The train ride back to Bonn had the potential to become worse than the first trip to Utrecht because I now had four instead of just three trains. My iternary was the following:
- Rotterdam to Eindhoven, Dutch IC
- Eindhoven to Venlo, Dutch IC
- Venlo to Düsseldorf, European train
- Düsseldorf to Bonn, German IC
For each transfer I had at least 20 minutes so that should be plenty. The delays and having to move the bike around the station on the first trip have dampened my hopes for this to go through cleanly.
The main station of Rotterdam is a very fancy looking building:
And just like in virtually every city except Bonn, there is a large square in front of it. Compared to nearby German cities like Köln, Aachen and Dortmund, Bonn ist the only city without such a square. There are plenty of other streets where people can show off their loud cars, so there is no problem with that in Rotterdam.
The main hall is actually pleasant to wait in. In Bonn you just have the crowded platforms and that is about it. Benches are rare and usually all taken.
In Rotterdam they have a Sani-Fair toilet facility and I was able to pay the 0.70 EUR with my contactless credit card. If it is that easy and clean, I do not mind paying for it.
Before I went to platform 6 and waited there, I opened the Deutsche Bahn app to add my connection to it for tracking delays. I was not able to find the connection. When I put in more restraints and just looked for one part of the trip I found that my train from Rotterdam to Eindhoven changes into a bus on Breda. This meant two more transfers. I was a little bewildered and went to the information booth. The extremely friendly and accommodating clerk told me that it is rather usual to have constructions on the weekends in Holland. I asked whether Deutsche Bahn could have known of that two weeks ago when I booked and she was a little bewildered as well. It seemed odd that this would be done with less than two weeks notice. But she suggested going through Utrecht with a train that left five minutes after that conversation. My ticket would be valid because of construction work. I was not sure whether that holds for the German IC as well.
So I ran to platform 13 and caught the train with the bike car right in front of the elevator. I wondered whether that was a coincidence. I asked the conductor whether it goes to Utrecht and boarded the train. My bike was then securely fastened, I had a seat, all good. Although my whole iternary was now spoiled, it did not feel too bad as my ticket seemed to be valid in all Dutch trains and there is enough space for bikes without the need for a reservation. At the bike spot in the train it even said "priority" next to a bike symbol. So you actually have a right to put your bike there and not just have to hope that people without bikes move to other parts of the train.
At the train station of Utrecht I needed to go to platform 17 to take the next train to Arnhem. First I need to take the elevator up. As there was already a bike and a perambulator in it, I did not bother but the people signaled me to also come in. To my surprise the elevator was large enough for two bikes and one perambulator. Take that Deutsche Bahn, I want that in Germany as well.
When I arrived at platform 17 there was already an IC to Venlo on the tracks. The Deutsche Bahn app did not suggest that but I thought that I could just take the European train in Venlo, like I did in the beginning of the trip. As I checked in the app I realized that no trains to Germany ran in that Sunday. Quickly I scrambled to produce the iternary of the train that I was just in to find out where I could transfer to Arnhem. I briefly lost cell phone signal but then it was a steady 3G and 4G signal. A possibility was about transfer in 's-Hertogenbosch. I would only have two minutes for it, and that would likely not work. But I had booked an European train from Venlo Tipp Düsseldorf. So why did it not show up in the app anymore? Out of curiosity I removed the requirement for a bike transfer from the search and found the train again. There is another construction site between Viersen and Mönchengladbach which is then serviced with busses. I have just recently be told by a friend that they would just not transport his bike. So I did not want to risk that and taking the detour makes sense.
At 's-Hertogenbosch (I doubt that I would have understood that in a train broadcast if Max had not told me a week ago) station I needed to transfer from platform 6 to 1 in the time between arrival at 14:52 and departure at 14:54. Luckily the train already arrived at 14:49 already. Also thanks to the gentleman who let me off the train first and pushing on the button to open the door! The elevator was right there, I got up to the skywalk. Then the elevator down was large enough for the family with stroller and my bike. I got into the train just 30 seconds before it departed. That was close! But thanks to the large elevators it is not that painful to do the transfers, actually. And at that point it seemed that I will get to the German IC tust I had booked such that my reservation would not be worthless again. If the nice man had not pushed the door button in the train I would have wasted another 10 seconds waiting for the door, the elevator down would have been gone and the train missed. Damn was that close in retrospect! I would have waited another hour for the next train to Arnhem.
The transfer in Arnhem went smooth, large elevators are the norm and the ones in Utrecht are exceptionally large. There were two trains in the same track but those were clearly labeled with platforms 6a and 6b. There was a conductor already present in the bike compartment and he asked to which station I would ride. He asked another traveler to move her bike such that there would be no hassle when getting out. This was the smoothest bike compartment experience yet! As the train took off the was a broadcast on German. It felt strange to be able to understand that as I had been in a Dutch/English mindset for the past week.
I had a very nice conversation on that train, both of us noted that the Dutch people appeared more friendly than the German people. This is a thing that sometimes is very nice about taking the train: you get to have interesting conversations with people who you would not have met if you only took the car.
The expected transfer time in Düsseldorf was slightly less than an hour. Before I got off the train I checked the app to see my next options including the connection that I had originally booked. My connection, which was due in over an hour at that point, was already 20 minutes late. The Dutch trains were all at most a minute late, imagine that. I skipped the elevators as there were families with perambulators and my bike would not have fit anyway. Taking the yellow bag over the shoulder and the white panniers on the bike I carried out down. Since you can take a different train when yours is late by a certain delay I went to the information booth and asked whether I could take a different train. The friendly clerk gave me a note saying that I could take any other train with the cheap ticket that I have. He could not tell me whether there were any bike spots left in the train, though. I was to ask the conductor. Otherwise I could take the regional train which would still be in Bonn earlier.
