Sunday Matinée: Travel Diary 25-26 December 2001

A couple of years ago, I re-posted my travel diary from when I went to Koblenz to attend the Modern Talking Fanclub Party in January 2001. I mentioned at the time that I went back later that year to attend the next one, but then I sort of forgot to post about it. Seeing as how it’s now been a couple of years now, and we’re coming up to a year since my re-visit to Koblenz so I’m getting nostalgic and would like to post about it, I really ought to post these things first.

I’ve copied and pasted the original text, which has been pretty much untouched since I first wrote it, so take every spelling mistake and grammattical error as [sic]. Not to mention the extremely unfiltered stream-of-consciousness writing. Worth noting is that what could easily be interpreted as very rude was never meant to be rude, just … joking. But it doesn’t come across at all well.

In the first part, I leave home on Christmas Day (which is the day after Christmas in Sweden) in order to take the bus all the way down to Cologne, and I also find out what Boxing Day in Germany means … i.e. everything’s closed.

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 25/26: STENUNGSUND-KOBLENZ
Documented in room 12 at Hotel Jan van Werth.

Christmas Day – a day to spend with the family, eating good food, and simply enjoy yourself. Or, you could be packing your bags, rush through dinner, and make your father hysteric because the bus leaves for Gothenburg in 10 minutes and you’re still not ready!! I usually go with option no.1, but not this year. I went for option 2.

The bus left 16:40, and I got on it maybe… 16:37. At 17:30, I was in Gothenburg. I was going to go to Forex to exchange money, but they were closed. Damn. Fortunately, it was only my pocket money, because I had exchanged the other money before Christmas. Anyway, at 18, I was out at bus stop 45, and the bus arrived. About 45 minutes later, we were on the icy road – snug and warm in the EuroLines coach. It was just a one-story bus and not a two-story, but you can’t have everything!

To my surprise, we didn’t go past Malmö this time. We stopped in Helsingborg and took the ferry over to Helsingör in Denmark. The ferry had an exchange office, so I went there, and also stopped by at the gift shop, where I didn’t see anything of interest – at first. Then I found it – Bertie Bott’s All-Flavour Beans. I just HAD to try that (as the Harry Potter-fan I am).

They weren’t of ALL flavours, though, just a few. How about candy tasting like carrot or tomato? Sweet popcorn or apple? Coconut or vanilla? There was one I thought, “this is either garlic or horseradish”. Sure, it said “horseradish” (in English) on the box, but my thought was in Swedish, because I had forgotten the English word. I asked my sister to look it up, and her reply confirmed my suspicions. I’m the kind of person who just cannot STAND the taste of horseradish anywhere and in any shape or form, and the very same person ends up with candy of that horrible taste. Yuck! The second time I found it, it tasted even more horrible, so BEWARE OF THE PURPLE All-Flavour Beans!!! Those with weird taste have a “!” printed on them, while the other, regular-tasting, have the HP logo. The green beans are lovely (apple), and the pink/cerise/magenta ones I haven’t identified yet, but they’re dull. Blah blah.

At 1:30 in the morning, we left a semi-snowy Denmark behind us (Sweden was also a little snowy, and Gothenburg had like a decimetre of snow, while Stenungsund only had a few centimetres!), and headed for Puttgarden. I found a scarf or shawl or something in the gift shop, but it cost over 200 DM (!), so I surely did NOT buy that! Neither did I buy film rolls – that could wait to I got to Koblenz (where I was pretty damn sure I could get it a lot cheaper than one roll of film for 28 DM – Pokémon or not). At 02:40, or so, we were in Puttgarden, Schleswig-Holstein, Deutschland.

At perhaps 04:30, we stopped in Hamburg (and just like in Copenhagen, it was a different stop than in January), where I had to get off. I changed bus, and it was onwards to Cologne/Köln. Around 8am, we stopped at the same place as in January – Raststätte Münsterland outside Münster. Breakfast time, vielleicht? I bought half a bread-thingy and the French part of me couldn’t resist a croissant, so I got one of those as well. Njamm. By the way, they want you to “donate” 0,50 DM for using their toilets. Just thought you should know…

Around 42 km before Köln, we got stuck in a queue for a while. Reason? Icy road + cars = accident waiting to happen, and it did, in Talbrücke country (I’m serious, there was one Talbrücke after another! And for those of you who don’t know, Tal = valley, and Brücke = bridge, so you do the maths).

Finally, at 11:30-ish, we were in Köln at last. Yes, ZOB bus stop 5A, there was the Dome… and the Rhein… the concert hall with colour-changing lights (which I had completely forgot about until I saw it again)… and of course the big Haubtbahnhof – complete with McDonald’s and everything, just like when I left it in January.

This time, I had to buy the ticket in Germany (thanks a lot, SJ… NOT!), so I did. It took me quite a while to find the ticket office, since I didn’t want to use any of the ticket automates I ran in to. Well, I found it eventually, got the tickets (bought the return one at the same time, just to save time and confusion on my way back), which cost 47,77 DM. My check-up on the Internet had said 48 DM, so that was just splendid, I had just saved 0,22 DM. I was told a train for Koblenz would leave at 20 past 11, and the time was 11:12, so I had to run.

