Category Archives: Belgium

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.

Stop and start

It isn’t as bad as missing a train, of course, but waiting for a train can be a little trying, especially when the station is extremely busy – as St Pancras is today. Still, I can sit and admire the architecture for a while. There are lovely Victorian tiles on the upper floor and of course the lovely roof which I will try and photograph later.
Just heard the first train announcement in French, which makes me realise I am well on the way.

Something I hadn’t noticed before is that it’s hard to see where the Eurostar info is – but I think the last time I used it there were three of us travelling together, which was a good plan – one to mind the luggage, one to forage for food and one to wander about until they found the departures board.

A bit later + still no WiFi….
Well, they seem to be letting me leave the country anyway – probably too intimidated by my passport photo to stop me!
A bit later… Help! I’m in Belgium.

Bruxelles station, waiting for Thalys train to Cologne. After rushing like mad to get to the right platform, I had to wait for the train. Still no working WiFi. Stopped at Liege and Aachen. Very warm and sunny. Playing Beethoven on Kindle and have beaten the computer 3 times at a word game. My hobnob flashback has melted in the heat… would that make a good password for spies? Or have I been travelling for too long?

image

Here at last.