36 hours, 10 trains and a night in Luxembourg!
Gazing at the departure board at Hamburg station I realised my folly: I may have booked the wrong route.
I had a ticket from Travemünde, northern Germany, to Luxembourg, part of a two-day rail trip to get to Konstanz in the south of Germany – detouring out of the country often gets ‘special’ fares and it had worked out cheaper.
I’d already taken 2 trains to get to Hamburg and I had another 3 trains to take me to Luxembourg. The departure board revealed my stupidity: 3 trains to Lux, 1 direct comfortable train to Zürich. Zürich is an hour by train from Konstanz, Luxembourg is 4 trains and 8 hours.
Why didn’t it occur to me to look into booking my journey via Switzerland?
I think I know why: when I was scanning the rail options on deutschebahn.com I’d seen Luxembourg pop up and thought “Ooo, I’ve never been to Luxembourg!”. I have however been to Zürich.
So, 9 trains it would be (it ended up being 10, I’ll come to that later!). This was on top of the 28 hours I’d just spent sailing across the Baltic Sea from Helsinki, Finland.
I’d arrived into Travemünde Ferry Terminal at 21.30 the previous evening, spent a night in a budget hotel then caught the 08.39 train from Lübeck Travemünde Skandinavienkia to Lübeck where I’d caught a connection to Hamburg.
I was racing across water and land to reach Konstanz for Christmas, to reunite with Chris on the 21st December, and no, I didn’t want to fly it. I’d done the whole trip so far without flying, I love taking the train, I was going to take the train!
With four connections I was relying on the efficiency of the German railways, unfortunately it all unravelled at Hamburg.
That direct train to Zürich seemed even more appealing when I discovered the train I was hoping to catch was running late. 45 minutes late to be precise, and the next connection only had a 2o minute window, I was never going to catch that train, or the subsequent two after that. Ah! It’s an adventure!
The train arrived only 20 minutes late, I boarded and the carriage filled up but the train went nowhere. Eventually the ticket inspector came down the train with a fierce look on her face and began ordering everyone in the carriage. I had no idea what she was saying, as my grasp of German is minimal.
I questioned her and she shouted “fear, FEAR” at me and held up 4 fingers. What? I don’t understand! (I could only count to 3 in German!).
I figured she meant we had to move to carriage 4, I gathered all my stuff and followed everyone else. Somebody helpfully explained that the carriage was broken, this was probably the cause of the delay.
It turned out there was no carriage 4 (vier), we all decamped to carriage 5 which seemed to be unreserved, and it was, phew!
The train shunted for a further 25 minutes before setting off. The ticket inspector appeared again once we were on the move, she seemed a lot happier now! That was until she saw my ticket, and my unachievable connections: “Luxembourg? Oh!”. The language barrier became a bit of a problem as she couldn’t explain anything to me. She tapped things into her machine for a while before handing me a printout of new connections: I had an extra change and I would get into Luxembourg an hour later than planned. It was a relief to have it all listed for me, I could sit back, relax and take in the German scenery!
Lübeck Travemünde Skandinavienkia >> Lübeck >> Hamburg >> Düsseldorf (the added connection) >> Koblenz >> Trier >> Luxembourg.
Germany is a big country!
The rest of the journey was without surprises, although I do remember standing on the platform at Düsseldorf, and thinking “I have no idea where I am!”. I mean, I could see I was in Düsseldorf but if I had to have pin it on a map I couldn’t!
I arrived into Luxembourg at 19.29 and set off walking to the hostel. No one told me old Luxembourg is a UNESCO certified historic city built into a gorge – yes, I should have researched it – spectacular as it is, trudging up and down the picturesque cobbled streets with my wheely pack was completely exhausting (Google maps is useless here!) and if it wasn’t for the spectacular floodlit backdrop of the casemates and the fortifications I would have wished I’d flagged down a taxi!
The next morning I set out early to explore the old quarter before my next set of trains to Konstanz which left at 13.30.
Luxembourg Old Quarter is beautiful! Steep, winding cobbled streets and pretty heritage buildings; the old city is built dramatically into the sides of two natural gorges, with rivers cutting through.
Even on a grey December day it looked remarkable and I happily explored with my camera.
Behind the cute, pastel-hued houses are huge fortifications, mighty staircases and ancient casemates tunnelling through the rock face. Luxembourg is a strategic spot and an impenetrable castle once graced the gorge.
I criss-crossed the river, climbed stairs and walked along the riverside Corniche and teetering ramparts, stretching my legs before I boarded a train again.
I checked out of the hostel and walked back to the railway station, I’d figured out the most direct route on my morning walk.
Lunch was a take-away vegetarian buffet I grabbed on the way to the station, my next meal would be feasting with my man in Konstanz!
Helsinki to Konstanz (via Luxembourg), 77 hours, 2,200 kms, one ferry, one taxi and 10 trains. Overland is far more fun than flying, and it helps preserve our planet!
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By Rachel A Davis