Copenhagen to Lübeck: four hours. We’d reserved window seats to enjoy the scenery. On the map, it looks as if we’re going quite close to the coast and at one point will need to cross what ActorLaddie tells me is the Baltic Sea. I’m intrigued how this is going to work: on the way to Copenhagen, we crossed some pretty spectacular bridges and also went through some fairly long tunnels. I wonder if it’ll be a combination of these or whether we’re going to all be asked to swim across dragging the train behind us. I hope it’s not the latter as it’s raining and I’d rather not get wet.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle getting onto the 11.37 at Copenhagen because of a last minute platform change and when we get to our seats – wagon 72, platz 35 and 36 – naturally someone is sitting in one of them. We stand firm and wave our bit of paper until he sees the error of his ways and shoves off.
The seats are great: quite new, I think. Comfortable, lovely headrests; loads of room to store the cases. We have a table, a smashing view out of the window and for a couple of hours are as happy as sandboys.
At about half one, we stop at Roedby Faerge station and wait and wait and wait. Then an announcement comes over the tannoy in Danish and again in German. Everyone around us starts getting up. We ask our neighbours what is going on: apparently everyone in wagon 72 has to move to the next coach up, wagon 62. Now.
So we haul our cases out and follow the stream of people traipsing down to the next coach. As we climb in, it’s clear that the coach is already stuffed pretty much to the gills; people standing in the corridors and sitting on the cases. Sod that for a game of soldiers. AL stands by the cases while I work my way down the carriage and eventually find a seat with a rucksack on it, next to a woman who is pretending not to notice me. She tries to look surprised when I ask her to move her rucksack and further down the corridor I do the same thing to a stout gentleman, so we have bagged seats. AL finds spaces for the cases, rucksacks are stowed above our heads and off we go.
The train then pulls into a tunnel and stops again. We wait for a bit, there’s another announcement in Danish and then German and people start to get up. I ask what’s happening and someone has enough English to tell me that we need to leave our seats and go up the stairs to the top of the ferry.
Well that answers that question. What about our cases? The carriage will be locked, I’m told. We can leave our cases. So we get down our rucksacks, climb out the carriage and follow everyone else between some pretty enormous lorries and coaches to Door F, up many stairs and find ourself in the lounge of a RoRo ferry. We get a cuppa, look at the view, admire the windfarms and watch as Germany draws closer.
After about half an hour, there’s a general move towards the door and we follow the line of people down the stairs, between a few cars and then find that the people in front of us are getting on a coach. Hang on, we’ve followed the wrong people! We look around and can’t see anyone who is not in a lorry or coach. Neither can we see the train. People are starting their engines.
At that point, I panicked. Now, I haven’t mentioned the Parkinson’s so far in this blog because, apart from the nuisance of hauling around the meds, it hasn’t had much impact on me. Generally nowadays, it’s pretty much under control – except in moments of high stress. Like when we’re stuck between a couple of lorries revving their engines and can’t spot the train where our cases are. My tremor goes ballistic, no doubt sending shock waves through the whole lorry. Drivers are staring. ActorLaddie tries to calm me down as we wander between the lorries and coaches and then, praise be, we spot the train. We climb on as the guard is shutting the doors, we find our seats and then, in a matter of mere moments, the train is off again.
Gradually, I do calm down and start tackling the Guardian crossword, as the train chugs along through Northern Germany. Then there’s a sort of bump and a screech of brakes and the train grinds to a halt. The staff rush down towards the driver’s cab and eventually an announcement is made in German. My neighbour tells me that the train has hit a bike that was on the track. Apparently no one was on the bike but the staff now need to check that our train is safe to continue. Which, apparently, it is as about twenty minutes later, we’re off again.
We roll into a damp Lübeck at about four o’clock. Our digs are owned by someone called Wilhelm and, of all the hosts, he is the one from whom we’ve failed to get directions. Our first message was met with the reply: would run at the Holstentor and then still 13 minutes to the apartment. Follow up queries from me establish that it should take about twenty minutes to walk. But in which direction? I put the postcode into GoogleMaps and we set off to try and find the digs.
Google that day must have decided that it would be more fun to take the scenic route. About an hour later, we manage to find the door and as we are struggling with the logistics of the key safe, an old woman appears at my side and starts asking me to phone Wilhem as there’s water everywhere and it’s kranken.
I try and explain that I’m English and therefore haven’t the faintest idea what she is talking about. We’re just on holiday. Sorry, no idea. She keeps asking me to phone Wilhelm because there’s water everywhere. It gradually becomes clear that her apartment is on the ground floor of the building in which we are staying, though the entrance is at the side.
I start to wonder if there has been some sort of flood – burst pipe or something – from the flat where we’re staying. She keeps gesturing me into her apartment and I tentatively peek inside. There is her husband sitting in a wheelchair in some sort of reception room and there is a bathroom cum loo awash with water and – well, shit.
Take a photo and show Wilhelm says the old woman. No way do I want that in my holiday snaps but I do phone the emergency number I have for Wilhelm. He answers but doesn’t speak English so I hold up my mobile for the old woman to speak to him on the loudspeaker. There’s an animated conversation and then Wilhelm hangs up.
ActorLaddie has now managed to get the key and open our front door. He goes straight up the stairs – there are always stairs – and comes back to tell me that the apartment seems fine. No signs of floods or anything. The old lady has wandered back to her husband so we flee inside and start to haul our cases upstairs.
My mobile rings. It’s Wilhelm’s son in law: are we ok? Not very ok, I say, and try and explain what has just happened. Well, about the old lady and the flooded loo. I don’t mention the bike under the train or our close shave with the ferry. Someone will be with the old lady soon, he tells us: he hopes we have a good holiday and enjoy Lübeck.
The digs are fine. There’s a kettle. We have teabags. We have pizza. We watch University Challenge and by half nine are asleep. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Lübeck. I’d show you the bike of the day but alas, some idiot left it on a train track.
I took a similar journey from Denmark to Germany but as we arrived at the ferry were told the train couldn’t go on and we had to walk from train to ferry then on to a new train. Slightly disappointed as I’d like to have experienced the train getting on the ferry, but I imagine I’d have the same worry about finding the train again!
It was surreal and pretty scary, though I must admit, even as I was panicking, I was also thinking ‘this’ll make a good blog!’