The Sunday of my F*ck Brexit travels brought an early start to catch the 08.32 DB Bahn ICE to Köln. Getting a hotel near the station in Brussels was a good decision.
In September 1970 I went on an InterRail trip to Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and France with 5 school friends. We had all left high school that summer. Our first train journey outside the UK was from Ostende to Köln.
As we entered Germany there was some discussion about whether we had to change trains in Aachen. When we got there, I was volunteered to get off and ask.
I did. It was a through train.
By the time I turned around, it was leaving – with my bag and friends on it. The station staff were very helpful and put me on the next train via Mönchengladbach. I was reunited with my rucksack and my friends at the youth hostel in Köln. How did they manage to get there without me to guide them?
Well, Sunday morning’s train to Köln via Aachen was less eventful. I did think of getting off at Aachen to take a train to Köln via Mönchengladbach just for old times’ sake, but the ICE was too fast and comfortable.
Just like during my brief stop in Berlin last month, it felt strange to be back in Germany. It was like a second home for 6 years, and I loved it. Of course that was Bavaria. Berlin and Köln are so different. But it is still Germany.
It brought back a lot of memories, but they just have to be tackled head on.
Some of the memories are also from that 1970 holiday, and those 5 friends. I still see one of them occasionally. Another lives in South Africa, but we see each other if he is back in Scotland. One emigrated to Canada after he got his medical degree. Another to Kuwait, although I think he lives in England now (probably a Brexit fan). The last one died of lung cancer in his 50s.
As for 2019 Köln, well they are still working on the Dom…
No, joking apart, I did not have a lot of time in the city – just enough for a walk around the city centre before heading back to Brussels on a Monday lunchtime Thalys. The Rhein is a major feature obviously, perhaps second to the Dom. It was foggy when I was there.
Most of my time was taken up by an afternoon trip to Krefeld to see an ice hockey game.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2019