Day 4: Markranstadt to Aachen - Grampies Cross Europe Germany to Spain Fall 2023 - CycleBlaze

August 30, 2023

Day 4: Markranstadt to Aachen

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We had rather looked forward to the 15 km ride from Markranstadt into the train station at Leipzig. But Jeurgen felt it would be very convenient to hop the local train in, at the station which is just 1 km from the house. As is their way, both Birgit and Juergen hopped on their bikes to accompany us to the station, and to stand by in case of a high lift into the train.

The wheels start to roll. After two tours with the Fridays, my bike seemed awfully large and heavy to me, but I am sure I will soon be used to it again.
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As it happened, the train was a basically level entry, but the station featured a steep set of stairs up to the platform. 

These steps had to be just a straight carry. There is a spot where they sort of thought of putting in a lift, but no. Even though the bikes are quite heavy, they can still be lifted, particularly if a couple of panniers are pulled off.
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The train carriage turned out to be a straight roll on, but we found the space beyond crowded with other bikes. It was no problem, though, because everyone was good natured about squeezing in the bikes, and getting around them. It had me thinking that (as I well knew) this is a very bike oriented culture.

The airy, spacious and now quite familiar Leipzig station was no problem, and we soon rolled directly onto the ICE train that would take us to Koln for our one transfer. This was a train with reserved bike spaces, and each space featured a sort of hook. This was not the hook high on a wall, which has always been impossible to use with a large and/or loaded bike, but rather it was about two feet up the wall.  Despite it, all the other bikes already in place, and impediments like our water bottles strapped to the front forks, had us just positioning the bikes on the ground loosely in front of the hooks. They were very secure, wedged in there, and we took not our reserved seats but two seats just by the bikes, to keep an eye on them and to make sure they did not shift.

We sat there happily as quite a few towns drifted by, on what would be a six hour ride to Koln. In due course a conductor lady came by to check our online ticket. We had already chatted with her on the platform, giving the details of how to get DaBrim visors like ours. The tickets checked, life rolled calmly on. But you may have already guessed that something was going to happen. 

Something arrived in the form of a snippy and tightly wound little other conductor lady. She looked at our bikes, and literally threw a fit. They absolutely must go on the hooks! And we can't sit there, we have to go to our assigned seats! We explained that the bikes were happy and we were happy, positioned to watch over them. "Nein, nein nein" would be a summary of the reaction. "The rules are the rules".

I explained again that all was fine, but she was not having it and started to shout. Dodie said stuff along the lines of "If you will only stop shouting I will be able to think of how to do this". For my part I just stared at the lady, neither saying nor actually doing anything.  The reason for this is that I have long experience with officious conductors, and I find that in all cases no matter what they say they soon disappear. So you just have to wait until they get distracted, change trains, or whatever. Typical demands like "you have to put this bike in the car ten positions down, in the 20 seconds before this train leaves" are never to be actually acted on. I continued to just look at the conductor lady, honestly believing that she would soon vanish in a puff of black smoke. This belief began to erode as she proceeded to threaten to throw us (and our dangerous, offending bikes) off her train.

"Nice" conductor lady now reappeared, and tried to explain to us that the precautions were needed for safety. So I showed her my photo of the hook-free bikes in the previous train, reminding her that this was also a Deutsche Bahn conveyance.  This is what I showed her:

On train #1
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The response was that train #1 was a slow regional train, while this high speed long distance ICE train was inherently more dangerous. That turned out to be nonsense, as the ICE dawdled along the whole trip at about 125 kph and was lots smoother than the regional train.

Hazardous ICE arrangement of our bikes.
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Well fine then, we shifted the other bikes a bit and our bikes a bit and managed to get ours on some hooks. We (and some other passengers) then looked on with relief as the one we were calling "Miss Snippy"  soon left the train (I was looking for the black smoke) to continue her career of harassing hapless tourists elsewhere.  I was ready before this to go and discuss with her her likely future  non-career with DB, but Dodie forbade any further squabbling.

At Koln we easily changed to the train to Aachen, placing our bikes as follows:

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In this car, DB had a sign with simply a suggestion about securing bikes:

I stood beside the bike the whole way, as is our custom, to make sure it did not shift.
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Today's train rides of some  623 km have put us almost back in position to continue the tour as we had earlier planned it. We have missed Germany and Netherlands, but will be able to enter Belgium tomorrow. For now we are in a hotel called am Marschiertor, clearly named for being across the street from the "Marschiertor". The Marschiertor is one of what were many 13th century gates to the city.

An old gate to the city, surrounded by contemporary buildings.
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Tomorrow we will strike out toward the Meuse River, and our tour will have really begun!

Today's ride: 2 km (1 miles)
Total: 2 km (1 miles)

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