Day 2 (Saturday 19 October) continued:
13.16 Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof to Hannover Hauptbahnhof
15.59 Hannover Hauptbahnhof to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof
I had told Paul all about the train information posters that most German railway stations have. On each platform, a list of every train that will stop there, with a diagram showing how many coaches it will have, and exactly where on the platform you need to stand for your coach. DB can do this, I said confidently, because they are well-organised and it is rare for platforms and train formations to change at short notice.
Then our ICE train to Hannover arrived in a completely different formation to that shown on the poster, and stopped in a completely different position. Oh well.
Luckily, despite half the coaches being missing, the one in which our seats were reserved was still present, even if we had to sprint down the platform to get on it. Slightly out of breath, we settled into our seats for the journey to Hannover.
If that was the worst glitch to afflict our journey that day, I would be happy. Our biggest delay had been a few minutes, when arriving in Cologne on Friday night. I was aware from Twitter, however, that others were travelling around Germany at around the same time as us, not nearly as successfully.
The whole train has just broken out in spontaneous applause.
We are, for the record, FOUR HOURS AND FIVE MINUTES LATE.
— Tom Crame (@cranium84) October 18, 2019
On an ICE, in the middle of nowhere, over an hour late with little information and then suddenly a long announcement in German where the only word I understand is 'taxi' pic.twitter.com/iuCJBpfyzB
— David Frankal 🚈🇪🇺🇬🇧🇭🇺 (@DavidFrankal) October 17, 2019
I said a silent prayer to the railway gods, and crossed my fingers that our remaining two train journeys would be uneventful.
The problem with uneventful journeys is that they are quite dull to write about. Paul dozed off for part of the journey, and to be honest he didn’t miss much. The countryside is quite flat, and the various small German towns we whizzed through all started to look the same as each other. We called at Hagen, Hamm and Bielefeld, and I couldn’t tell you much about any of them.
There’s some people in the aisles. They think it’s Hannover… #TågFärjetur
— Robert Hampton (@Hampo) October 19, 2019
Hannover is yet another German station that has had a large shopping mall grafted onto it – a workaround for the country’s Sunday trading laws, which prohibit most large stores from opening on Sunday, EXCEPT for those in railway stations and airports.
Still, the presence of so many stores did allow Paul to top up his “travelling water” (booze) before the final leg of the journey to Hamburg.
— Robert Hampton (@Hampo) October 19, 2019
Another equally uneventful journey later, and we were rolling into Hamburg at about 5.30pm. We approached from the south, which was a nice change for me – on my previous visits I’ve travelled in from the airport on the S-Bahn, which enters the city from the north.
We passed the gleaming glass edifices of the HafenCity, with its brand new U-Bahn station, and a few minutes later we were alighting under Hamburg Hauptbahnhof’s imposing overall roof.
We needed to go to the hotel, but before that, like in Legend of Zelda, I had a side quest. My German friend Boris had asked me to pick up a particular foodstuff which is unavailable in the UK, so we made a detour to the REWE supermarket (yes, another shopping centre in a station!) to pick up Kartoffel Knödel, a potato dumpling mix which is an essential part of a German’s diet.
We found the item in question easily enough. The hardest part was dragging a fascinated Paul away from the “reverse vending machine” – a recycling machine which takes empty plastic bottles and spits out a few cents. He was staring at an old lady inserting her jamjar into the hole.
Boris said that the supermarket own brand would be fine, but I bought Pfanni, because it had the funniest-sounding name.
I was hoping for an automated checkout, but there were none, so I had to interact with a human. As I was leaving the area, the assistant called after me. Not catching what he said, and worried that I was being accused of shoplifting, I went back to the till, holding up the queue behind me, and asked him to repeat. He said it again, but I didn’t catch the German. I had to beg him to speak English.
“I said, ‘have a good weekend’.”
I know it’s unlikely to happen, given that it’s in Hamburg, but I can never visit that supermarket again.
We found our hotel, checked in and after a quick rest we headed out again in search of somewhere to eat. Our search did not last long, as the rain once again became torrential, even heavier than it had been in Wuppertal that morning. We quickly dived back into the station, where I knew there was a branch of Schweinske, a restaurant chain with outlets all over western Germany that I have visited before.
The waitress offered to bring us the English menu, but it wasn’t necessary – “Currywurst” jumped out at me from the German menu. Paul decided to order a hamburger, because we were in Hamburg, and I rolled my eyes – who would be that trite?
The photos above and below were taken less than 15 minutes apart. It’s fair to say I was hungry. Yum.
And then, where else to go in Hamburg on a Saturday night but Miniatur Wunderland? It was open late, until 1am(!) and the evening is a perfect time to visit and beat the queues. It was still surprisingly busy, but not so much that you could barely move for the crowds, as is sometimes the case.
When I visited back in March, I had no idea I would be back seven months later. I didn’t bother taking many photos this time around, because my previous two visits were very well-documented. It was still an absolute joy to see again, and I think Paul was mightily impressed by it. The airport, with planes that actually take off, land and taxi to the stands, is a genuine feat of model engineering.
This is a model.
— Paul Knapton CProf 🏳️🌈 (@rincew1nd) October 19, 2019
We stayed in the exhibition until close to midnight, before taking the U-Bahn back to the city centre. Eschewing the bright lights of the Reeperbahn, we headed straight back to the hotel and to bed.
Tomorrow, we would do the actual Train Ferry bit of the Train Ferry Tour.
TO BE CONTINUED…