The red route from Hamburg to Copenhagen.

By rail and ferry in a little under five hours.

Can a train trip be thoroughly enjoyable? Of course, you say, if you are a rail tragic.

I am not a rail tragic, and neither is Sue. I admit I do like riding in carriages pulled by steam locomotives, but mostly, for both of us, rail is just a means to an end. I concede also that I've posted a couple of railway stories recently. That is purely because we've spent the last few weeks in trains travelling around Germany. Rail travel has been front of mind, so to speak. You might have been looking for something different this time, but I will test your endurance with what I promise will be absolutely the final rail blog post this year.

Today we enjoyed a rail journey with a difference. The ICE 33 service from Hamburg to Copenhagen is a treat I would recommend to anyone. The first surprise came as, instead of the expected sleek, long, white and red Deutsche Bahn bullet train, a sleek, short, silver and blue Danish Railways train pulled up at the platform in Hamburg. On board we were immediately surrounded by Danish language; a novelty, as our ears had grown quite used to German. A sort of relief too, as we speak no Danish, and realised we could give up using our imperfect German of the past weeks, and relax as dumb English-only speaking tourists.

The second surprise wasn't really a surprise, as we knew the train would have to take a ferry crossing between Puttgarden on the German coast, and Rødby, over the narrow straight in Denmark. Do trains 'board' a ferry? Do they 'drive onto' a ferry? Well, they manage to put themselves on the lower deck alongside buses and heavy trucks. I'm just not too sure still about exactly how they do it. We needed to leave the carriages and spend the time on the upper decks during the crossing. I tried to get a look underneath the carriages and couldn't see in the dim light below decks, but I suspect the wheels were not sitting on rails at all! It didn't come on board under its own power and was towed (I think). Maybe there is a You Tube clip somewhere explaining how it is done but I'm not prepared to spend the necessary minutes searching at the moment. It can remain a fascinating mystery.

The scheduling was naturally tight and almost as soon as we had climbed up to the upper deck the trucks and buses were on board and the ferry was underway for a three quarter hour journey to Denmark. The ferry was something like a cruise ship with bars, cafes and shops. We settled into one of the panoramic passenger lounges and watched the choppy Baltic Sea glide past.

Passengers boarded the train again as the ferry approached the terminal at Rødby. I suppose everybody made it on time. I wonder if anyone ever finds themself standing on the traffic deck watching the train depart.

The next part of the journey was a mixture of striking sea scenes and beautiful green lush farming land. I tried to catch a couple of them through the window of the speeding train, with predictable results, but maybe you can imagine things for yourself.

It was the first time we had been up close with the Danish countryside and we were delighted. Low, fairly flat, fertile, and seemingly, never very far from the sea. For a time it all basked in bright winter sun and appeared slightly magic and beckoning.
A weather front changed all that well before Copenhagen. The sun was blocked out. The sky grew dark. The lights on the train went on. The effect was that the landscape we were hurtling through withdrew its earlier welcome and gloom pervaded everywhere. Gothic and slightly sinister; it would have made me feel like pulling my coat around me more tightly if I had been wearing it.
Wind and heavy rain greeted us as we walked out of the main rail station in Copenhagen. Somehow we made it to our hotel, towing suitcases, wet through and cold. Not the best of introductions to the city of Hans Christian Andersen, but more than made up for by the rail journey.

 

 

 

 

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