German trains do not run on time. We were on our way to Cologne from Copenhagen. This was the last of our missed stops from the 2023 World Cruise. No the Zuiderdam did not sail up the Rhine to Cologne, but our friend Joe, a colleague from Montenegro, Kosovo, Egypt and Georgia, was going to come up to Zeebrugge and we were going to get off the ship and spend time with him, rejoining the cruise in Amsterdam. Of course, it didn’t happen.
So we got on a DB (German) Intercity train in Copenhagen.
It left 11 minutes late. The announcer told us we would make up time. At our first stop we were 14 minutes late. At our next stop we had to wait while another train cleared our platform. We arrived in Hamburg 21 minutes late. We had one of those German short-cross platform transfers, nine minutes. We missed our connection to Cologne.
The information desk, and the conductor on the late train, both told us what track to go to and what train to get on. We got on that train, an ICE (Intercity Express high speed) and the conductor said “we don’t go to that station, you will have to transfer to the S Bahn.” We texted Joe, who was to meet us at the station and decided to meet at the hotel for late drinks. In the event the ICE was also running slow and late. The one advantage to the delay is that we crossed the Rhine at sunset.
The first time I had seen Cologne Cathedral was at dusk on a train in 1964. I was a student taking the train from Bonn to Amsterdam, having just finished seminars in West Berlin and Bonn. The sunset this time was much nicer.
When we arrived at the hotel we had drinks with Joe but our plans for the next day did not work out. A few hours after we arrived his brother-in-law passed away and a few hours after that his wife (the sister of the deceased) was in hospital. We did manage lunch on Monday before heading out. We booked a train for earlier than we thought we needed. The hotel concierge advised we do that “German trains do not run on time. Such a shame, what has happened to our country?”
On our way out of Cologne we took an Intercity Express high speed to Frankfort airport. We waited on the platform as another ICE for Amsterdam sat, and sat, and sat, well beyond it’s scheduled departure. An announcement came over the PA system that we did not understand. A kind German man asked “Are you going to Frankfort? Your train is not on platform 5.” We thanked him and got on the train.
While this one left several minutes late, it kicked up the speed to 303 Kilometers per Hour, (about 187 MPH) as registered on the screen that gave station information, and we rolled into Frankfort airport only a minute late, in plenty of time to make the plane, we thought.
But in Concourse D only one security line was open, and they were VERY thorough. Opening the clear plastic baggies that contained liquids and inspecting each bottle. I wasn’t sure if there was a security alert (nothing showed on the internet) or if it was some sort of work slowdown, kind of like the tea break the Air Traffic Controllers in Southampton took. I’m glad we had the extra hour.
At the gate the lift that was to take us to our flight was out of order. A gentleman taking the same flight shook his head. “We are not the same country we were 20 years ago. Trains are late, elevators don’t work. I read that half the elevators in public facilities in Germany are broken. I don’t know what’s happened to our country. It is a shame.”