Before we left for our adventure, I expressed nervousness about the first leg of our journey. Just the first bit. Our plan was this: Fly to Amsterdam, take a train from the airport (after validating our eurail passes) to Berlin. In Berlin (it would be about 9pm by this point), use the metro to arrive at the flat where our friend Heidi is letting us stay for a few days.
That seemed like a lot of steps.
Oh, how little I knew.
Our flights went well, and we arrived in Amsterdam on schedule. When we validated our eurail passes and asked for the train to Berlin, we were informed that due to water levels, high speed trains were not running to Berlin, so we’d have to take a train to Hannover and then take regional trains from there—adding about 2 hours to our journey. The woman at the ticket counter also couldn’t give us more specifics than that; we’d simply have to find out in Hannover. So, we got on the first train, to Hilversum, just outside of Amsterdam. There we’d change trains and go to Hannover.
Except, in Hilversum, as we waited for our next train, we began hearing sirens and seeing paramedics and other emergency personnel trot by us. After being asked (in Dutch, but we sort of got the hint) to move by a paramedic, a young guy being herded in the same direction turned out to speak English and filled us in. It seems someone jumped in front of a train (or fell in front of it, or something). There’d been an accident, at any rate. No one could tell us when trains would be running again. An hour? Three? We had the option of taking a bus back to Amsterdam and trying to find an alternate route, but that didn’t seem promising. One woman on the street told us Hilversum city center was a 5 minute walk, and our best bet was to go there, shop, eat, relax, and come back in an hour or so. We did that a little, but were afraid to go too far since we had no idea when trains would start running. Eventually we found a Starbucks and charged our global phone, so we could at least text the people who were supposed to let us in to the flat in Berlin and let them know we’d be very late.
We ended up on a train out of Hilversum at 5:22, 2 hours later than anticipated, and instead of going all the way to Hannover, it took us as far as the German border—Bad Bentheim. From there, we were told to board a local train for Onsabruck, and then find out once there where to go.
It was almost 9pm by the time we got to Onsabruck. We went to the information desk, and the man there informed us that he wasn’t sure why we’d been told to get off here, but there was really no way to get us to Berlin that night. There was an 11pm train to Bielefeld, and from there a night train to Berlin that would put us in the city at 4:30am, but we didn’t have reservations (and it was too late to make them). After a phone call to Bielefeld to check on the hotel situation in case we would need it, we were informed there were no rooms there due to a festival going on. Our information helper told us that if we didn’t get on the night train, “McDonalds. Open 24 hours.” But he also called the conductor in Bielefeld and let him know to watch for 2 American girls and 2 Indian guys (we weren’t the only ones in our predicament, and there’s strength in numbers, so we stuck with CK and Ashwin, who we’d met in the information office in Osnabruck, the rest of the night).
When we arrived in Bielefeld, things finally started going our way. The conductor there needed no explanation, recognizing us from our description. “Berlin?” was the only phrase needed. He pulled someone over to help translate and informed us that at 12:43, when the train was to leave, he’d come and escort us to the train, letting the drivers know it was okay for us to ride. HOORAY!
So after an hour’s wait (and a run-in with a drunk who insisted that since he was German and spoke English, and Liz was American, she must understand him when he spoke German), we boarded the night train to Berlin and were finally able to get some sleep. We pulled in to Berlin around 5:30am, and we found a very helpful woman at an information desk at 6:00am. We gave her the address to the flat, and she told us exactly which train and then which bus to board, and when to get off each. And she printed off a street map so we’d be able to find it on foot after getting off our bus.
By 7am, we had reached Heidi’s flat. Her neighbor let us in and gave us our key, and we promptly took off our shoes and collapsed into a 5 hour nap. 34 hours after leaving La Crosse, we had finally arrived in Berlin.