Day 2: Sunday 30 May – Hoek van Holland to Trier (22.96 cycling miles)
We were off the Ferry at 7:45am and cycled all of 200 metres to Hoek van Holland railway station, at which our train awaited. Unfortunately the train doors had broken and only one door was open (with an annoying alarm going the whole time). So everyone had to get on the train through that door, which involved squeezing past my trike. In the UK I wouldn’t have been allowed on, and in fact the train wouldn’t be permitted to run with only one door working – and not working properly – but this is Holland where things are a bit chilled out so eventually we set off, just a few minutes late.
Of course, each stop took MUCH longer because people had to go in and out of one door (fortunately a different door – the driver’s door – for most of the stations as the platform was the other side) and it soon became apparent that we would miss our connection at Rotterdam. Not a great start to the day, but couldn’t be helped. I was also impressed that, when the conductor discovered two Brit mountain-bikers didn’t have bicycle tickets, he just asked them to buy one when they got to Rotterdam, rather than chucking them off.
Despite missing our connection the trains are every half hour so we only had to wait 20 minutes for the next train which gave us time for a cuppa and a mysterious marzipan-pastry biscuit thing.
The train to Venlo had a much smaller bike space than normal and another chap had already put his bike into it. We managed to squeeze my trike in, Wow dismantled his Tandem and stacked it around the trike and the other chap’s bike, and James put his bike across the doors of the train, waiting with it to move it if we arrived at a station with the platform on that side. When the conductor came along he was very jolly and happy, rather than chucking us off for making it almost impossible to pass through the train, as well as blocking the door. The chap with the bike was getting off at Eindhoven, about half an hour before us, so we sat and chatted to him (he had a shiny new singlespeed bike of which he was very proud), taking turns to look after James’s bike in the doorway while the rest of us sat down in the seating area a little way away.
At Venlo we got the bikes out, crossed over the track, squeezed through the door and set off. The route supplied by a chap from Rad-forum.de worked really well and we followed it without any difficulties.
It was a bit windy and the rain came and went, generally reasonable conditions to ride in. Our average was 9.2mph which we knew meant it would be cutting it fine to get our connection at Mönchengladbach (we originally had 3 hours to do the 21 miles but now had 2.5 hours, which didn’t leave time for punctures or food or getting lost). We saw some nice sights on the way, such as several hares in a field, lots of carrots, potatoes and asparagus being grown, etc. The landscape was very flat (reminiscent of our corner of Essex, in fact) and all the shops were shut as it was a Sunday. The border between Holland and Germany was just a bollard and some old, closed-up buildings.
It seemed like we were making good time to reach Mönchengladbach but traffic lights, as we approached the city, slowed us down badly. Our 10 minutes spare turned into about 2 minutes by the time we’d carried up the luggage to the platform. I took the trike in the lift but it was too short for the tandem so Wow had to carry it up the stairs. There was a large bike area on the train and we were able to sit nearby. However, having no food or tea was a bit of a hardship for a 2.5 hour journey that we now had on the train.
We got to Koblenz and had theoretically a 9 minute gap between trains (in which we needed to carry out bikes down the stairs from the plaform, along under the platforms and then back up again to platform 9, there were no lifts). The train was already there, however, and the bike carriage was almost full – there were already 13 bikes there. There were four people sitting by the bikes who looked most perturbed as we arrived and carried out bikes on – they were getting off at Cochem and wanted to be sure they could get out. I said that I would take my bike off the train if necessary when they got to Cochem. A big pile of mountain bikes, belonging to chaps sitting upstairs, were staying on till Trier, where we were getting off. We stowed our luggage by the door to the driver’s bit of the train and found some seats.
At Cochem we let the four people off and another two got on, one of whom (a roadie chap) was most interested in my Trice and talked to me at length about it. It turned out he wanted to buy an HP Velotechnik Skorpion, and was asking about the similarities and differences. We discussed Rohloffs and more in German, until his friend appeared (who was American) and they talked in English.
We arrived in Trier at 5:45pm, left the station, went straight across the road to a cafe and had tea and a bread roll, our first proper food since breakfast on the ferry at 7:00am. I also discovered that Germany won Eurovision – how is this possible??!!!!!!!
We then cycled all of 1.5 miles to Hotel Römerbrücke which was over the bridge over the Mosel.
It’s a very nice hotel with a cracking shower (in which I washed my clothes). We then set out to explore and find some dinner. Wow was photographed standing outside Karl Marx’s house as his profile is remarkably similar. Food was a great pizza but we got utterly drenched walking back and a bit cold so had to turn up the radiators to dry out our second set of clothing.
So, four trains, 23ish miles, tomorrow the tour proper starts…