Goodbye Denmark, Hello Germany

Posted on / by Alex Berger

The Old Harbor - Copenhagen, Denmark

My final day in Copenhagen was a brief one.  After a fantastic night spent exploring the city’s nightlife with Kevan and a few girls from the hostel I downed a hearty breakfast, showered, read for a while and then struck out for the train station.  From there it was onto a fast train bound for Hamburg, Germany.  As I boarded my train I couldn’t help but let out a slight sigh.  My stay in Copenhagen and Denmark as a whole had been far too brief.  With a grin, I mumbled under my breath “I’ll see you soon” before boarding.

Every trip has it’s own mini disasters. In truth, that’s part of the joy of travel. As it turned out the Denmark -> Germany leg of my trip would end up being my Scandinavia trip’s mini-nightmare.  Unfortunately, there was a massive heatwave hitting the region.  Not the “oh boy it’s hot” type, but rather a heat wave significant enough that the national media was covering it. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the small fact that the air conditioning on the fast train I was on was out.  That posed a major problem since bullet trains are largely sealed and don’t have windows that open or secondary ventilation.  The solution?  Transfer us to an older train about halfway through which had an odd mixture of windows (lifesavers), strange compartments, a tacky lime green paint job, and rattled along at a grandfatherly pace.  Sadly the train also seemed to pre-date air-conditioning.

Ride of Doom - Denmark/Germany Train

The ride itself was brutal.  Between the delays and slower pace of the older cars the 4 hour trip quickly turned into a 6.5 hour trip.  On the positive side of things, we still got through.  As it turned out the authorities were forced to cancel a large number of trains due to heat stroke concerns.  I’d later learn that some 30+ people feinted from the heat.  For my part, I sat as close to a window as I could manage, tried to read and baked slowly.   I’d guess that the temperature in the cabin was in the neighborhood of 120+ degrees Fahrenheit with a high humidity rate. Even as an Arizonan/Phoenician it was almost too much for me to bear.

Ferry to Germany

After an hour or two on the rails we pulled in to the harbor. There the train was carefully loaded onto a ferry and secured for the 45 minute trip across the bay to Germany.  The ferry was massive (it swallowed a train whole after all) and afforded us all an opportunity to stock up on water, grab some food, dry off, and desperately try and lower our body temperatures. I grabbed two hot dogs, a coke, and a liter and a half of water before heading up to the sun deck. There I was greeted by the smell of fresh sea air, and a view of a haze filled bay, periodically decorated by the hulking forms of large ferries, tankers and transports. With book in hand I settled in and rested for the duration of the maritime segment of the trip.  Then it was back into the train cars.

The rest of the trip was rugged.   I befriended the German woman traveling with her two kids who had the seats across from me.  Before long I an idea struck: to improve ventilation we could tie the doors open, which we did using her son’s shoe laces.  It helped a bit, and made life bearable.  From there we chatted a bit. She would periodically pause, listen to the announcements, and then translate them from German into English for me. Meanwhile apologetic and somewhat concerned crew members would make their way through the car, checking to make sure everyone was ok, responding to questions and suggesting anyone feeling light headed head to the dining car for water. In typical form the Germans all took it stoically.

By the time I decided to seek out something cold I’d already burned through and sweated out most of my liter and a half of water.  The salty hotdogs definitely hadn’t helped.  As you might imagine, the dining car was already sold out of water and most of their sodas.  The only thing they had left?  Juice…but it was luke warm which was good enough for me.

The rest of the trip was dreadfully hot, soaking wet and uneventful.  The good news is, I was definitely grateful when I eventually arrived in Hamburg. In the grand scheme of things, it was also probably fairly healthy.  After all, don’t people pay good money for extended trips to ritzy saunas?  Mine came with one hell of a view of the German countryside!

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.


  • Ayngelina
    December 8, 2010

    I try to look on the bright side of things and comfort myself knowing at least I’ll get a post out of miserable days 🙂

    • AlexBerger
      December 8, 2010

      Not to mention a decent story, and solid chuckle right!


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