Feel free to skip this post. It is mostly Marilyn whining.
Early in our European train travels we were on a train without a seat reservation. It was not a problem except we were very lucky to find a seat as many people were standing between cars. So, this lead Marilyn to an incorrect assumption. When she looked for a ticket to put on our Eurail mobile pass, she ignored the ”seat reservation recommended” on the first leg and only got a reservation on the second leg because it said the seat reservations were required.
We went a little early (as we usually do) to the station in Hamburg and decided to see if we could get seats on the earlier leg. That’s when our trouble started. We were told there were no seats to reserve and, if we didn’t have a reservation, we would not be allowed to stay on the train. What one has to understand (and we didn’t really) is that the trains are run by different companies in different countries so one cannot make assumptions based on travel in a different country.
So, now we are 6 hours before the train on which we were able to get seats (4:53 pm). We left the station and walked a short way to a cafe on the corner to get Marilyn some breakfast and figure out what to do all day. After 45 minutes or so (in which we did not have to carry around our backpacks), we went back to the station for WiFi and to find somewhere to buy another sim card (we were unsuccessful in loading additional time on the Orange card we had purchased a couple of weeks earlier).
The Tourist Information Office told us we could purchase a sim card upstairs in the pharmacy. We went up and did that. Now, we needed a place to sit down and activate the sim card. Looking around we noticed a nice looking restaurant across the way where we could sit. It turned out to be our best move of the day. We unloaded, sat down and ordered a Shandy (it has become Marilyn’s go to drink). The place was named Schweinske and, if you are ever where there is one, we highly recommend it. Bob attempted to activate the new sim but was unsuccessful both on-line and chatting with two agents. So, we found an office 10 minutes away and Bob took the phone there. In just a few minutes he returned because he needed his passport (Marilyn is the passport keeper). When he returned with a working phone, we decided to have a coke and wait a little longer for lunch. The server never bothered us and we ended up sitting there the entire time we had to kill. After cokes, we had lunch, waited another 45 minutes or so and had dessert and finally left for our train.
Now the horror really began. We looked for our train listed on the printed information but couldn’t find it. We had been told track 5 but when we asked a young man in uniform, we were told track 6. Okay, we went down to the tracks (5 and 6 next to each other) and found a listing for Aarhus, Denmark. The listing by track 5 said track 6 (changed from 5) and, on the track 6 side it said changed from 5. So far, so good. The problem was there were about a million people, some running for trains, and, when we asked a train employee by one train on track 6, we were told to go up the track to another train. At that train, we were told to go back to the previous train. Again, at that train, we asked and everything they said was in German and never mentioned Aarhus (that we could discern). Finally, after trying to understand, the woman (conductor???) on the train said ”Denmark” and the doors closed with us still on the outside. She just stood inside and shrugged. Now Marilyn doesn’t like German trains. One thing we learned, the time listed for the train is when it will leave and that IS when it will leave. So, be early.
We returned to the train office to try for another train. We were given seats on a train at 6:53. By this time, another 1 1/2 hours to kill. There were sooooo many people and nowhere to sit and we are lugging around our backpacks. We went back to Schweinske and, when we went in the door, the manager smiled and asked if we wanted our table again as it was still empty. They were so wonderful! We had talked at length with a server that took over our table later in our first stay. She was from England. How wonderful to speak English! She was still there and tried to comp us the cokes we ordered (so as not to just occupy the table). She had heard our original sob story and was very kind about these further developments. The stories she must hear all day!
When we returned to the track for this train we were not taking any chances. We were nearly 1/2 hour early. We asked about the train waiting on track 6 and got the impression it was the correct train but being cleaned and not ready for boarding for 20 minutes. This time we got on as soon as they allowed, found our seats and settled in. Turned out we had plenty of time as the train was being delayed for 45 minutes to await the arrival of a high-speed train from Munich containing passengers that needed to be on this train. That meant we would miss our connections. Since we didn’t know what else to do we simply stayed on and waited for developments.
When the conductor came around for our tickets she told us we would have to get off in Padborg and wait two hours and, eventually, we would get to Aarhus about 2:30 am. Wow. And, she said we would need to talk to the conductor in Padborg to work all this out. Remember what I said about different companies in each country. Padborg would be in Denmark.
So, we settled back to see what would happen. It was a little hard to understand why we needed to get off since the train we were on was going north of Padborg before turning east to Copenhagen. Turns out, we were right in that. When we got to Denmark and it became a Danish train, it was a whole different situation. There were apparently 12 of us going to Aarhus and it was all arranged. We would go to Kolding, get off and wait just a few minutes for another train to Fredericia, take that at Horsens where we would be bused to Aarhus, arriving after midnight. We found out from someone from Aarhus that the busing was necessary because the ”trains are new but the tracks are old and don’t allow the high speeds”. So, apparently, they work on the tracks at night and have to bus passengers.
And that is what ultimately happened. Also, the Danish train was stocked with bottled water, tea and coffee makings, and cookies. The Danes on the train with us were appalled by the day they had all had on the German trains – “what a mess” we all agreed. Danish trains are wonderful, we all agreed.