There is a lesson emerging from this trip – do not try to travel by train to Hamburg with bicycles. I’m trying to type this standing up in a carriage crowded with bicycles, large luggage and people, because the previous regional train was cancelled. Does this sound familiar at all? We are travelling west to Hamburg from Kiel rather than east from Bremen but the only significant difference is that there is a dog in the carriage this time, also suffering from the heat.
Drawing a veil over train issues for now, we had a lovely time in Oslo visiting a very dear friend we have not seen for far too long. The ferry may have had a lot of facilities we really didn’t need, but the views from the deck and observation lounge going in and out of Kiel and Oslo Fjords were stunning. We were extremely lucky with the weather both ways and there was barely a ripple on the sea. The passage under the Danish ‘Great Belt Bridge’ (18km long in two sections – see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Belt_Bridge ) was particularly impressive.
We are told that Norwegians think Oslo is the most boring part of Norway, but it seemed very beautiful to us. We went up the hill to see a scarily tall former Olympic ski jump, which was keeping the adrenaline levels up with zip wire descents in the summer – we didn’t try it, but had a lot of fun watching others. On Sunday we took a small ferry across the fjord and spent many hours visiting the Fram Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum, and there was plenty more to see in all three as well as other museums we didn’t get to. Although seriously hilly if you want to venture out of the city centre, Oslo seemed pretty cycle friendly, with good paths in the centre and plenty of people making use of them. It’s another place high up on the list for a return visit – so much still to explore. Huge thanks to Nikki for looking after us so well while we were there.
Update: catching up on the rest of this entry now that the trauma of the train journey is beginning to fade. We made it to Hamburg and dragged bikes and luggage off the overcrowded train. The station was just as hot, just as crowded and just as apparently disorganised and confusing as the previous time. This is weird to me. I know Hamburg is a very big and busy city so the main station is bound to be big and busy also, but other large German railway stations we have been to have been well-organised. Not so Hamburg (note: we visited Hamburg in 2017 and liked it – don’t avoid the city, just avoid the main station, especially with bikes).
Our first problem was that the lift from the platform wasn’t working. We managed to take our bikes up an escalator and find the travel centre. We had received an email saying that the time of our train on to Osnabrück had changed, but we were a bit confused about it so wanted to double-check the time. Bruce stood in a very long queue and was assured that the train time was just a few minutes later – changed from 15.46 to 15.49, but we should be on the platform several minutes early. We therefore thought we had almost two hours to kill so set off out of the station to find drinks and food. There was a handy vegan fast food place (Vincent Vegan – seems to be a local chain – did the job nicely) with seats outside. I remained paranoid about the train time, though, as the Deutsche Bahn website and app were both telling me our train would in fact leave at 14.50.
Paranoia won out, so we headed back to the station to find that yes, our train was in fact leaving at 14.50. There was another dead lift so we wound up lugging bikes with luggage down multiple sets of stairs. We checked the sign on the platform which said we would need to be at point F, right at one end, for the bike spaces. The platforms were not very wide for a main station and exceptionally crowded, so trying to fight our way along was really difficult. We only spotted that the electronic platform sign was showing the bike spaces were at the other end when the train was arriving, and we had to fight our way back through the crowds past 10 carriages to get to the front of the train. We just made it. Bruce dived on with his bike, the door closed behind him and deactivated, and I was still stuck on the platform. A kind stranger saw what had happened and knocked on the window of the driver’s cab. The driver looked out and I yelled that my husband was on the train. Then the driver pulled out a mobile phone and called someone, and there was an agonising pause before the doors activated again. Two very kind Belgian ladies, also touring cyclists, helped me wrestle my bike and luggage aboard and the train pulled out. Much relief and exhaustion all round. Hamburg station: null points; the kindness of strangers: winning all the way.
It was all much better at Osnabrück. It’s a smaller station, but it was as I expect – easy to navigate, large platforms, clear information. And the lifts were working! We had to wait almost three hours for our Amsterdam train (had to take the one with bike spaces available), so it was good to find a nice bar with outdoor tables and enjoy cold drinks for a while. The last leg of the journey was very smooth – position of the bicycle car was very clear, there was plenty of space, and we made it all the way to Amsterdam by 11pm as advertised. We were allowed to remove our FFP2 face masks at the Dutch border, and it looked as though most people did.
We spent the night at an Amsterdam Hotel right by the station. The train journey felt more tiring than a day pedalling would have been, but we are here, within easy reach of the ferry home and able to enjoy our last few days of holiday without travel pressures. It seems that I have strained something in my left shoulder heaving the bikes around but that seems to be the only after-effect of the journey.