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March 24, 2007

Travelling by train ...

Mausi has to do quite a bit of travelling at the moment. Tuesday afternoon saw her boarding one of the latest generation of the high-speed ICE trains on her way to a seminar in Essen. Essen is quite a big town in the former coal and steel industry area of Germany. The train was really nice, especially as the journey would take a little over 2 hours Mausi was entitled to travelling first class. It was all leather seats as in an aeroplane with a socket at each seat to plug in your laptop.

The first leg of the journey took Mausi along the old railway tracks along the western bank of the river Rhine. This bit is one of the most beautiful in Germany because from the train you have a first class view of all vineyards and the castles along the river. About three quarters of an hour later the train reached Koblenz situated where the Mosel flows into the Rhine. Suddenly Mausi heard the following announcement: "Dear passengers, we have to inform you that someone has chained his bike to this ICE train. We shall have to wait for the police to remove him and the bike from this train." Well! The whole procedure cost ten minutes. Mausi was relieved she didn't have to catch any connections that day.

Entrance to the pedestrian precincts of Essen

But her troubles were far from over. Once she had reached Essen her next challenge was to find the hotel she had been booked into. It was supposed an eight minutes walk from the central station to this hotel. Mausi had used the map guide programme at her office computer to print out the appropriate section of Essen City. As always the computer had been reluctant to reveal street names and printed useless informational tags about the street names that actually showed up on the map. Still, Mausi felt confident that she could take a shortcut through the pedestrian precinct. Looked like child's play, really. Well, somehow Mausi must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and was utterly lost after walking for half an hour in the fading daylight. In the end she decided to swallow her pride and ask someone for directions. The advice was simple: take the underground back to the central station and start again. So Mausi explored Essen underground and started out from the central station again in search of her hotel. This time she avoided the scenic road and simply kept to the big and busy avenues.

It worked like magic - after less than 10 minutes Mausi stood in front of her hotel, a very ugly concrete cube that looked more like a multi-storey car park than like a hotel. Certainly a leftover from the 70's of the last century. The entrance looked extremely uninviting and a small sign said: Hotel 7th floor. When Mausi arrived at the 7th floor the interior of the hotel which only occupied that one storey looked much better than anticipated. Mausi's room was ok. But she had to take a shower next morning in an extremely narrow bathtub with the curtain trying to cling to her all the time - arrrgggghhhhhhh! Breakfast was surprisingly good, though, and the view from the 7th storey would have been grand if it hadn't rained cats and dogs all morning.

'Haus der Technik', where Mausi's seminar took place

In the evening Mausi arrived at the station again after her seminar in good time to catch her train back home. The train arrived at Essen 5 minutes late - ggrrrr! this time Mausi had to catch a connection at Cologne with only five minutes to change platforms. Changing platforms at Cologne station means you have to rush down a flight of stairs and up another. The first task, however, was to find her seat. As the first class carriages did not stop in the section of the platform they were supposed to stop, Mausi had literally to fight her way through 4 2nd class carriages which were crammed with people and then shoo a young man out of the seat she had a reservation for. Mausi wouldn't have minded him sitting there if there had been any other unoccupied seats but there weren't - so he had to go. Thankfully sinking down into the seat Mausi had almost given up hope of catching the connecting train but surprisingly the train from Essen to Cologne made good speed and gained three minutes back. At Cologne Mausi rushed out of the train and arrived on the other platform at the same time her train did. From that point it was an easy journey back home for her.

Posted by Mausi at March 24, 2007 10:57 PM