Sunday, 4 January 2004

Six hours on the German ICE trains

Returning Home
One is a proponent of the short away break; travel seems to have that therapeutic recovery effect after a week or weeks of slugging it out at work, the energy, politics, results and downright disgusting ethic assuming airs of professionalism.
One's wish this year is not to have to deal with that level of activity that tests one's patience, resolve and temperament. Hoping that the people concerned have made a New Year's resolution to be aligned more closely to what they are paid to do.
Maybe they would have found the gene-switch that exudes respect, consideration, politeness, goodwill, integrity and candour. Wishes or wishes, one is resolved to see the year through productively whatever the case. Positive thinking and sanity would be my bedmates.
Travelling 1st Class
Returning from Berlin, which is 6 hours in total with one stopover at Duisburg, was supposed to be a breeze. At least one expects that the purpose for travelling first class is the idea that one is in considerate and civil society.
By inference, others who travel first class recognise their rights and responsibilities in the context of others around them. No noise, no anti-social behaviour, low volume chatter, no swilling wine straight from the bottle and no tattoos exposed if on the lower arm.
Unfortunately, the ability to afford a luxury or privilege does not bestow on the person the cachet of belonging to that acquisition. Gone are the times when class, upbringing and money defined the person.
Highly fed but lowly taught
In fact, there is nothing wrong with class or money, the problem is really in the upbringing or breeding. A recognition of the rights of others is reciprocated in their recognition of your rights and hence a civil society.
Imagine the chaos of an uncivil society, everyone dropping litter wherever they want, making noise without due regard to other passengers, annoying phones and polyphonic phone tunes ringing incessantly in supposedly silent carriages, and conveniences left it unusable states.
The civility of the majority is what makes society workable; the anarchy of people who do not conform to civility creates general resentment against which not many would deign to complain, no matter how inconvenient the situation is.
Unprepared for scouts
One had the pleasure of 3 hours of knocking and fidgeting created by 12 youngsters in their early teens with their minders. Some benefactor had provided for their travel in the first class carriage in which one was.
Where usually people are able to recline and nod off into snooze-land, these hyperactive kids make the journey close to a living hell until one had to remonstrate to the handlers to handle the situation with a bit more consideration.
As kids, all it required was one look from mother and we all behaved, no entreaty could placate the tearaways. In the end, they disembarked and peace reigned for 30 minutes to one's stopover.
The ICE pleasure
The German express trains called ICE (InterCity Express) attract a supplement when boarded as part of an itinerary, with the comfortable reclining seats, headphone points to listen to music of which the classical variety is a soothing accompaniment for relaxation.
Most seats have a printed leaflet of the journey, arrival and departure times, distances between the stations and possible connections from those stations within the hour of arrival. One can also be served in-situ amongst other pleasures of premium value travel.
Speeds of up to 300 kilometres an hour are possible, though the highest displayed speed was 250 km/h somewhere between Hannover and Hamm.
Comparisons of sorts
The United Kingdom's train services are like a coach and crippled horses compared to the German, French or Dutch railway infrastructure.
Using the DB BahnCard acquired at a cost - which is a discount card, one can get 25%, 50% or even free travel though at even greater cost on the ICE trains, all worth it if one does more than four long journeys into Germany.
The Netherlands has a similar card with offers 40% off off-peak fares to all destinations in the Netherlands.
Those “lovely” kids
At Duisburg, after a bit of confusion, platform 13 was the boarding platform for the Frankfurt am Main to Amsterdam train. Locating one's reserved seat, one met with a melee of toddlers about 8 in number.
Then one came screaming like a banshee down the aisle, it made one's truculence in regard to one's first journey seem a tad over-reactive.
Quick take; seek a seat in another carriage before insanity gives way to uncontrollable violent abuse. After 6 hours and 23 minutes, home at last.
Check answer phone messages, make a few phone calls and prepare for the pleasures of work on the morrow.

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