Midnight train to Berlin

I left Slovenia on the 1527h to Munich and travelled through Austria via Salzburg in the late afternoon, thereby taking in some of the most picturesque scenery in Europe. Snow-capped peaks, crystal lakes, bucolic meadows, delicate spires, and, of course, all the window boxes you could wish for. It was after nine by the time I arrived in Munich and, possibly overcome by the plethora of opportunities now presented to me by the German travel system, I didn’t have much of a plan for the next leg of my journey.

The next train to Dresden did not leave until 0400h and I did not especially like the look of the nocturnal denizens of the Munchen Hauptbahnhof so I set off to look for some accommodation. After all, the station was plastered with hoardings offering nearby hostels and hotels, how hard could it be? I found out after two hours of dragging my mini-suitcase around the surrounding streets being turned away from every single establishment. These ranged from the more expensive looking hotels where black limousines could be seen depositing bullet-headed, sunglass-wearing types in shiny suits to typical railway hotels that looked as if they might be rented by the hour. But none of them had any vacancies: at least not for me.

After this introduction to the multi-ethnic night life of Munich I decided I’d better get on a train for the night. Any train. Eventually I found an information window open and a bored Deutsch Bundesbahn operative told me that I could not take any of the night trains without a reservation and that the booking office would not open until 7am. (So stuff you, Mrs Brit!). Her companion looked up from her paperwork with a cheeky little smile and interjected: “Oh no, she can get the train at one minute past midnight to Berlin via Frankfurt and she won’t have to change trains until five thirty five”. Thanks Lady, I shan’t forget your kindness in a hurry.

So that’s how, at 11 o’clock this morning, I came to be taking coffee “Unter Den Linden” while bemoaning the fact that a big red crane was blocking my view of the Brandenburg Tor. It was a lovely day to walk across the city parks and take in a few sights. I telephoned my friend Chris to tell him where I was and thank him for bringing me here to see so many of the sights in 2008. I was so grateful to be left be left without any cultural obligations to fulfil and to find that the city, although of course still a magnet for tourists, was as charming and easy going as I remembered.

I met a group of Yazidi protestors outside the Reichstag and stopped to listen to their speeches for a while. Unfortunately they couldn’t offer me any literature in English, although the pictures of bombing victims in Northern Iraq and Syria were all too familiar. One of the younger guys told me he was naturalised German and had lived here for most of his life. I noticed that the German flag was being proudly displayed, even worn around a couple of sets of shoulders and that there were women (modern dress with heads covered) unselfconsciously mingling with the group. German police, with the female of the species again in evidence, stood by with every appearance of unconcern. Just another day outside Parliament.

Back at the station, waiting for the 1504h fast train to Dresden, I was importuned by a couple of skinny but heavily pregnant girls in headscarves. They bore little cards with their begging messages ready prepared in English: “I am hungry and I need money for food for my children”. As well as a substantial coating of grime on their faces, I suspected the presence of bruises and wondered how these young women who claimed to be Bosnian, had come to be here. They certainly didn’t look like regular refugees or any of the girls I’d seen in Bosnia so there was more likely to be some kind of criminal exploitation going on. I gave anyway; my UK currency producing an interesting reaction: one girl pointed to the picture of Her Majesty with a little smile, “Regina!” she exclaimed.

Dresden being an almost entirely re-built city, its public transport system is ultra-efficient and easy to find your way about on. If you happen to know how it works, that is. Tired and confused and still more than a little unwell, I made all the usual newcomers mistakes. Wrong ticket, wrong bus stop, wrong direction etc. but eventually, much to my hosts’ relief, I managed the seven kilometres down the Elbe to the picture postcard village of Laubergast where I would be staying as the guest of my friend Elisabeth’s relatives.

Categories: Europe

1 Comment

  • Chris says:

    It sounds as if you went a bit out of your way but I’m glad you found the city as we left it. I hope you took the 200 bus!

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