Main/Rhein 2009 – Hoek van Holland to Bamberg by train

Day 2 – Sunday 30 August – Hoek van Holland to Bamberg.

Distance: 3.10 miles; time: 53:02;

Was woken at 5:45UK time to give us an hour’s warning for disembarkation of the ferry. Pippa and I rescued our bikes, although a woman in a car gave me evil looks as I moved my trike around, even though I didn’t touch her car. We cycled up the middle of the row of cars for a bit until we found some nicer people to chat to whilst we waited for disembarkation.

We cycled the 300 metres to the railway station at Hoek van Holland where there was a train waiting.

TRAIN 1 – Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam Centraal.
As I wheeled my trike towards the Sprinter train, the conductor said, “that won’t fit on there!” I replied, “it did last time!” so he said, “OK” and let me put it on. Phew. The half hour journey was fine.

TRAIN 2 – Rotterdam Centraal to Venlo.
Rotterdam has enormous lifts so it was easy for both Pippa and I to move our bikes to the correct platform. It was easy to get the trike on this train and so Pippa and I sat near the bikes and read our books for this journey of almost two hours.

From Rotterdam to Venlo on the train

TRAIN 3 – Venlo to Mönchengladbach
Some very helpful staff at Venlo told us we had 15 minutes until the train so we got ourselves a cup of tea and sandwich. They escorted us across the track (so we didn’t have to take the stairs) and even helped us get the trike on the train. It was the same Deutsche Bahn train as last time, so the conductor (or in this case the chap from Venlo station) have to undo a metal grab-rail between the doors so I can get the trike on OK. Once the trike is on there is plenty of room.

After one stop a young lad and young woman got on with bikes and sat opposite us as we were eating our sandwiches. As the train moved off an ordinary-looking chap came over to them and asked them for ID, showing them some of his own. They both showed him their Ausweises, then he looked through their bags and searched the young chap. Most odd! Then the man went away.

A minute later we noticed an alsatian dog, that had been at the other end of the carriage, was walking up to our end with his owner. The owner let him off the lead and he bounded over to the young lad, sniffing and wagging his tail. The penny dropped that he was a drugs dog. Evidently he didn’t find anything and the handler put the dog back on the lead and began to demonstrate the dog’s trick of rolling over on command. They all got off at the next stop. None of them had seemed at all interested in us.

When we arrived at Mönchengladbach after about 45 minutes the conductor didn’t appear to remove the pole from the train. Pippa got off and went looking, I looked forlorn and a chap who had been on the carriage helped me lift the bike out on its side (bashing the mirror of course!). I ended up a bit oily but that’s what one expects.

Pippa

TRAIN 4 – Mönchengladbach to Koblenz
The train to Koblenz was across the platform so this was a very easy transfer. As we got onto it the bicycle space was filled with a wheelchair. The chap saw me coming and got off the train – I didn’t realise I looked that scary! The helpful chap who had assisted me to get the trike off the previous train was on this one and he spent a fair while staring at our bikes and at us, asking us occasional questions. It was a bit odd being peered at all the time! He got off after an hour. We also saw some Japanese people photographing themselves standing in front of both bikes. Odd!

This was a long journey (nearly three hours) but was along the Rhine for a fair way so we got to see some of where we will be cycling back along.

TRAIN 5 – Koblenz to Mainz
Koblenz was our long lunch stop, although initially we got excited about an earlier train that we hadn’t got on our lists… until we discovered it doesn’t run at weekends. So we had a nice pizza outside the station, although there were some rather persistent wasps.

We got back to the station in plenty of time for our next train to Frankfurt – especially as I had to carry my trike up a flight of stairs to get to the platform. As we went to the bicycle area of the train we saw some peopletaking their bikes off; they explained that there had been a problem on the track and that the train didn’t go all the way to Frankfurt but stopped on the way and there were rail replacement buses. Argh! I asked the driver and he confirmed that (it seems there was a suicide on the track) and that bikes aren’t allowed on replacement buses. Argh!

We found the other cyclists again who suggested we took a train to Mainz (an hour and a half journey time) and from there to Frankfurt -that was what they were doing. This was another 50 minute wait and on another platform so once again I carried my trike down and then up stairs again. I chatted with the other cyclists,they were very friendly – and then the guy gave us a large bottle of mineral water as he said they didn’t need it and we had a long journey ahead. Very nice of him!

When the train arrived it was of course packed with people and cyclists. The conductor said my bike was too wide so I quickly disassembled it and laid it on its side so it fit in the space. Further along the route the conductor turned other cyclists away who tried to get on the train so we were lucky. When I went to reassemble the trike just before Mainz there were several interested onlookers, one of whom said “is it a tandem?”

TRAIN 6 – S-Bahn from Mainz to Frankfurt
I didn’t fancy the 45 minute S-Bahn journey but it was the easiest train to get on and off, level with the platform and with a large bike area. More and more people got on, however, so it was choc-a-block by the time we reached Frankfurt. We had only 9 minutes for our connection to a different part of the station but fortunately the lift worked and it wasa quick walk. We had time to buy some drink and food before jumping on the next train.

TRAIN 7 – Frankfurt to Würzburg
This train had a HUGE bike area. Pippa and I settled down in comfy seats overlooking the carriage and were a bit abashed to discover a couple having a particularly fond farewell. We buried our noses in our books and ignored them in the best British fashion. The chap got off the train before it left an theladymoved into the seating area of the carriage, so we were alone until a chap got on with a bike just before the train moved off. He got into a conversation with me asking if I were married and where we came from. Then we ended up in a long political discussion as it turned out he was Iranian and thought George W Bush was brilliant. He was very insistent that Iran was making an atom bomb and that Obama was too Muslim to mind. Fortunately he got off after half an hour.

On this train it seemed to get dark very quickly as we pootled alongside the Main, the route we would shortly be cycling. I phoned the Hotel to say we were delayed and would arrive between 11pm and Midnight which they said was fine.

TRAIN 8 – Würzburg to Bamberg
This train had very narrow doors and Pippa and I had to do some trike wiggling to get it on. I then sat on it for this final journey of an hour -we had by now been travelling for fourteen hours and were REALLY looking forward to getting to our destination. A random man came to talk to us about where we were cycling, although I could barely understand his Bavarian accent, but he gave us a map of Bavarian Cycling Routes from a bag of touristy stuff he seemed to randomly have.

We arrived at Bamberg at 22:40,cycled to the hotel, locked the bikes up and found our rooms which were very nice indeed. Showered and washed the clothes, pegged them up on the line and then fell into bed exhausted!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling, Germany, Main/Rhein 2009

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