Train travel review: Deutsche Bahn (DB) Brussels to Hamburg during recent disruptions due to storm Xavier.
I have never travelled in Europe by train, so this was a first for me. I decided to take the train from Brussels to Cologne and then onto Hamburg. What a journey it was to turn into. I arrived at Brussels Midi station in time to catch the ICE train to cologne (Koln) where I was due to change for Hamburg. I was on an ordinary second class ticket, but the train was very impressive. It was light, very modern and clean. The seats were extremely comfortable with more than enough leg room. The announcements were in French, Dutch, German and English which was very helpful to a number of passengers. The journey didn’t take that long and before we knew it we were arriving on time at Cologne. However things were about to start getting interesting because of a huge storm over the North of Germany that had caused a lot of disruption and very sadly the loss of life.
When I arrived at Cologne, I innocently joined the small queue at the DB information kiosk just to check the platform of my next train. It was lucky I did because the staff there advised me of the storm and that trains might not be getting through to Hamburg, but I was to travel to Dortmund where further information would be hopefully available. Red warnings were flashing up on the electronic display screens but not being able to speak German, they meant nothing. So onto my next DB train and I was hopeful because it still said it was heading to Hamburg. The train was pretty full but understandable given the national disruption but the seats were comfortable and the train staff did there best to keep passengers informed of what was happening. Unfortunately this was all in German, but when I made contact with one of them, they explained in English.
Then the news that nobody wanted, the train would terminate in Dortmund. What now? As I got off the train and headed for the information kiosk, my heart sank at the size of the queue as of course everyone was in the same boat. The only drawback was everything seemed to be in German, funny that seeing as we were in a German city, and of course not everyone speaks English nor should they in their own country. But in these situations, the human spirit shines through and within a few minutes I had teamed up with two German speakers and a French traveller. I spoke no German or French, the French Traveller spoke no German or English, but the two German travellers took us under their wing and helped us. Eventually we got to the head of the queue and we were issued vouchers for a taxi to take us onto Hamburg. So the four of us jumped into a waiting taxi (at DB’s expense) for the 4 hour drive north.
At Hamburg, all trains had been cancelled because of the storms, it was very late at night, but DB had provided a huge train for passengers to rest on instead of waiting on cold platforms. They provided blankets, drinks and snacks all for free.
I had initially thought DB’s reaction to the disruption had been chaotic, however, I praise them for what they did with my particular journey, and it went above an beyond what I was use to from the train service in my own country. They had done the best they could in what was obviously a very difficult situation affecting half the country. So for me, they had got me to my destination, they provided a safe place to rest, hot drinks, water and snacks whilst waiting for an inward connection.
Very impressed. Thank you Deutsche Bahn.