I grinned when the stationmaster at Strasbourg central said “c’est le bordel ici!*, and he was probably right: most trains were delayed, and I was pestering him as to the arrival of the TGV to Karlsruhe. Thankfully that too was delayed so I was still able to catch it. When I asked on which track the train was expected, he kindly directed me downstairs and asked me to wait until it was announced. (Strasbourg station sucks that way because tracks aren’t published on a time table: you find out what track your train is arriving on earliest ten minutes before it arrives. Contrary to all other stations I know, you have to hang around in the foyer waiting until the track is announced, instead of leisurely going to the published track as soon as you get to the station.)

A few seconds later, the train was announced to arrive on track 4, and the TGV arrived a few minutes later. Its doors wouldn’t open – they were frozen shut. A stewardess ran along the outside of the train, kicking a little snow and ice off the doors and they opened. Unfortunately, no such helpful person was at Karlsruhe when the TGV entered the station an hour later, so I (together with all other passengers wishing to debark) had to run along the inside of the train in search of a door which would open. That left me a bit breathless when I finally did manage to get out, and I ran slithering to catch a connecting ICE to Koeln.

A little over two hours later, in the evening, the ICE I was cosily sitting in had to take a detour because some person had decided to end his or her life on the freezing tracks. The German Bahn euphemistically calls that a “Personenschaden” (damage to a person), and it invariably means a suicide or attempted suicide. (There are about 1000 cases per year in this country alone.)

After a twenty-hour stopover in Duesseldorf it was back into a train. Unfortunately some poor soul needed an emergency doctor on the way, so that took care of another forty minutes delay.

All in all, however, I was lucky: I made it back to a snowed-covered but warm home. Compared to the hundreds or thousands stuck in snowed-in airports, cars, and Channel Tunnels, the trip was pure pleasure.

Home and train :: 21 Dec 2009 :: e-mail