The thing that saved the day was our travelling companions. They helped us laugh off the indignities of the trip.
We knew we were taking a risk when we planned to go from Copenhagen to Amsterdam in one day. The nice railroad reservations agent in Hamburg booked us reservations from Copenhagen to Hamburg, and Hamburg to Osnabrueck, but the train from Osnabrueck to Amsterdam did not take reservations.
The train from Osnabrueck to Amsterdam turned out to be three trains and a bus.
We got to the Copenhagen station earlier than necessary, and had coffee and our last mouth-watering Danish pastry. After our train to Hamburg came up on the TV monitor we went down to the track to wait. Soon all the arriving trains on the TV monitor were showing delays. Our train to Hamburg originated in Malmoe, Sweden, and got to Copenhagen 30 minutes late. We had 42 minutes to change trains in Hamburg. So we were fretting by 8 a.m. A bad omen.
Our assigned seats from Copenhagen to Hamburg were in a group of three. The third seat turned out to be occupied by a retired Firestone attorney from the Phillippines, who had just become a U.S. citizen and was living in Marina Del Rey. He, too, was an inveterate traveler with a three-month Eurail pass, and had just finished a whirlwind tour of Scandinavia. At the advice of his daughter (who switched from championship gymnastics and won a bronze medal at the Olympics in Tae Kwon Do and is married to the Phillippine Ambassador to Italy) he was reliving his carefree college days by staying in hostels. He had a jacket with many pockets, was a charming conversationalist, and kindly bought us some Toblerone chocolate to keep up our strength during the trip.
One again, we rode part of the way on the ferry which carried our train as well as trucks, buses, cars and pedestrians. The ferry which had seemed peaceful and orderly going to Denmark was today a zoo, with long lines at the toilets, hysterical toddlers, and truckers ingesting sweets and beers.
Since the train got into Hamburg about 23 minutes late, we knew we could probably, with luck, make our connection. People with more time made way for those of us in a hurry, and encouraged us by explaining that there was a "rolling step" (escalator) up to the new track.
Out of the Danish train, trot along the platform to Gleis 14, down the escalator to see that our next train was just coming. This train goes through the most densely populated areas of Germany, and many of the seats were reserved by several travelers for different portions of the journey. Ours were reserved from Hamburg to Osnabrueck (for us), Osnabrueck to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Basel. Hundreds of people got aboard this train in Hamburg. Everybody that boarded through the doors at the forward end of the car had seats in the aft end, and vice versa. So we all struggled immense piles of luggage over one another like Chinese Checkers in the aisle while the train lurched ahead. It was an old first class car, seats comfortable enough, but the front end was smoking, the other end not, with no dividers. All the windows were closed and the nicotine fiends at the forward end puffed away like stoves. We were happy to get off in Osnabrueck.
Our happiness was short-lived. It was drizzling steadily, and the place to board the first class coaches was at the end of the platform in the rain, while the second class coach passengers stayed under the roof of the station. Cuddles did not like the rain. We found two nice seats in a first class compartment and settled down.
Then the conductor made an announcement in German only, and we thought it said the train stopped in Bad Bentheim. But this couldn't be; we were on a train to Amsterdam. But it was too true. We all got off again, and pulled our many, heavy pieces of luggage all the way the length of the German train. Then we bumped down a staircase to the Dutch tracks (which ran perpendicular to the German tracks) and all the way to the other end of a Dutch train, painted yellow and dirty and covered with graffiti. We got settled again, this time sitting diagonally opposite each other in a compartment for six. The train was full.
The Dutch train took us across the border from Bad Bentheim to Hengelo, then there was another announcement, this time in Dutch, German and English: everybody had to get off again to ride a bus to Deventer. Apologies for our inconvenience. Hah!
We tried to be happy to have avoided a horrendous train crash due to badly maintained track, but Cuddles was getting decidedly out of sorts. It rained steadily.
There weren't enough buses for everybody on the train, so about fifteen people stood all the way. Not us--we are learning to take advantage of all age-related privileges. Railroad passengers are not only a sturdy lot, they are resourceful as well. Even though there was no coordination or direction by the railroad, the passengers somehow sorted themselves out with a minimum of fuss (much less pushing and bitching than at any U.S. airport), stowed their luggage in the bellies of the buses and climbed aboard. After six weeks of fanatically guarding our luggage, we tried not to fret that it was now part of a giant tumble of backpacks, suitcases and parcels.
The bus driver made an announcement in English only to say we were not driving to Amsterdam, but just to Deventer, where we would again board a train. How long would it take? How far was Deventer? He said no more.
After about an hour of very rapid bus travel on rainy highways, we reached Deventer where we struggled with our baggage again, unloaded from the bus in the rain. We trudged into the station, where we happened to notice a railroad agent whose jacket said INFO. Seeing our load, he found us an elevator, and told us to sit way in the front, so we would be sure to be in a carriage going to Amsterdam and not someplace else. We were lucky to get seats, and to be able to stow our luggage. There were lots of people riding this train standing in the corridor all the way to Amsterdam, and those (quite a few) heading for the Amsterdam airport would have one more unplanned train change ahead of them.
As Bob wrestled our bags into the overhead bin, the man in the window seat welcomed us saying he was just furious at the railroad for giving no notice. Three of the four others in the compartment spoke fluent English. After everyone else shared their complaints about the trains, we talked away the last hour of the trip.
The young Dutch woman had just finished her degree in communications and was going to take a job with Young and Rubicam in Amsterdam; she would serve in six offices in a year and a half. She had taken an internship at the university in Jefferson City, Missouri. The Englishman in the corner was living in the Netherlands, and the young Turkish man on our left had just bought his own business in Hamburg, dealing in used printing equipment. His mother was in the diplomatic service and he had been educated at international schools. He spoke Turkish, German, Dutch and English fluently. He used the German name of his business, as he said it was easier to make a transaction over the phone with Hans. We talked about trucking and the taxes on fuel and the Turkish diaspora (there are 200 million Turks, of whom 70 million live in Turkey.)
Cuddles was happy to get to our hotel. She had her own bed, in the big overstuffed chair.