Carrying the bike back up to platform 16 I then needed to find out where the bike car would be. There are large posters with the car position indicators on the platforms. The one that I was closest to was blocked by two people standing in front of it. I politely asked them to let to see it. They reluctantly moved and then said behind my back in German »it's not going to him good anyway«. I also noticed that there are two posters and that the one they were standing in front of had only the forenoon trains and the second one the afternoon trains. Trying to not sound pissed off, I replied placably that I could not have known that beforehand. However it seemed that both of them were annoyed by my apparent sheer stupidity of not knowing that they in fact were not in the way after all. This moment instantly reminded me of the conversation in the previous train about the Germans generally being rather negative in encounters. Maybe they just had a bad day and I am unjust; though their actions still appeared not too surprising.
I waited only a few minutes for the IC train in the correct segment of the platform. The conductor saw me and my questioning gaze and directly told me that there was sufficient space. And indeed, the whole bike car in the German IC was empty:
Shortly after we left Düsseldorf the arrival in Bonn was already estimated at 6 minutes late. This did not surprise me a bit as that is one of the most frequented tracks in Germany. Also one of the doors in my car was broken such that a lot of people needed to go through the bike section. I had a nice chat with a lady from Singapore who has been in Frankfurt, Berlin, Cologne and then stayed a night in Bonn.
The IC was scheduled to arrive at 18:36 but eventually arrived at 18:58 since there was a traffic jam on the train tracks. There must have been at least two other trains in the track in front of mine. At least I arrived a bit earlier than initially booked, so that was a plus in the end.
So if you lost track, these were the trains that I took from Rotterdam (destination only):
If you look at a map you see that going to 's-Hertogenbosch was quite a detour and I should have just waited for the IC from Utrecht to Arnhem:
Luckily I did not have to take a bus to get home but could just ride my bike. Also I am very glad that it did not rain and also for all the friendly people that have helped me during the journey.
Once I left the station and drove along the Quantiusstraße, the dashed bike lane and the sidewalk were blocked by parking cars. It is usually blocked by a few ones, but at that night there were like 15 cars line all behind each other. This really was an anti-red carpet. Welcome back to car city.
Sleeping in hostels has been less bothering than I initially thought. Usually only half of the room is actually booked, so even though I sometimes had many other beds in the room, I did not encounter more than a couple of roommates at a time. The other people are usually in their twenties and traveling, I have met people from various counties and had a chat with them. It is somewhat unavoidable that one gets woken up by somebody arriving late or leaving early. Taking all the discounts into account I payed 24 EUR per night on average. This is much cheaper than hotels and it means that I can afford another such trip more easily. Unsurprisingly the cheapest night was in Noordwijk, and the most expensive in Amsterdam.
Doing the trip alone meant a great deal of flexibility but the most annoying downside is that you cannot have a friend watch your stuff while you go into a store. You always have to lock your bike and take all the bags with you. Especially in Amsterdam where people have a different definition of personal space than I do this meant a lot of almost bumping into people and people standing in your way.
Also I had neither my bike or my stuff stolen. The bike that I have is really out of place in a Dutch city. You have the expensive road bikes that likely always sleep in a garage, and then lots of city ("shitty") bikes everywhere. Therefore I am also glad that it did not vanish during the trip, perhaps only because it was secured much better than the bikes around it.
Doing it without booking everything in advance went really smooth with just my phone. I did not carry my laptop, so I installed the mobile app of my preferred comparison service. There I just booked the hostels around two days in advance and that worked just fine. Since not every city has a hostel (Leiden seems to be without), it was good to check a few days before to plan the route. I wanted to stay either in Leiden, Katwijk or Noordwijk; the latter has a cheap hostel. As all hostels in Rotterdam had been completed booked at the time I checked in during the afternoon, it was good to book at least a few days in advance. Otherwise I would have needed to take a hotel room starting at 70 EUR for that night.
Although there are many bike shops in every city, their target audience are people with city bikes. Some shops have road bikes and parts for them, but looking for more specific trekking bike parts was not as successful as I had hoped. Therefore I would do all needed repairs and upkeep before leaving and not put too much trust into the density of bike shops there. Of course getting commonplace items like a spare tube or pump is no problem. Most shops have an air hose with the French and Dunlop valve outside available for free. They did not have pressure gauges, so I do not know whether I had the desired 4.5 bar in my tubes during the trip.
Getting clothes and the towel to dry proved more difficult than expected. In the hostels there may be coat racks but nothing big enough to hang my jacket, rain pants and towel. When checking out in the morning I had to leave with a wet towel and dry it on top of my baggage. Though it will be some extra weight I would take a few wire hangers or some laundry cord and pins to the next trip. If you plan on staying just for a single night in each hostel, bring enough clothes or go to a laundry shop with dryers.
I did not bring my DSLR camera to this trip, mainly because of additional weight but also because the aperture of my 18--55 mm lens got stuck and seems broken now. I only took pictures with my phone. The image quality is fine for these types of images. And with all the software doing high dynamic range and panoramic images with easy, I took more fancy images than I would have taken otherwise. Also I took a bunch of snapshots during the trips between the cities as getting the phone out of the pocket is much easier than getting the camera out of the panniers. So although in principle I could have taken better pictures, I am very content with the ones that I have and after carrying around the bags for a week I am also glad to not have taken that additional weight.
The distance that I have traveled by bike per day is this:
|Day||Distance / km|
Planning for around 45 km a day seems to be a good reference for further trips. One could also do more distance each day, but I also found it nice to sit in parks for a while.
This trip has been quite fun and I have seen some Dutch cities that I like. Though Amsterdam is too crowded for my taste it felt good to see that there are cities that embrace cycling as a means of transportation.