There was a train at Gleis 7, but would it take me to Koblenz or not? I asked a lady (she said no), but the man at the ticket office said 11:20, and this train would leave 11:23, and besides, on the monitor signs-whatever it said it would stop in Koblenz, so I got on. A man said that yes, the train would stop in Koblenz, and that I was on the right train. I figured I’d know soon enough, because that’s the thing with trains in Germany. You never quite know if you’re on the right one until you reach your destination and have got off! I found a seat in a nearly empty, er, compartment, and I soon discovered the reason for why it was so few people there. I was kind of in the smoking compartment… Scheisse. But I was lucky – only 2 people on the 1-hour journey actually smoked. The train stopped in Bonn, so I was heading in the right direction.

There are really high hills surrounding the Rhein/Rhine river, but they don’t call it the “Rhine valley” for nothing, right? ;c) I was wondering if we were getting close, and I kept staring out of the windows. Is that town I can spot a long way up front Koblenz? Is THIS Koblenz? No, the sign says ANDERNACH (a town you’ll hear mentioned later on in the story). If we’re in Andernach, then we’re close! (Gah, I thought this room was freezing! I was wrong – the CORRIDOR is freezing! Putting the radiator on 4 has had an effect! WooHoo!! I think three Russians or something has checked in… they’re in the room across the hall. Hang on, the pink might be the “sweet popcorn” ones! …”Sweet popcorn” sounds dodgy…)

Eventually – 10 minutes later, perhaps; I saw Festung Ehrenbreitstein resting high on the hill on the opposite side of the Rhein. I saw the white & yellow towers of St. Florinskirche, the red & gray towers of the Liebfrauenkirche, the red & white Old Castle (Alte Burg)… I was in Koblenz! There we go past the Löhr-Center! Is this train actually going to stop here??? Like an answer to my prayers, the train slowed down to a halt, and I jumped off. I was back!

I had no trouble finding my hotel, since Hotel Höhmann is just across the Bahnhofsplatz, in front of the train station. Which reminds me, I still don’t know what that ruin on the hilltop behind the Hbf is called (OK, it’s called Fort Konstantin, if I might add that now when I type it down on a computer). I remember I first thought it was Festung Ehrenbreitstein back in January. Man, was I wrong, or what? ;c)

I checked in, ate a little (I didn’t eat all my food on the bus), and put my bags in a corner. (Yep, the pinks taste of sweet popcorn.) They had given me a double-room, which I discovered as soon as I managed to get the door to open; but alles in ordnung, they were only charging me for a single-room. Since Dec.26th (Boxing Day) is a red letter day, 99% of the shops and restaurants were closed (and I mean, this is Germany, where everything is closed even on Sundays!). I thought a pizzeria or something would be open, but where could I find one? I found ONE pizzeria, and it was closed like everything else. Funny, I only found ONE pizzeria, but THREE erotics shops – and I wasn’t even looking for those! I found one next to Hotel Höhmann (…no, a pizzeria. Don’t be so dirty-minded!) when I was going back to the hotel, but then I had already eaten a Gemüse-Mäc Menü at McDonald’s. D’oh.

At 14:05, I walked in to Odeon or Appollo cinema and got a ticket for the 14:00 show of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (that’s “Sorcerer’s Stone” for all you daft Americans! :cP ). I had missed the first 5 minutes, but I had seen the movie weeks ago, at home. I fell asleep around Christmas, but I woke up briefly when Harry got the invisibility cloak, and when he was in the library at night. I woke up properly when Norbert was about to hatch (I think). A note to you who read/see HP in German: it’s HERMIONE, not “Hermine”! :cP

By the time I got my key back (room 101, just like the Dalmatians), I was feeling rather queasy, and hurried to my room, since I didn’t want to throw up on the floor or something equally unpleasant. The room was cold, so I put the heat up on the radiator. The TV had two non-German channels: French TV5 and -badaboom- CNN. I caught a glimpse of “Gremlins 2” on one channel, but only the last 5 or 10 minutes, unfortunately. By then, I felt better. Since I was tired, I put on my pyjamas and headed for bed. Both feet went into heavy cramps simultaneously, hallelujah! Massage didn’t help at all, and I thought warm water could do the trick, but I couldn’t get any warm water! There was a switch or something in the shower, but pulling/turning it had no effect at all. Donnerwetter!! The solution was putting on a pair of socks and just wait for it to pass, which it did. I guess my feet got tired of giving me lots of pain, so they just said “argh, what’s the use?!” to each other and settled down.

I lay down again, and watched funny (?) home Christmas videos. I turned it off and fell asleep, waking again thinking it was either morning or in the middle of the night. To my surprise the clock wasn’t even 22:00! I got up, brushed my teeth, turned off all the lights and went to bed and to sleep officially. Sure, buses are great to travel with, but you don’t get a lot of sleep! That’s for sure! “Ich bin der neue Sucher für Gryffindor!” Ayy…

Aww. *pats 19-year-old self on head* You really didn’t have a filter back then, did you, sweetie?

To be continued!

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