B2L – Hoek van Holland to Düsseldorf by train (Day 2)

2 – Hook of Holland to Düsseldorf

I slept reasonably but the wake-up call always seems way too early, what with the hour time change as well.

I redistributed some of the weight in my panniers (the port side pannier is just clothing and lightweight, the starboard side pannier is the one with valuables (gadgets, tools etc) and is very heavy, so I decided to transfer the tools to the other pannier to spread the weight a bit better. I’m not sure it made much difference but there you go.

Although my trike was at the very back of the ferry I was able to weave up between the cars and head out into Holland – in drizzly rain. It was a grey, rainy start and some other cyclists who had talked to me while we waited to disembark said they were cycling around Holland for a few days. I don’t think they’ve got the weather for it. When I said it was 27 degrees and sunny in Berlin I think they were somewhat envious!

The train from the Hoek to Rotterdam was already waiting at the station. I couldn’t remember what time it was leaving so hopped in the first door (well, attempted to – it’s hard to hop with a recumbent trike and two heavy panniers). Once the trike was installed the railways lady who had been sitting in First Class told me I needed to go to the next carriage which was better for bikes, so I got off again, went down one carriage and lo and behold found myself in a huge bike space, so that was handy.

It turned out I had a good 25 minutes to wait so settled down and made myself comfortable, watching the rain through the windows. I’m glad I’m not cycling in Holland today, and I have already decided to get the train from Venlo to Düsseldorf rather than riding it.

The train arrived at Rotterdam Centraal after half an hour. I barely recognised the station – it’s clearly in the middle of a major refurb and seemed totally different. They also seemed to have got rid of the huge lift that could fit three trikes in at once – eventually I found a small lift but it was just big enough for my trike. I bought a chicken sandwich and a cookie to have as my breakfast – I had already been up several hours so was feeling pretty hungry.

The next train was one to Utrecht. This was one of the double decker trains and unfortunately was rather packed with people. There were people sitting on fold-up seats in the priority bicycle storage area and they clearly weren’t going to move. I stayed in the main passageway with Alfie until it clearly became an issue and I informed the people on the bike seating area that they ought to move – and they did, across the gangway to some perfectly decent and empty seats.I then managed to squeeze Alfie in – just.

After half an hour on this train it was another change – this time for the train to Eindhoven. The train had been a bit delayed coming into Utrecht (which I will be cycling through in two weeks’ time) so I had missed my connection to Eindhoven. Never mind, the trains are every half hour.

Except, luckily, it seemed like the previous one was quite significantly delayed as it was standing there ten minutes after the time it should have left and so I got on. Along with rather a lot of other people, which involved much walking around my trike.

I am continually amazed, when travelling in Europe, of the inability of people to queue sensibly. When a train full of people arrives at a platform, what do the people waiting on the platform do? Do they let everyone out of the train first, giving them plenty of room to step off and move out of the way? No, they don’t. Everyone crowds round, trying to squeeze on, and it’s a bit of a nightmare.

There was a lady opposite me on this Eindhoven train with a fold up bike (which split in half – scary! It was just held together with two metal clips) and a cello in a case. She needed to get out but I was blocking the door. I said I would get off the train to help her but all the people on the platform trying to push in made this almost impossible. Then, once I was off, I couldn’t get back on again. I had visions of the train heading off with my panniers aboard whilst I was left at the mystery station. Fortunately in the end I managed to push my way back on.

After just under an hour we arrived at Eindhoven and it was time to change to the fourth train, one to Venlo. I stepped off the train and could see it across the platform so jumped straight on. This train had a fantastic recumbent tricycle-sized bicycle area which was, for once, completely empty, so I installed Alfie and sat beside him on a fold-down seat for the final forty five minutes’ journey.

I arrived at Venlo just before midday. The grey skies and pouring rain of Hoek van Holland had changed to blue skies and a gentle warmth now I was further east. All I had to do was buy a Deutsche Bahn ticket to Düsseldorf and I would be done for the day. However both ticket machines were out of order and there was a sign on them saying that I should buy the ticket from the train conductor. OK, I thought, hoping the conductor would be OK about this – German trains are always festooned with signs warning against ‘schwarz fahren’ or travelling without a ticket’.

I had a ten minute wait before this train so bought myself a cup of tea – my first of the day!

As I was waiting for the train to Düsseldorf a lady came up to talk to me. She said she has previously done lots of cycle touring and was asking me about my trike (she had ridden some to try them out) and we had a general chat. She was joined by her husband and her baby (which was in a bike trailer that was converted temporarily to a pram). When the train arrived I was heading downstream a bit but they pointed me to the bike carriage and we got on together.

The lady (Friedel) gave me her card about their cycle touring – they are the travelling two (www.travellingtwo.com) and have clearly done lots of very interesting cycle touring. Here are Friedel and Andrew Grant with baby Luke in the trailer:

They got out several stops before me, along with lots of other people. Then when we reached Mönchengladbach the world and his wife got on the train and it was packed all the way to Düsseldorf, an hour’s journey from Venlo. This had the benefit that, even if there were a conductor on board, he never got as far as the rear carriage and so I was successful in my schwarzfahren. I saved 15 Euros today!

So out I got at Düsseldorf feeling very relieved that my train journeys were over for today. There are only two trains tomorrow (I hope) although it’s over five hours’ total travelling time. It’s not so much the time on the train that is tiring but lifting the trike on and off, carrying it up and down stairs when the lifts are too small, etc.

The hotel I had booked in Düsseldorf is the CVJM which is the German version of the YMCA, but with individual en-suite rooms. They even left me a little Milka chocolate on the pillow!

The hotel is positioned about 100 metres from the railway station but is in a surprisingly quiet side street nestled between a sex shop and a mobile phone shop. I duly went into the mobile phone shop and got a German internet SIM for 10 Euros. The chap spent 15 minutes getting it all set up on my iPhone so I gave him a five Euro tip for being so helpful. That was the 15 Euros I saved on my last train journey.

After freshening up and washing today’s clothes in the shower I went out for a walk before sitting down outside a café for a goats cheese and spinach pizza.

My dessert today was a bar of Milka and a cup of tea.

So tomorrow it’s Berlin, a night there and then I head off back westwards towards home and the rain!


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