Summer travel log, part 1: “Es gibt eine Verspätung”

For a while now, I’ve wanted to write more. I was inspired by seeing a friend’s multiple awesome articles in the Norwegian developer news outlet Kode24. While I will not touch upon coding, development, or anything of the sorts in this series, I expect those to be topics for the future.

I don’t believe in foresight or divine intervention. Yet, I woke up in the middle of the night. 02:30 to be precise.

For this year’s vacation we booked an interrail through Europe, going through seven countries by train. We have spent the past few weeks planning, replacing suitcases and backpacks barely holding together, and finally packed all this last weekend. Everything was prepared for an early morning journey, starting with the local bus to the train station at 05:30.

My subconsciousness must have gone through all the scenarios I didn’t think of or check off the list the day prior, because I got the urge to check the bus. The findings were that the bus that was supposed to go when I checked last week (or the week prior, I can’t recall) didn’t go before an hour later. That did not fit with our train leaving at 06:23, and I called in a taxi to pick us up at 05:30 instead. From my experience, taxis are delayed by a few minutes, and I wanted to avoid any stress getting to the station.

A few minutes prior to 05:30, the taxi operator called and said that the originally issued taxi could not arrive at the time. The driver had collided with a deer (cue a collective “oh deer”), and the operator had managed to get a taxi that could pick us up at 05:40. Good thing we had a buffer!

We’re greeted with a friendly message at the train station, saying: “The trainset has technical issues, expect delays”. Great. The train was delayed 20 minutes. Then 25. 26. 27. It finally arrived 33 minutes later. They explained that the original trainset had an unfixable technical issue, and that they had wait at the central station to get a replacement for the journey.

The train journey starts after a hunt for finding 4 free seats, which is more difficult in Norwegian trains than it should be; the average Norwegian train passenger’s trying to find a way to make sure that they can be as far away and alone as possible. They know that fellow Norwegians will not sit right next to them unless there are no other options available to them, and even then many will choose to stand rather than sitting next to a stranger. This unfortunately causes a lot of them to find the first free sitting group for 4-5 people, knowing there are high chances they’d not have to be close to anyone for this journey. After walking past 3-4 people hogging these sitting groups, finally found a free sitting group in the silent section of the train.

Gothenburg was this trains destination, and the first train change. Vy’s trains are among the most boring ones you can get, and it’s obvious they’re trying to save as much money as possible. You have vending machines, but that’s about it. Towards the Swedish border, the train got progressively delayed, but it caught up in towards Gothenburg. Even then the delay had eaten the majority of our buffer. We found a couple of vegan “Fralla” (the Swedish word for “bread roll”) and our next train towards Copenhagen.

The train from Öresundstog was delightfully on time, and we found a place in the 1st class. The last time I traveled on an interrail ticket, I validated my upgrade to the first class, which costs around €50 extra on top of a 10-day travel pass. We were uncertain what to expect from Öresundstog as we couldn’t book a ticket with it, but onboard we found that they during summer 2024 had a policy for “first come, first serve” on all the seats, as long as you had the correct ticket class. This train got full, which made us even happier with our 1st class tickets. Having a table allowed us to play a round of 6 Nimmt — great game!

We followed the journey on the Swedish and Danish information websites that would show estimated times of arrival. The train was spot on until around 25 meters before Malmö station where we had a hard break and everything came to a stop. Uh-oh. After a few minutes of not moving, they announced that the train had gotten a technical issue, I assume due to the sudden break.

They managed to get the train to the station, and after a few minutes of confusion among the passengers, they announced that everyone had to disembark and find a new train. We were the last out, and when we came outside, they now wanted us into the same train again. They had disconnected the first train set (I think we had three of them chained together), and we would continue with the two other ones. Funnily enough, there’s currently a speed running event in Malmö.

This took a lot of time, and we continued to drive slower towards Copenhagen than anticipated. This resulted in the Malmö incident eating 40 out of our 45 minute buffer. When we finally arrived at Copenhagen central station, we did the speedrun that the trains unsubscribed from platform 5 to platform 1, and arrived to discover that the train to Hamburg was also delayed by 15 minutes. We were all hungry, but didn’t dare to go exploring the train station for food as we didn’t know when the train would arrive.

The train ride was long and we got progressively more and more behind schedule. A few stops in we got company in our compartment by an American couple. They had flown in to Copenhagen and was directly going to Hamburg, and I could feel their exhaustion; one of them were anything but happy with the situation, where the other was more talkative and positive.

When we arrived in Slagelse, we were around 30 minutes delayed. While we were waiting to continue, I realized that two good friends of ours were in town — and close! We exchanged location pings and realized there were around 100 meters between us. They’re living in the Netherlands and we’re meeting up with them in two weeks, but this was a funny coincident!

The train started moving again, and continued to be delayed. We arrived in Hamburg around 21:25 — 80 minutes behind schedule. We were exhausted and all the food places we had considered to go to were closed at 21:00, had their kitchens closing at 21:00, or were too far away for us to walk to. We ended up ordering from Domino’s for pickup at 21:45. They were behind schedule, and we got our pizzas around 22:05, 5 minutes after they were supposed to close.

We brought the pizzas with us to the hotel. A line was waiting for us when we got there. This was the line for the reception, which was caused by the self-serviced checkout system being offline — CrowdStrike, anyone?

After half an hour we got to the hotel room, where we virtually inhaled our pizzas. We were positively surprised by the Vegan Chicken Döner and the Vegan Curry pizzas — greasy and fatty, but satisfying after the travel day!

As I write this, we’re on an ICE train towards Wien. This train has been punctual, but after yesterday’s incident in Malmö, I cannot be certain until we plant our feet in Wien.

10 minutes after writing the previous sentence I was checking and telling my partner “we’re dead on time here!” to which she replied “don’t jinx it!”. Less than 1 minute later the train conductor said “es gibt eine Verspätung” (“there’s a delay”). Great timing!

To wrap things up, here’s a random picture of something found disproportionately funny in our hotel room: