We had a fairly leisurely start in the morning, making the most of the relatively luxurious ablutions, before packing up and making our way to the train station. We wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time though before our train as we knew we would have to navigate either elevators or escalators to access the platforms, and were not sure if we would need to split Talula down to do this. Fortunately, the elevator was just about long enough to squeeze Talula into, by taking off the front panniers, and turning the front wheel as far as it would go. Obstacle one overcome.
Once on the platform, we had a bit of a wait, so were able to scope out the train access, and were pleased to note that the information board told you exactly which position to be in to alight our carriage. The trains that arrived and departed whilst we waited had an easy roll on plate that came out to meet the platform when the doors opened. Eventually our train pulled up, it had been delayed so there was a rush to get on. Having been reassured by the access to the previous trains, we had a serious ‘oh f***’ moment, when our train doors opened and we were greeted with steps. I am not just talking about one step, this was a flight of four steps that Talula would have to be carried up. There ensued a few moments of fumblingly trying to quickly denude Talula of the bags, forgetting that they were not only clipped on, but securely bungeed too. We managed to get most of them off and literally throw them onto the train, before turning our attention to getting Talula herself up the steps. Seeing our predicament a gentleman gave us a hand and we got her on and secured and the bags stowed, before flopping down into our seats, a little flustered by the whole experience.
As the train made its way to Nykobing we planned our exit strategy, and embarkation plan for the next train and had time to calm ourselves and have some coffee and breakfast. When we arrived at our destination, we found this was a quiet provincial station, and it was another half an hour before the train to Maribo would depart, so I left Mr V and Talula on the platform to go and purchase our tickets from the machine. When the train arrived, we were pleasantly surprised that it was on the level of the platform, and there was plenty of space and even straps for Talula to be secured by, making this embarkation so smooth and easy. We sat back as the train called at a couple of small towns, and at the third stop a Danish lady getting off spoke to us, pointing to Talula. We smiled and nodded, obviously clueless but thinking she was commenting on the tandem (they are a rarity even where there is such a proliferation of cycles) but she seemed to get a little agitated and spoke to one or two other passengers, before getting off the train and standing on the platform pointing to us talking to yet more people. We were a little perplexed. We looked around, there were still other people on the train, and we were positive that this was the right train, and indeed it was the right train, but as the guard who entered the carriage at that moment informed us, we had to change for an onward connection, as this train was going back to Nykobing! We jumped up and quickly disembarked, smiling sheepishly at the lady who had clearly been trying to assist us. Our connecting train arrived, and as the doors opened, steps were once again there to greet us. A fellow passenger, clearly spotting our predicament informed us that the last carriage tended to be an easy access one so we headed in that direction, to find that this was indeed the case, though it was only a single door access, which meant that there would be a lot of shuffling to get Talula’s length around and into the designated bike space. There was a lady ahead of us in a wheelchair, but she told us to go ahead as she needed to wait for the conductor to set up the ramps. This was very generous of her, but did put us under pressure to get all the bags off, Talula boarded and bags loaded as quickly as possible so as not to be in her way. We managed it though and sat down for the train to make the next two stops before we had to do the whole thing again in reverse. By the time we had unloaded at Maribo, we were glad to get back on the bike and travel onward in an easy and familiar way.
