Venice to Sonderborg

I recently traveled over to Denmark to visit my dad and wrote this to Rose on the morning after.

It’s now 8:30 am on Tuesday morning and I woke up about an hour ago. The laptop says 11:30 pm so it looks like I have done a complete flip, awake while you sleep.

In a way it was amazing that I made it here on time, so many small obstructions in the road and it all started with Venice Blvd being closed to facilitate a triathlon and having to detour over the freeways. I guess that’s why I like to get to airports a bit early.

The first leg to Minneapolis was uneventful, I sat next to a guy who was out from Wisconsin visiting  his daughter who was studying making movies at USC.

The connection to the Amsterdam flight was OK, it was there that I had a glass of wine and phoned you. I got carded by the old codger behind the bar – no idea if he singled me out or what, grumpy old bastard. This time my seat companion was a 56 year old guy working for Boston Scientific – going to a medical electronics (pacemakers) standards meeting in Munich. Read most of the Sidney Sheldon trash novel “Morning, Noon & Night” – good travel reading. Could not sleep but closed my eyes for a good portion. Landed at Schipol on time at 8:00am local time, 11pm back home.

Got dumped into this sprawling airport and for some reason thought that I had to go through European passport control – it was my gateway port of entry, right? While in the immigration line I started to realize I had made a mistake, got ejected out into Holland and immediately looked for a way back into Departures. After asking for directions got put in the security line and finally made my way to gate G32 at the end of a long “arm” for the KLM flight to Hamburg. Had planned to withdraw some Euros but by the time I’d found the gate all the shops, etc were way behind me.

Typical commuter flight, 45 min flying time, and on landing found my way to baggage claim where I waited with anticipation to see if my bag had managed to follow me. Next minute this woman in front of me is inspecting a bag she had pulled off the carousel, MY bag. Don’t think she was malicious but she was right in front of me! Double checked the bag, it had a zip tie through the zippers, and headed for the exit.

Touch down at 11:10 am and it was now 11:40’ish – not bad as I had a 12:43 train to catch. Found the S-Bahn station just outside and down the escalator. First battle was the ticket machine, yes it spoke English, but it gave me more choices than I wanted. I knew the ticket should cost 2.75 euro so I selected the “greater Hamburg” one for the same price and moved on. A bit of a wait for the train and shuffled aboard with all the other travelers. First stop was Ohlsdorf where the airport spur line joins the main S-Bahn network. Strange, everyone got off? Then some get on and talk of going TO the airport. I scramble out and start randomly asking how to get to Hauptbahnhof and finally get directed to an adjacent track. I realize that I was meant to change here – get on the next train only half sure as to what I was doing. Calm down and follow the first few stations on the map above the door, looks like we’re headed in the right direction. Now I only have to make sure I get off at Hauptbahnhof.

I do so, and head out into a maze of underground tunnels typical of any messy subway system. Try a few wrong turns and resort to asking a vendor where to find the adjacent main station. He directs me up & out and luckily I recognize the glass dome of the station entrance and head over dragging my case over the cobblestone street. It’s now 12:23 pm, 20 minutes till departure, I know the train leaves from platform 13A but I need a ticket. I’m at the right place and see all the tracks below me but by the time I get to 13A I’ve only seen automated ticket machines. OK, I’ll try one. Punch in “Sonderborg” but it only seems to give me German sounding destinations. OK, it does not like the fact I want to go across the border to Denmark. Down to the actual platform and ask one of the train attendants. Only Deutsch but he directs me to Information who tell me where the main ticket office is. I’m hurrying from one end of the platform to the other but luckily find the office close to where I had originally entered the station, lets see that was 10 minutes ago. Hurried tourist nightmare: there is a crowd of people who seem to be waiting for their number to be called. Remember, I’m operating in a foreign country and speculating on my interpretation of the signs & customs. I gaze around and see something about “International, go straight to counters 16 -18” which I do. There is a bunch of Asian men at the only open counter, they look like they have been there for hours, and another guy in front of me. Forced to wait, I even asked the adjacent open counter but was effectively told to “get back in line”. 11 minutes to departure and I start to think: “this is not going to work, my luck has run out”. The Asians are persuaded to go off and come back later when they have decided what they want to do and the guy in front of me goes up. Brief conversation and he is directed somewhere else. My turn. I get out enough flustered words to say I want a ticket to Sonderborg and that the train is leaving soon. She takes it all in stride, punches it up on her terminal and asks for 40 euro. I know this is the price so hand over the trusty VISA card. Next she says “sign here”, and gives me the ticket with a parting exchange of: “Plenty of time, you have 8 minutes!”. Retrace my steps, still dragging my bag and dodging the mass of rail commuters. Train is still there, “do I get in any coach?”. What the hell, get in and walk down the aisle and find some open seats. 4 minutes later the train silently pulls out and I hope it is headed for Flensburg as I believe it is.

Later the conductor comes by and clips my ticket and without a word being spoken I take it as confirmation that I’m in the right place. Two hours up to Flensburg and I get really tired but can’t sleep and only doze. Would like a beer & sandwich but don’t want to deal with schlepping down the train, leaving my bag unattended, and not sure what I’ll find anyway. Settle for a Cliff bar & water. Flensburg, last big town in Germany. Train waits in the station for 20 minutes before trundling over the border to Padborg where I get off and am greeted by a desolate windy station and some punk Danish teenagers. There is a payphone and I think I’m still in Germany and my Euros will work – No it wants Danish Kroner of which I have none. Next train is a 10 minute ride up to the rail junction Tinglev where I change again. Another desolate station but there is a small town attached. Ask the girl in the station cafe and she cheerfully says: “50 meters to THE bank, it’s easy”. Leave my suitcase, looks safe enough but my REI backpack remains glued to my shoulders. Hey, my Credit Union ATM card spits out wads of Danish Kroner. Back to the station, buy a coke to get small change and ask where the pay phone is. There isn’t one. I really should call Kalle and let him know that I’m one connection away. Out with the AT&T cell phone and punch in numbers, it rings and he guesses correctly that I’m calling from Tinglev – he will meet me at Sonderborg. I quickly hang up as AT&T will bill me $4 for that call.

Finally Sonderborg, its 17:12 pm local time. Kalle is on the chilly platform and we walk to a waiting area. The bus will soon be here he says and we catch-up on bits & pieces. I’m shepherded aboard the bus which goes into town where we wait for the next connection, a #3, out to Magevaengat St where we alight in front of his new home. It’s close to 6 pm, 24 and a half hours since Rose left 842 and dropped me at LAX. I am functioning in zombie mode but both of us are happy.