Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Cologne Cathedral
The sight of the Cologne Cathedral that we managed to see unexpectedly due to an hour-long break, after coming from Frankfurt was a bonus. As the time of boarding the next train arrived, we learnt about the cancellation of our train due to some technical reasons. More was to follow. There was a technical snag in the railway network resulting in delays and cancellations besides a blackout of displays. I was getting a little exasperated due to further cancellation of trains in the direction we were proceeding. The train station at Cologne was unusually crowded, probably due to the long weekend in most parts of Europe. We too were returning from Basel after a lovely trip of hopping around nearby places. We were to board a train to Utrecht and after another change there, were to proceed to Rotterdam. Not knowing the German language was a barrier difficult to bridge at this juncture.

We came to the platform from where the train was to depart. A train arrived and I saw the electronic display flash past on one compartment indicating,’Amsterdam’.We managed to squeeze into the compartment and just then realized that it was headed for Frankfurt airport and not to Amsterdam. In the melee that ensued my daughter managed to get off the train with the tickets in her purse while we were unable to get off. It was the most unusual situation as we were now headed in the opposite direction and that too on a non- stop fast train to the Frankfurt Airport. To our good luck, the train conductor appeared and gave the broadest grin when I explained our situation to him. He said he will see if it is possible to get us offloaded. In the meantime, our daughter who was in touch with us seemed more relaxed than us, messaged a copy of our Eurail Pass, while she boarded the right train headed for Utrecht.

After about ten agonizing minutes the conductor broke the good news that the train will briefly halt at Bonn, to deboard us only. At that moment the train conductor appeared a God incarnate, who suddenly took care of the misery of a long unintended journey. After 20 minutes of journey precisely, after leaving Cologne, the train halted for 30 seconds at Bonn to offload us with our belongings.
The Cologne Railway Station
We changed the platforms and boarded the next Regional train headed for Cologne. In less than an hour, we were back to square one. In the meantime, our daughter who was headed to Utrecht informed that even she had to cut short her journey at Arnhem as there was some malfunction on her train too! Anyway, she got another train to Utrecht after changing tracks.

We finally boarded a train headed for Utrecht, from Cologne hoping to reach our destination without further gaffes. I looked for the conductor to break the news of travelling on the international train without our Eurail pass in our possession, an otherwise mandatory requirement. The Lady conductor in the adjoining compartment heard my story and after verifying the passport details allowed us to continue our onward journey.

It was 9.30 PM when we landed at Utrecht to return to Rotterdam. What a day it had been! We had left Basel in Switzerland 12 hours ago, and by the time we reached Rotterdam our final destination, it was 11 PM. A cool breeze and drizzle were so soothing after a unique journey unparalleled despite travelling for many years.

PS:  Last five weeks was a time of digital detox and exploring Europe. Soaking different cultures, seeing new places, tasting some exotic local cuisines, brushing up the history, were indulgences and experiences of a lifetime. I plan to share some of these experiences on my blog in the coming days

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