Friday, March 14, 2014

ICE, ICE, baby: Hamburg to Copenhagen

The trai having been safely divided at Hamburg - the back half is going to Aarhus, where my international political life started twenty-five years ago - the last leg of my journey began. No compartment this time, and the diesel version of the ICE train, still grey but better laid out.

The DB lounge at Hamburg is very nice, and the first class treatment starts there, as a nice lady brought me a bowl of vegetable soup, with lentils and an extra German touch, sliced sausage, which I approve of. I was able to use their free wi-fi, catch up with the world, before strolling in a leisurely manner to my train, en route to Lubeck, Oldenburg and Puttgarden, before a crossing of the lower Baltic and a dash across the islands of Eastern Denmark.

This rather flat bit of Germany, the Holstein bit of Schleswig-Holstein, is well-suited to wind turbines, and there are rather a lot of them to be seen from the train. It's a good thing too, as Germany's dependence on gas supplies from Russia means that their decision to close their nuclear power stations makes them more than a little vulnerable. Lucky for Frau Merkel that spring is coming...

Which reminds me, why are so many people at home so hostile to the notion of wind turbines? They're quiet, they don't pollute and, compared to a regular power station, they're far easier on the eye. Perhaps we just need to paint them in pretty colours?

You might have noted the reference to crossing the Baltic and been a mite puzzled for, having checked, you'll know that there isn't a bridge. Instead, at Puttgarden, the train rolled onto a ferry, whereupon we were evicted and the train locked, whilst we struggled upstairs to the boat deck, with its duty-free shop, restaurants and video game arcade. They don't mess about - as soon as the train was safely aboard and the stern door closed, the ferry left, no more than eight minutes after our arrival at the station.

It was, still, rather grey - must everything colour-coordinate with my train? - but the crossing was smooth, and it wasn't long before Denmark hove into view, so I headed back to the train for the remaining two hour journey to Copenhagen. Denmark is flat, even more flat than Suffolk, and the miles slipped by before, as darkness fell, the Copenhagen suburbs appeared, and my train odyssey was at an end.

So, how would I sum up my journey? Well, it's much less stress-inducing than flying, the view out of the window is relaxing too, and Deutsche Bahn, in particular, do know how to look after their passengers, in first class at least. If, however, time, or money, or both are an issue, you're almost certainly better off flying. I have to say though, if the opportunity arises to go somewhere by train again, and I have the time, I'd be minded to do it.

And now, with Ros at my side, a weekend in Copenhagen beckons...

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