 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm
Yes, Cynthia, Heidelberg is a kind of fairytale magic for me.
January 14, 2021 at 7:05 pm
My memories of Heidelberg date back to sometime in January 1976. I was studying in France that winter and my mother came to visit me for a few weeks. We spent a couple of nights in a B&B in Heidelberg. It was traditional – no heat but a huge fluffy duvet on the bed (which we had to share.) We happened to notice a cat outside the window meowing at us. We opened the window and he came bounding in, leaving muddy footprints all across the snowy white duvet cover. It took some effort to get the stains out… and we still talk about it!
January 14, 2021 at 7:26 pm
Cynthia, you seem to attract cats. Sounds like there’s a story there.
January 14, 2021 at 6:28 pm
Len, nice pictures of Germany and the train to Berlin story is great.
January 14, 2021 at 6:35 pm
Glad you enjoyed, George… keep safe
January 14, 2021 at 8:31 pm
fifteen years already! Love your story. The pictures are terrific. We would like to see more of Europe. Sigh… Someday soon we hope.
January 14, 2021 at 8:36 pm
John, yes 15 years goes by faster than you want. But we had been on many European bike trips after that. Hopefully soon, again.
January 14, 2021 at 11:32 pm
Wonderful photos that remind of another era of peace and prosperity.
Can’t wait until this covid nonsense is over so we can go back to that era and maybe do a little European cycling.
January 15, 2021 at 12:35 am
Yes, a european cycling tour would be very nice. This trip was the Romantisch Trail in southern Germany. I would do this trip again – longer next time.
January 21, 2021 at 4:15 pm
Somehow or other I just discovered these on my phone and it makes me want to take a holiday. Fabulous photos of a idyllic time. I seem to remember you were disappointed that the Cafe Adler was a bit like Starbucks! I think it is time to read The Spy that came in from the cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy again. I see you both drained your sorrows in a bucket of beer!
PS the narrative sounded good and authentic
January 21, 2021 at 5:11 pm
I was wondering when you would see this. Yes, we were lucky to see Cafe Adler before it was converted to Starbucks-like. This shot was in 2005. And yes, they have beer in Germany.
January 25, 2021 at 5:15 pm
…geezz loueezz len….what’s today…hmmm….25th….just opened this…craazzee inertia….AND YES….a welcome respite from the daily grind….although really not a grind at all….just a slow downward spiral….with not even a hint of a carnival ride….
…thanks….enjoyed this so very much….hope you and CHANTAL (wink/wink)….are doing well….and keeping safe …love….
January 25, 2021 at 6:34 pm
Hi Linda, yes, it’s Jan 25, about time you woke up. :-))
We’re doing fine, hope you and Tudor the same… Love…Len