19 Days North Cycling Adventure | Day 2
The train to Hamburg arrived right on time. I got into the bike carriage, it’s totally empty.
A conductor came to me and ask for bike reservation certification. I was at lost – what the hell is that? He followed rapidly: please get out. I was stunned. I begged him for for accommodation, and I’m willing to stay anywhere in the train. But there’s just cold answers without a single hesitation: No, GET OUT. Desperation drove me extreme thirsty. He suggested me to contact the DB staff at station information desk. I had no choice but to rush there at all speed.
5 minutes to train departure.
Obviously my panic didn’t leave any good impression to the information desk staff, he roughly listened to my story and answered just 2 points: 1. bike reservation is only possible at ticket vendor machine or ticket office (during daytime). 2. the train conductor decides whether you can on board or not. So I was kicked back like a ball. The conductor still guarded the door. Without any expression on face, just shake head again and again and repeat: YOU CAN’T GET IN.
Watching all this happening, some passerby passengers can’t sit still and began to beg for me, so did an old lady stood behind the conductor in the carriage. However nothing can changed his mind for a single bit. So left the train slowly RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES, the train which I thought could save my plan. I know my face should be terribly calm. I tried to do something by inquiring the next time plan in cellphone. Fortunately, I was surprised to find there’s another one with same route after 3 hours, which was 3:30 AM. To renew the further route plan based on this one, there’s around 1 hour at Hirtshals before vessel departure – theoretically exists the possibility.
I went back to information desk and ask for reservation for the next train. The same staff answered, you can do it at vendor machine on your own. ‘I don’t know how to operate, please show me.’ I replied. He was obliged to slowly stand up from the chair, murmured and walk out of the office. He unskillfully stabbed his finger on the screen of the machine, ironically cannot find the right way either. He asked for help from his colleague, she came by and tried a while, then concluded: It’s impossible to do it here, just wait to tomorrow daytime and reserve it in ticket office, usually this has to be done one day ahead in the office in person. Surely I CAN’T wait to next day! I was totally trapped but can’t help, just found a corner at the railway station and sit on the steps, dialing the customer hotline of DB (Deutsche Bahn). A refugee came to me begging money, realised I looked in terrible mood and stepped away disappointingly.
The waiting time in phone sounds endless. Knowing I had no other choice, I decided to WAIT TO THE END. Finally at the 28 minute, somebody picked the phone. The voice at other side sounds more friendly than the office staff. She confirmed my doubt: Without bicycle place reservation, I can’t get in the carriage EVEN WITH a bicycle ticket, reservation must be made in person at DB offices. She also helped me to check the reservation status of the train leaves at 3:00, and told me it’s all booked. I tried to calm down and get it through: Of course I will try this train at 3:00. If failed, the only possibility is car rent. Yet I didn’t take the driving license with me and the distance from Frankfurt to Hirtshals is over 1000 KM, it is only possible when I get closer to north, for example Hamburg.
It happened that a friend has the key of my home, hoping he could see it when he woke up, I sent him SMS that I may need his help to get the copy of driving license. Meanwhile I ask the info office again, where’s the nearest car rent center. Still the man answered me impatiently: Airport, 3 station by metro. I was hesitating if bike is allowed in metro, then happened to turn around a corner and saw the giant sign of car rent center in the station. All 3 car providers were closed. I took out sleeping bag and lay down at hall corner. Not really before I fall asleep, I was woke up by a voice. ‘Good Morning!’. There were two pairs of shoes before me, their owners were equipped with police badge. The two security policemen said: you can’t sleep here. If they took me as refugee, the attitude is not bad. I heard police B asked A: What brand is his bike? A answered: Giant, a good one! OK, so maybe also a bike fan.
Officer A led me to the rest zone. It’s stinky and basically occupied by all kinds of snoozing vagabonds lying around. ‘How about here?’ He asked, then maybe himself realized it’s inappropriate, quickly pat on my shoulder: come, I show you a better place.
I realised he could have a little sympathy on me, so explained him my situation, ask for his favor to communicate with the train conductor at 3:00. He agreed without hesitation and asked for my nationality. ‘China? Ni Hao! (Hello)’ I laughed. He took a victory gesture to his colleagues around – see? I can speak Chinese!
I was not really happy. Half-snap at platform until 3:00, the silence was broken by roars of the train.
The bike carriage is unattended. I jumped in – my goodness it’s already fully occupied, even there were people lying on the ground. Somebody raise his sleepy eyes on me slowly. I quit the carriage. Maybe the train arrived a bit earlier, A was not show up. I tried to explain myself to the conductors. Maybe my objection had trade for some sympathy. One of them agreed to try to search for me. He returned after 10 minutes: You are lucky, the train change some carriages here, there’s a last bike place in new carriage, it’s yours.