We retraced our route, ironically along a disused railway line, from Maribo to Rodbyhavn, and did not have too long to wait before the next ferry crossing. We had bought supper provisions on the way partly to be prepared as we knew there were no shops close to the next campsite, and partly to spend the danish krone that we still had. However, we still had some left, and so had an expensive coffee, cake and portion of frites on the boat. There was only one other cyclist on this crossing, a young man who had pedalled from Latvia to Copenhagen to see his uncle, and was now on the way back! We arrived in Puttgarden on schedule, and decided to go around to the station to see if we could find information and purchase tickets for our journey the next day. Rain was due to set in later and remain for the following day, so we had decided that we would take the train to Bremen. This meant changes at Lubeck and Hamburg, and as far as we could understand, we were only able to purchase the tickets to Hamburg from this station. There was no staff presence at the station, so we were reliant on trying to understand the automated ticket machines, which took a few attempts and the best part of 40 minutes. After printing off our schedule for the next day, the machine then took me to a different page to buy the tickets. It was only after doing this that we realised that the date on the tickets was for that day, and not the day of travel, we can only assume that these machines are used for day of travel purchases, rather than ‘in advance’. Annoyed with myself for not spotting this sooner, Mr V was the voice of reason and assured me that all would be fine. As is often the way in relationships, when one is down, the other lifts them up.
Wanting to beat the forecast rainstorm, we set to and pedalled the short distance to the campsite, trying out my German, I requested a pitch for a small tent for one night, the proprietor was very patient and informed me that he did indeed have space, however, I was a little taken aback at the price though, at €35 this was the most expensive campsite we had stayed in so far, and had we not been in the situation of needing to be close to the station, I would have left to find another more reasonably priced establishment, however, needs must, I handed over the required amount, telling myself that the price will surely mean that the facilities are top notch … alas they were not.
Doubly annoyed, we pitched the tent and prepped the kit to ensure that we could weather the storm and get packed up and away quickly the next morning. I had a bit of a fitful night, fretting about getting collared on the train and having to pay double for one journey, Mr V though was all philosophical calm, assuring me that it would all be ok. The next morning we made quick work of packing up and were on our way, arriving at the station to find our train waiting. Fortunately it was not too much of a struggle getting Talula on the train, once we had negotiated the chicane to get onto the actual platform. We settled down with the other two passengers for what was to be a rather long journey to Lubeck, as the train called at all stations picking up passengers along the way, by the time it had reached Lubeck it was bursting at the seams. When we arrived at Lubeck, I went to find out which platform we needed to be on for our connection to Hamburg so as to avoid any unnecessary struggling into elevators. Unfortunately, there was a necessary struggle into an elevator, and a bit of a stressy rush to get onto the connecting train along with a number of other bicycles and parents with buggies all aiming for the same limited space. We all squeezed in though and perched on fold down seats, bracing ourselves for the inevitable scramble to get off again. My worry about us not having the correct ticket date, and having to plead stupidity, was indeed unfounded as not once during the whole journey was our ticket checked.
We had planned that when we arrived at Hamburg, I would get off with all the bags, whilst Mr V wheeled Talula off and once I had stowed the bags on the platform, I could then come back and assist in manoeuvring Talula. When we arrived though, the mayhem was worse than anticipated, the mass of humanity meant that I could not find a space to leave the bags that was not in the way, and even when I had just dropped them where I could, getting through the throng of people back to assist was nigh on impossible. Somehow we managed to push our way out, but the whole situation was really quite overwhelming.
As our tickets were only this far, we needed to buy onward tickets to Bremen. Finding a ticket machine, I commenced the process, but there was no option for the central station of Bremen, throwing myself on the mercy of a kind stranger, I asked if these were the right ticket machines, to be informed that these were regional trains only and pointed me towards the information desk. So off I trotted, waited in line, to be snapped at by the lady behind the desk when I said I could see the times of the trains to Bremen, it was information on buying tickets that I was after, to which she just said ‘go opposite’. She clearly failed at charm school. I managed to deduce that ICE tickets could be obtained at the opposite concourse so going back to inform Mr V, we made our way there to find that the ticket machines were the same, but there was an information/ticket office which had a numbered waiting system. When I got my number there were about 40 in front of me and I will admit I was losing the will to continue, such was the frenetic pace and opaque process. We decided to reassess, as we were both finding the whole situation too much, and decided that despite the extra couple of days it would take, our easiest option was to cycle the distance, so we found the exit and pedalled out into the city, hoping to make it out the other side before nightfall.