If I never travel with Deutsche Bahn again it will be too soon…

12th June: OK – if I’ve ever complained about the UK railways, I apologise wholeheartedly. Not to Virgin Trains, obviously, as none of the other European companies has so far abandoned me on the platform at Carstairs with a shouted instruction to¬† ‘get on the next train that comes along’ although on my DB trip last Saturday they came close, only it was at Copenhagen not Carstairs.

I write this part of the post on a DB train that was supposed to take me to Cologne in a first class sleeping compartment, but not only did my coach not appear with the rest of the train in Copenhagen, apparently because of the after-effects of bad storms in the north of Germany, but the train isn’t going to Cologne at all. I’ve managed to find a couchette somewhere + the conductor has ‘promised’ to throw me out on the platform at Dortmund at five o’clock in the morning, from where I am desperately hoping they might still get me to Brussels in time to catch my Eurostar connection. As they will only have about 7 hours to do that, in the morning, I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath.
And by the way, I won’t be able to post this for a while because there’s no WiFi on the train and all my gadgets are running out of power as there are no power points. Also I have had to ingest another of DB’s nasty cheese, mayonnaise and gherkin sandwiches and will probably be unable to sleep. I know from past experience it’s almost impossible to sleep in a couchette anyway.

In the morning  Р13th June.
So far, so good. I lulled myself to sleep after a while by devising a contest to find the worst train operator in Europe, but I couldn’t make up my mind if the honour would go to Virgin Trains or Deutsche Bahn. Will have to think that through later.
I think I may be on my way to Cologne now, although of course it’s hard to tell.
A little later – yes, this seems to be Cologne. Cathedral just outside the station, check. Starbucks on the square, check. Lack of functional public WiFi, check. I still quite like Cologne, and at least I seem to be here in plenty of time for my connection to Brussels. You may detect a note of uncertainty in my tone. That’s because almost every train on the departures board here is showing delays or reduced numbers of coaches.

A little later again… waiting for Eurostar at Brussels Midi. The thalys train got us here from Cologne very smoothly. I’ve checked in before almost everyone else so came through passport + customs in no time. I just couldn’t face the stress of hanging around in yet another station wondering if I was in the right place or not. At least with Eurostar it’s all so formal that you can’t really go wrong – but I might yet find a way. Just eaten a great piece of quiche in one of the station cafes – no weird cheese and gherkin sandwiches here.
An hour or two later: in the tunnel.
Another hour or so later that same day: back to the splendour of East Coast first class travel.
There may be more railway pics later once I collate the results from all my devices.

Dortmund station
Dortmund station, around 5 a.m.

What to do while waiting

Despite the thrill of sailing right into the harbour at Helsinki with Silja line and the inconvenience of having to travel to Turku to catch the Viking line ferry, I thought the Viking one was better – or at least my cabin was. For a start, it wasn’t situated away down under the car decks. Instead it was on deck 8 – there were 11 or 12 decks altogether – and had its own porthole. No, kindle fire auto-correct, it definitely didn’t have any potholes. My only regret was not being able to spend longer enjoying this, as it arrived in Stockholm at around 6.30 a.m. I suppose some people had the stamina to stay up late enjoying the restaurants, spas, casinos and shopping facilities, but not me. I was in my cabin quite early on, trying to work out how to switch off the cute little lights round the porthole. Of course there was so much daylight anyway that extra little lights made very little difference. I had sort of planned to take a bus tour during my five hours in Stockholm, but the most I managed was an extremely short stroll round the town hall and an hour or two in almost the same place I had sat on Sunday. The weather was similarly pleasant too.

Stockholm - town hall
Stockholm – town hall
Stockholm Central Station
Stockholm Central Station

I wasn’t too far from Stockholm central station, so I had no trouble getting back there with the statutory two hours to spare before my train time. It’s only an hour for UK trains. But on this trip I have often needed extra time to work out how to open luggage lockers, to make sure I have the right currency and attempt to buy suitable refreshments – in this case a power bar with yogurt and Apple and approximately five pounds of sugar, a giant twix in case that wasn’t enough sugar, and a banana. Then of course I have to find my way to the platform, usually so far from the station concourse that I’m extremely glad the relevant authorities seem to be able to decide on which train departs from which platform hours beforehand, unlike the people who run King’s Cross and Edinburgh Haymarket, to name but two stations I know well. Note added later: this last point is not of course applicable to Deutsche Bahn, but more on that in my next post.