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]