29 March 2016

Rumer's Story, part 12

To Berlin via Amsterdam

Thursday 18th to Friday 19th June 2015
25 weeks pregnant

So we were off! We had deliberately chosen (when we'd booked this trip to Berlin) to travel by train and boat. We both love long train journeys and ferries: they remind us of childhood trips, so we'd made that choice. Sadly it was neither a cheaper nor a quicker choice, so we'd decided to fly back.

The train to Harwich at that time of night (we left about 19:30 from Liverpool Street) was quiet, and it got quieter the further we went. It also got darker the further we went. We mostly talked about our day on the train, reviewing our impressions of the various hospital staff we'd seen, and read the notes that they'd written. We were in reasonably good spirits: despite the dire outlook, the day had gone well, and it felt as though the pregnancy was on track to go as well as it could. We were looking forward to the trip, but also not feeling that motivated about it.

If you want to know why we'd chosen Berlin, it was because we'd heard how good the vegan food was, and as both strict vegans of many years' standing and food lovers, we were looking forward to our meals out. We'd also noted that Berlin had a number of attractions that had interested us when we looked at this holiday, and one of the worst things about a foodie holiday is that you're never hungry for the next meal, or you spend your time trying to find something to do. Berlin seemed to have the perfect balance of things to eat and things to do. At the time we booked the trip, we'd thought of it as the last chance we'd have to go on an indulgent, restaurant-focused trip for some time, since young babies are rarely welcomed for slow evening meals at classy joints!

We arrived into Harwich just before 21:00 and the ship sailed at 23:00. I hadn't been to Harwich for many years, not since I went to a conference in Denmark with my sister, and Chris only remembered coming there to see us off. It is a big, but practically deserted terminal - at least for the night sailing. While we were waiting, Chris updated people with a Facebook post. We went through passport control and security and onto the ship and found our cabin. I love boats. It had four bunks, so for a while I wondered if we might be joined by others, but we decided to risk it and both picked the bottom bunks. Fortunately we ended up with the cabin to ourselves. Sadly there were no double beds.

We unpacked the stuff we had, happily noted that the baby was moving, and watched out of the cabin window. Then we decided to wander round the boat, which had limited things of interest: a couple of bars, a restaurant (we'd already eaten), a shop or two. It felt very much like the ferries we both remembered from our childhood; one of the few remaining relics of the 1980s. One of the sad things for us though was the children: we knew this would probably be the baby's only holiday ever, and going away with them was one of the things we had been looking forward to.. They would probably never take another trip on a ferry, we'd never be here with them again.We decided to go for a drink in the bar. I don't recall what I drank but Chris had a whisky, and we were lucky enough to find a seat. We then moved to a seat by the window and saw the boat depart. It was late by now, so we headed off to bed. The shower was actually pretty good for a ferry.

We had set the alarm the next morning for 6 am (local time). We had to get up, pack, eat something and get off the ship, which docked at 7 am. We'd had an initial plan for a late breakfast/early lunch during a stop-off in Amsterdam, but we knew we'd not last that long, so we bought coffee, fruit and a roll on the boat; we'd also brought some snacks of our own. By 7 am, we were queueing with our fellow foot-passengers to get off.

On the ferry, docking in the rain at Hook of Holland
Docking in the rain at Hook of Holland

The terminal at Hook of Holland is never-ending; we walked miles and miles and miles until we found passport control and more miles and miles until we left the terminal, exiting to the train station ahead of us. Our train tickets were included with the ferry deal, at least the tickets to Amsterdam, but we had no idea how to use them. A train was in the station and time was tight. We thought we had managed to use the machines to activate the tickets correctly, but as it turned out later, we hadn't.

We took the train to Schiedam Centraal where we had to change trains; however we couldn't find the platform. The interchange was again very tight - only 5 minutes - and the station was difficult to navigate, especially while pregnant with two suitcases and rucksacks! We mistakenly went through some barriers, found our tickets wouldn't let us back in, finally located the platform and missed the train by seconds. So we waited around on the platform for the next one with a group of young women who we'd directed to change here for Amsterdam earlier, and who seemed to have done better than us at finding the platform.

The train to Amsterdam was a double decker train, something we don't have in the UK. We sat up the top and started flicking through the name books. The ticket inspector (who quickly worked out that we were English and spoke to us in that language, adding to our shame) came along and told us we'd not activated our tickets correctly. He told us a lot of people did this which didn't make us feel any less stupid, however he let it pass, thankfully. We wouldn't have welcomed a fine. It felt that the world had handed us enough trouble to be getting on with.

We got into Amsterdam around 9.30am. We had decided to drop our luggage off and head out for a meal. We were hungry, we had a long train journey ahead and a late dinner, so we wanted to eat well. We'd selected two possible options that were open this early (it is amazing how few places open before 12 pm!) and we'd considered taking a bus or metro train, but in the end we chose to walk.

We headed to DopHert, a café which is a good 20 minutes walk or so from the station. Amsterdam is nice to walk around, though. We had studied the menu, and did again as we arrived, only to find the food we craved - burgers, main meals, etc. - were not served until 12:00. We instead had the option of juice and a light breakfast menu. We ended up both having a juice and a toastie with pesto and vegan cheese. We ate one and then decided to have a second; I added on some tea. We were the only people in the café. We then purchased some peanut butter chocolate cake for our journey to Berlin and rushed back.

We needn't have rushed. After we picked up our suitcases and  found the correct platform (easily this time), we waited for ages for the train. I sat on my bag and we waited and waited, and of course, when the train came in, we were on the wrong part of the platform for our allocated seats. The train, again, was quiet. We seemed to have picked good times of day to travel! We spent our time on the train reading, sleeping, listening to music. We managed to look through our name books again, but didn't really get too far. We bought some coffee and I got to practice my very rusty, bad German and got some air outside the train during a stop. We were feeling a bit melancholy and tired.

The train got busier as we got closer to Berlin, and then we were there! It was 19:22 and we got off the train and navigated through the station ( which was more like a shopping centre than a train station) to find a taxi rank. Chris went to find the loos and then we wound past cafés and food shops, down several escalators to the exit. Next stop: our hotel.

Facebook post
Chris's Facebook post with photo of baby names books
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