Ich bin ein Hamburger

Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 11:37 · 4 min read

In the morning while I was laying in bed verifying the journey to Hamburg was all in order I realized that the same route also departed one hour earlier than my planned 10:32 route. I got ready and packed quickly, practically jogging to the train station which was thankfully only a block away. I just barely made it in by boarding the first carriage I saw, which put me into the bike storage compartment. Once I recovered my breath and the train was underway I was able to pass through several cars towards the front of the train to one with wide windows to look out of for the next hour and a half until my one layover in Koblenz, Germany.

At first the terrain was as I described in Luxembourg City: steep hills and lush valleys. But then we passed through a tunnel and we were among mountains. The train wove around them when it could and passing through them when it couldn't. Soon enough we passed back into hills covered in rich vineyards. Too steep to be walked the vineyards had tiny carts on little geared tracks that operated more like elevators to provide access to those tending the hills.

On the far side of the mountains the german-bavarian influences began to make themselves known. Clock towers and church steeples that may have been grey and gothic back towards the heart of Luxembourg and further west were now more often painted bright white with colorful accents in the Bavarian style. The fonts on signs shifted from roman style to traditional german fractur swishes. Houses and buildings with bavarian affectations were increasingly the norm. The land flattened out and the train slowed as we crossed the Moselle river and arrived in Trier just across the border into Germany. Here we took a 10 minutes stop while the Luxembourgish crew exited the train and the German crew boarded.

Public announcement messages given through the train at once pivoted from being given in French, then German, then English to being given only in German and occasionally major announcements repeated in English. Despite not leaving my seat for the entire journey, my Eurail ticket was stamped again and my passport reinspected by the new German steward. After traversing the flat Sudöstdeutschland lands with castles (both maintained and crumbling) seen guarding distant hills the train terminated in Koblenz.

My transfer time was only 17 minutes and the train had been delayed along the way compressing that time to 13 minutes. Something I've neglected to mention until now is that in my rush to board the earlier train I neglected to eat breakfast. I assumed that there would be some facility on board the train; if nothing but a cart packed with junk food passing up and down the length of the train. I was wrong. And I was hungry. The first thing I had on my mind was food. Only then would I try to make it on to the platform in time.

I walked into the first place I happened upon in the station which happened to be a bavarian pretzel shop to my delight. After paying with cash when my credit card was taking too long I rushed up to the platform. Turns out, my train had been delayed by half an hour. Ironic that my first truly delayed train was run by the German national railway. But I now had time to spare, so I ate my light "breakfast" and went back into the station to have "lunch." To avoid embarrassment I went to a different establishment for my second meal, which was some sort of pizza with a pretzel as crust which wasn't exactly what I pointed to but the cashier didn't speak english. I think I'm all pretzel-ed out now.

Once the train to Hamburg finally arrived I boarded with the hoard of other transferees passing through Koblenz. A few nights ago I placed a seat reservation out of fear from past rides on the Deutsche Bahn last year where my party nearly didn't find seats. Unfortunately my reservation confirmation email was waylaid (though my card still got charged!) so I had no idea where my seat was. It ended up not mattering, the car I boarded was practically abandoned for the simple crime of being far away from the bistro car. I didn't mind the long walks to stretch my legs when I felt peckish or thirsty.

The land out my window changed from the Bavarian lowlands to more modern-looking cityscapes as the train leaped from station to station aiming mostly north. Castles were no longer visible on hills and the cities all started to blend together, so I kept myself occupied with some later travel arrangements, learning a bit of German with the Duolingo app, and reading a copy of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War I picked up in the bookstore of the British Museum.

The leagues slid by while I lost track of time and suddenly we arrived in Hamburg. My hostel was just across the street and checkin was a breeze. This is probably the largest hostel and the most modern of any that I've stayed in. The beds seem to be actually solid instead of flimsy and squeaky. There's a well run bistro and bar on the ground floor, and best of all: free laundry machines! A first in my entire trip, and I'll be sure to take advantage of that before I leave.

Originally Hamburg was just a waystation for me to sleep while on my way to Copenhagen, but some time ago I revised my travel plan to permit me to stay for two nights to get a chance to see something I've only seen video clips of. I won't spoil the surprise :)

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