I was EXCITED TO MAD and follow him with thousand thanks. When I finally settled everything in carriage, I intended to get off to let A know that problem solved, but he was not in the platform, and I don’t want to leave a single step the carriage anyway.i
Every step I can take to the destination is TOP PRECIOUS for me now. The sky was already white-grey when I opened my eyes in dawn. The train was running stably in the wilds, outside window it’s full of green. I slept for around 3 hours. But I can’t feel fresher.
The train stopped slowly at Hamburg. The station appears extraordinary LOVELY to me. There were another 3 guy got off with me together. They have a cycle plan in Denmark and have same route with me: to reach the boarder city Flensburg in next. It’s also their first time to bring the bikes in train. They have reserved bike place in Germany but not in Denmark trains. We went together to info train office and learned it’s not possible to do it in Germany, then just try our luck later.
The train from Hamburg to Flensburg do not need any reservation. I was glad I’m one more step closer to the destination. In the train there was an investigator asked us couple of question. He showed he is working for ‘GUS’ but I have no idea what does that means. It was a short and pleasant journey to the boarder city.
Denmark train are ‘black headed’, the carriages are short – just like a metro. The problem we are worried of occurred: a lot of people blocked at the platform with bikes and tried to get on.
The 3 companions knew I have to catch the vessel, and urged me to get in myself if I can. The conductor was busy coordinate among people noises. I shout loudly I had made reservation (I did call for reservation last night to Denmark train DSB, but not sure if it’s just this one), the conductor shouted back then jump in don’t waste time, I immediately made my way among all mess people and dragged my bike in.
The train start to move slowly. It was a chaos at platform, someone shout furiously, why can’t I get in though I already paid. My 3 companions can’t get in either. They wish me good luck. Good luck is not coming by ‘wish’.
Soon the train stopped at the boarder. Some security staff got in and check the passengers identification. I showed my passport which was surely ready. The lady asked for my long-term-stay paper. I took out wallet confidently but found the EU blue card was NOT THERE, despite thousand times it should be there without any exception. I grew panic and search all around but found NOTHING. I had to follow the security police to get off. When I watched the train leaving, I had to admit in the end: this time there’s absolutely NO ANY CHANCE to get the vessel in time.
I opened all luggage at the boarder’s platform, search from bottom to top but can’t find the blue card. The lady officer felt sorry for me but told me to GO BACK where I was from. ‘Or maybe you can try to get a short certificate from German police, I will do that if I were you.’ Despite of that, considering the vessel itinerary and all following plans, I was sure the trip is COMPLETELY DOOMED.
This is one of the most sucking moment I EVER had in my life. All attempts and efforts on the way, I thought I was step and step closer to the target. When I’m about to grasp it, I died. Died so certain, without any doubt.
During waiting for train back to Germany, I tried to find some fun by talking to the young boarder officer. He said in the past they don’t usually do this, but it starts to be more strict with documentation since recently is not that safe in Europe. I asked him if he know some other case which is more stupid than mine. He thought for a while and said, once there was a truck driver, when he was stopped for examination, he asked ‘where am I?’. How ignorant he could be, the lad said, that can’t even tell which country is here. I thought this is completely nothing, NOTHING can ever be more stupid than my current situation.
The staff at Flensburg already knew my ‘heroic’ story. The train office changed my return ticket from 3 weeks later to the next train. So IRONIC the route was still to Hamburg, Frankfurt and all way back.
Before the train comes I take a lazy ride in Flensburg city. Here should be also the North Sea? But how can that single bay compare with my dream target. There happened to be a carnival aside the bay, I got in the great wheel, overlook the city but felt ONLY DESPERATE.
The train back to Hamburg was vacant in evening. I lost all my power, physically and mentally. I put on the headphone and buried my face deep in the luggage. The music played which drives me to north land for hundreds times. Half sleep, half awake, finally I lost my control to tears.
It’s so damn sad, that the dream dies.
I felt extreme ASHAMED. Prepare it for half year, be ready to fight against all situations over there, but never expect to end up like this.
Watching the fully equipped luggage made my heart break. It’s like a warrior has polished his sword and shield, ready for battle, then fall down in a STUPIDEST way before even engage with enemies. I failed myself and failed these gears. This should not be my destiny.
I can’t remember how I spent all the way back. I watched every pace I had proceed previously, flow rapidly back to the start point like TAPE REWIND.
Subconsciously I realised the last chance to save my plan, and took out paper and pen to organize the thoughts.