Coming back from a conference in Passau, I had two sensations of déjà vu. The winter storm “Emma” that swept over large parts of Germany on Friday, February 29 (and Saturday) reminded me of “Kyrill” last January. As in 2007, I was caught up in it and had to struggle to get from Passau to Luxembourg via train.

The last day of the conference in Passau had actually started out nicely: I did not have to worry about my presentation anymore as I had nailed it the evening before, the rain had stopped before I left the hotel, and it was going to be a nice day. I did not worry about the weather too much as I only read the news on the TV briefly where it said that there were high speeds in the mountains, but that the storm did not grow to expectations of the evening before.

However, when we wanted to go to the train station, one of the conference attendees said that there were no trains and no rental cars available. What to do now? Well, we went to the train station to get the latest information and were told that busses were on their way to take us to Nueremberg as the train tracks could not be used for at least two hours due to fallen trees. So we waited in the cold and somewhat windy weather outside of the train station for the busses to arrive.

An hour after our arrival at the station, the first bus showed up and I was lucky to be able to board it right away. However, despite a three-hour bus ride ahead of us, we could not leave immediately as we had to wait for the other two busses because the drivers did not know the way as they were regular city bus drivers. At least we did not have to wait in the cold outside anymore. Finally, we set off, did not have any traffic jam on our way and even made it to Nueremberg in 2.5 hours arriving there at 5 p.m. That was way too late to catch my train to Koblenz. However, it was right on time for the regular train schedule to kick in with only a few delays and changes.

(To better understand the individual stops, you might want to look at a map of Germany, e.g. via Google, while reading this.)

The next train going to Koblenz came at 5:30 p.m., but it was not the regular ICE. It was an IC that usually goes a bit slower. All went well up to Wuerzburg. There we were told that we could not go straight to Frankfurt, but had to head into a slightly different direction that would lead us further north: to Fulda. That would cost us about 40 minutes. In the end, this was a detour of approx. 80 minutes. The locomotive had to be switched because we needed to change directions. This would have been much easier and quicker in an ICE as they are designed to have one on both ends. Anyway, on our way to Frankfurt, I already realized that I would not make the train that a kind gentleman next to me had looked up on the internet when he could access it because the conductor was not able to give me any details as he said he did not have the schedule for trains crossing the border. What a liar, but I come to that later on. He even had the nerve to ask me why I had not looked up the trains beforehand. I wondered why I should have done that when I had booked specific trains that I had to stick to before setting out for Passau. In Nueremberg I did not have the time to check with the service staff as the lines were very long and I would have missed the train.

Once we arrived in Frankfurt, we had to switch locomotives again because Frankfurt has a dead-end station. Lucky for me, we also picked up new conductors and I tried again to find out whether I would be able to make it home that night. I went to the conductor and she had clearly not been informed by her colleague that I was headed to Luxembourg. However, she had all necessary means to help me: train schedule, electronic organizer with all train information, direct telephone connection to the dispatcher in her moving office. She called the dispatcher immediately and we learned that on top of everything there was a scheduled construction site between Mainz and Koblenz that weekend and that would cost us a detour of about 40 minutes. The last train to Luxembourg would have left about one hour before we would arrive in Koblenz. Nevertheless, she said she would try to find a solution for me.

When we were ready to leave Mainz, the conductor told us that we could not do so due to the lack of train schedule information. We thought we were in a bad movie or that April Fool’s Day had been moved one month ahead. What did we need a train schedule for when there was relative chaos everywhere?

We arrived in Koblenz at 11:10 p.m. and the last train for the night left for Trier (note: not Luxembourg) at 11:18 p.m. That was the slowest train you can imagine. It stopped every three to five minutes in every tiny village (in German we say that the train stopped at every “Milchkanne” [milk can]) and thus took two hours to reach Trier. Usually, you can make it to Luxembourg from Koblenz in about 1.5 hours (and Trier is about 45 minutes by train from Luxembourg away). Thus I was stranded in Trier at 1:16 a.m. today. I could take a hotel room that will be paid by the train service because there was no way of me getting to Luxembourg that night. Thus, I continued my journey home this morning.

All in all, it was not horribly bad because I could have also been stranded in the train in the middle of nowhere, but still, it took 12 hours trying to get back home and then being stopped 45 minutes before the final destination was not so appealing.

Let’s see what will happen to me in 13 months. I hope, I do not have to travel because then chances are high to be caught in yet another storm. 😉

In the beginning I wrote about two sensations of déjà vu. The second one was also in Passau. When I went to Passau for the first time, we were tremendously delayed and going back to Munich we also had to wait at the train station to board a bus (again in the cold and when it was windy) as the tracks between Passau and the next station could not be taken due to a bomb alarm if I remember correctly. So far, I only reached and left Passau without problems once out of three times. What may happen the next time I will be there? Will everything be alright or will hell break loose entirely? I will keep you updated. 😉

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