To keep thing simple we had decided to book the same hotel we had on our outward journey, still lots of kids in the hotel . We decided to keep things simple and our evening meal was in a Taiwan rice restaurant at the main station, it was something different. Tomorrow which was our last day of the holidaying part of our holiday (the last day would be spent travelling back to the UK) we had planned to shopping and sight seeing.
The following day dawned pouring with rain………….lots of it. Now if there one thing I hate it is shopping in the rain, outside you get wet and hot as you have to wear a coat, when you go in the shop you get hotter and have to remove the wet coat, go back out the shop and you have to put the coat back on again so it continues, this is not a day I was going to enjoy. We also had some Polish Zotty’s we wanted to exchange so we were on the look out for a Bureau De Change (or such like) as well. Iwon’t bore you with the details but I got wet and grumpy at the day progressed. Eventually towards mid afternoon the weather broke and the rain stopped, it was at this point that we did a bit of sight seeing, we went to Brandenberg Tor (gate). We had seen it earlier in the holiday from a distance but Karen wanted to see it up close.
Having done our touristy bits it was back to the hotel and the final pack of our bags (well almost). Evening meal we decided on Vapiano again and while in the station we double checked the platform and the location of said platform ready for the morning. We also decided that in the morning we would purchase a couple rolls from one of the bakery shops on the station for our lunch as the transfer of trains at Koln did not leave a lot of time to purchase food (34 minutes, turned out to be a very wise move). We headed to bed early as tomorrow was due to be a long day 6 trains, 4 countries.
We were at the station early picked up a couple of rolls and headed for the platform. At the last minute our train changed platforms but fortunately it was only the other side of the platform which was just as well as by now the platform was very busy with people waiting for the train.
Once the train arrived we boarded and found our seats and yes my window seat was again a window pillar (by this time I had given up expecting a window). It soon became apparent that we were running slowly the outward bound train his 250kph we were lucky if we hit half that speed, running slowly between signal and at time stopping. Soon the onboard display panel start showing a revised arrival time, we eventually arrived in Koln 25 minute late leaving us 10 minutes to get off the train off the platform, find the correct platform and then on the train. By the time we reached the correct platform the train was boarding. We jumped onto the first carriage and dragged our bags through the train. The train was leaving Koln station before we got to our seats.
The Koln – Brussels Midi train made good time and arrived in Brussels on time. We had a wait but nothing like the 2hours+ we had on the way out. Compared to St Pancras the Brussels Eurostar terminal is a bland bleak a fair. Fortunately we boarded the Eurostar on time and the train left on time. We had barely left the station before they started serving the evening meal, I was not complaining it was 5pm and I was hungry. Unlike the outbound Eurostar this train showed the speed at which we were travelling which topped out at 298kph as we zipped through the Belgium country side and meant we arrived at St Pancras on time (18:06).
We had an hour to rush across London through the late evening rush hour traffic on the Underground to get to our final connection from Waterloo at 19:05. We got to Waterloo and quickly found the platform for our train and boarded the first carriage which had spaces. This was not a good idea, we found out that the train was made up of two 5 car trains and at Southampton the front 5 cars would make up the fast train to Bournemouth while the rear 5 cars would make up the slow train to Bournemouth. As we left Winchester we dragged our case through 4 carriages until we found seats in the front 5 carriages and the fast section of the train. While doing this we found out that the passageway through the trains were narrower than that of the trains Germany and Poland.
We arrived home at 21:35, breakfast in Berlin, supper in Bournemouth, a very tiring day
So there it is, a brief account (ok brief 10500+ word account) of how we prepared, booked our trip and the how the trip its self went. So would we do it again and the simple answer is yes but there would be some changes and they would be trip dependant. So here are some suggestion if you are planning a similar trip (in no particular order):
- Research your train options thoroughly before booking, once you have a route, double check and make sure there are no timetable changes for summer to winter timetable changes
- Leave as much time as you can for transferring to another train, a minimum should be 30 minutes
- Reserve your seats, the cost is not very much and will be worth it if you don’t have to stand or sit on the floor during a 3 hour journey.
- Travel light, this was something we did not do and believe me while it was easier to drag the bags around behind us, it would have been a lot easier if they were half the weight.
- Check your IT, I took a tablet to record a lot of this while on the train journeys but for some reason it lost work I had typed in and refused to charge when it went flat. My phone lost photos I took on it, not sure why or how but there were a lot of photos from through out the holiday that were missing.
- Check out roaming on your mobile phone and note that this can really eat your phone battery of some train journeys as it looks for a signal so make sure you have power packs as well as leads to charge your phone.
- If you have a lot of tickets on A4 paper get yourself some A4 plastic wallets to store them in. I would think twice about having the tickets on my on phone, your phone may go flat and we saw on several occasion a passenger franticly searching his phone for the ticket and the QR code on said ticket while the guard looked on impatiently.
- Research the area you are staying at particularly if you are staying in an apartment like we did, lack of local restaurants, not knowing the how the local bus service caused us a lot of problems. The same can be said of how you access the apartment you are staying at, make sure you know how to contact the owner of the property before you arrive.
- Make sure you have travel insurance that will cover the cost of additional tickets if you miss a connecting train as the train was delayed.
- Google maps is a useful app to use especially on local trains where the train does not have an onboard display, you can find out where you are and how far it is before you need to get off. NOTE: this will eat your battery so don’t leave it running.
- When you arrive at a railway station double check the train times, the platform it is leaving from and the route it is taking.
- Mains plug socket adapters, we paid just over £6 for 5 from Amazon, local shop was selling them at £6.50 each,
- Most train have usb or mains socket to allow you to charge your device but also have you own power pack and keep it charged.
Below are some useful web links that we used that may prove useful to you.
Useful web sites
www.seat61.com Train routing and planning across Europe
www.booking.com Travel and accommodation site
www.bahn.de German railway ticket and timetable info
https://www.eurostar.com/uk-en Eurostar timetable and tickets
www.omio.com German train timetables and ticket booking
https://www.hotelmeridiana.co.uk St Pancras hotel close to to Eurostar (via booking.com)
www.agoda.com Apartment in Poland (via booking.com)
www.meininger-hotels.com Hotel in Berlin (next to Central Station)
www.allcleartravel.co.uk Travel insurance (diabetes cover)
https://www.thetrainline.com UK train time table and ticket booking
https://www.interrail.eu/en Train routes and booking (although we never used them in the end)
I can finally confirm that I did get paid for the tickets I had to resale as they would not refund them, I got the full amount I sold them for (was expecting them to take a selling fee) but overall I still lost money, you live and learn.