It is time to go home. This morning I woke up at 9:20 and decided to get some breakfast. Afterwards I returned to my room and was greeted by my room mate H. who told me that the cleaning personnel wanted to do their job and that checkout was supposed to be done at 10:00. It was already 10:20, so I hurried and quickly collected all my belongings.
Then I went to the reception to perform the check-out and afterwards to the community area to spend my remaining hour until the train would go. H. also came down at some point and we later said farewell. Then it was time for me to go to the station.
On my way I was sunken in thoughts about political events. As an European it is my opinion that tragic events such as the Uvalde shooting are the result of ludicrous gun ownership regulations. Americans often state personal safety as the reason to why they would need to have a gun. However, if everyone around you has a gun, everyone could shoot you at any second! I personally believe that this is part of the reason why American cops are so quick to open fire. They know that it is very likely that the other person has a gun and therefore presents a threat.
So the obvious solution is less weapons. However, how does this solution apply to Russias war against Ukraine? Isn’t it double-standard to call for less weapons in the USA, while at the same time demanding delivery of weapons to Ukraine?
I’d argue that those are totally different situations. The American people are not at war with another. Putin’s Russia however ruthlessly assaulted the Ukrainian people and as Europeans we need to support them. And in my opinion the best way to do so is by enabling the Ukraine to defend itself, therefore we need to deliver heavy weaponry. In Germany many people have the mantra of “Never again War”. We as Germans must never again go to war. However, this statement is not precise enough. Germany must never again participate in an offensive war. The proposition that Ukraine should surrender parts of their country to Russia as part of some compromise (as disgustingly phrased by the Emma magazine) in order to settle the war is arrogant and short-sighted. Alice Schwarzer should know better about victim blaming.
Those are hard to swallow pills, but given that Putin has not stopped his attack after nearly the whole world told him to stop shows that there is no other way to stop him than a sufficiently weaponized Ukraine and the message that the west will not leave our friends alone. I arrived at this conclusion and the train station at roughly the same time.
My ICE was waiting at the platform and boarding hat already begun. The DB logo on the train made it strangely clear that my trip was over. I got to my seat and soon the train started rolling. 3 hours or so later, the conductor announced Mannheim, the stop where I was supposed to switch to another ICE to Münster. Up to this point everything had gone smooth and the train was on time. Then it stopped – and the stop was not Mannheim.
The conductor was struggling to tell the guests in German, English and French that this was not our destined stop and that they should keep the doors closed please. This was just an unscheduled, unplanned halt and we would soon continue. So we waited. At some point the train started moving again, only to stop once again a few meters later. My 20 minutes buffer for switching trains was melting away.
Finally the train stopped in Mannheim, with 7 minutes to switch, so I quickly left the train and started looking for the platform I was supposed to go to. The train was scheduled to depart from platform 4. Arriving there, I was greeted by the digital sign reading that the train was instead stopping at platform 2A. Okay. I went down the underpass again and over to platform 2.
Track 2 was still occupied by an RE train. A loudspeaker voice announced that the train was incoming and was expected to stop at platform 2A once again. While the A-section was free, I doubt that the whole length of the train would fit there. Suddenly the sign changed once again, announcing that the train would now again stop on platform 4. What a chaos! So I ran back, as I could already see the train drifting into the station.
Finally I got in and quickly found an unreserved seat. *phew*. And then the conductor announced that there was an issue with the signaling at the station, which meant that the train would depart with a delay. In the end they diverted the train, resulting in a total of 30 minutes of delay. You gotta love the German railway.
After 3 more hours and some announcements of an annoyed train driver we came close to Münster. Outside my window it had began to rain and there was a little thunderstorm going on. This was the first time during my trip that I experienced bad weather. It only had rained briefly while I was taking a shower in Madrid and in Marseille there had been literally a few droplets while I was there, so facing the thunderstorm was another strange signal that my trip was over.
Then the train stopped and I got off. 20 minutes later I entered the bus that would bring me home. I bought one of those new fancy 9€ tickets and the bus took me home. This was the end of my journey. I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins, coming back to the Shire, carrying a bag and lots of stories to tell.
All in all my trip took 31 days in which I traveled 5161km by train, divided up into 20 separate train rides which took a total of 43h of travel time. I visited a total of 4 foreign countries and the farthest distance to home was 1546km.
During my journey I learned that I’m not too bad at being a foreigner. Its easier for me to get around in a city where nobody knows me than I had previously thought. To me, this first journey was a complete success. In hindsight, I have made mistakes along the way, for example I haven’t really explored Nantes at all. I probably should have spent some more time researching cities before going there, and maybe spending more time per stop is better than rushing from station to station. However, this is okay for me.
All in all this trip has taught me that I like traveling and that traveling is easier than I thought. Surely I will do more trips in the future, maybe even together with a friend.