The Intercity Express
We started writing this on Tuesday 14 as we sat on the train to Bonn. A bit challenging getting the train system under our belts, so we made sure we were there in plenty of time for a 9.50am take off. The train is presently cruising at 220 km per hour and is unbelievably smooth. If you know anything about German trains it is an ICE train – intercity express. It is pretty full – pleased we reserved a seat. The info screen in the carriage comes in German, English and French – so very reassuring. Very comfortable, wifi which makes writing possible, beautiful country side. Lovely little villages with gorgeous spires, just like the postcards you see, large plots of wind farms, much farming land, just passed a large VW factory at Wolfsburg – only mentioned as our car might have come from there.
Next main station was Hanover. Of enormous importance as a trading and transport link, and heavily bombed during WW2. It was largely rebuilt from the 1960s. It had a large Jewish population many of whom were rounded up and did not survive concentration camps.
Between Hanover and the next station, Bielefeld, we saw the first hills we have seen since arriving in Germany. Berlin is completely flat which of course makes it paradise for bike riders. If you lived in Berlin, riding would be a must. We saw many tourist riding groups yesterday, and noticed none of the bikes had gears – you just would not need them.
Most towns and villages we pass have at least one, and often two mosques. They are attractive not new buildings so presumably have been there for some time. Our friends, the Mullers explained later that this is the result of quite significant Turkish immigration some decades ago. We also notice the shanty towns as we come into towns along side the railways. Also striking is the medium density nature of architecture. Almost all housing is 4 story attractive apartment blocks, relatively few houses on blocks of land. And all post war.
We both enjoyed a bit of reading as we journeyed. Ann a novel by Zoe Morrison, Music and Freedom. Highly recommended. Alan a 1929 account – Walking in Berlin by Franz Hessel – which was reviewed in last Saturday’s age. We downloaded it before we left Melbourne on the recommendation of a friend, and we both read it on the flight from Doha. It is well worth while – the editor of this 2016 edition is Amanda de Marco who has added discreet updating comments. It was good preparation, but even better now we have seen the real place.
Arrival in Bonn
Our train was a bit late so we had to change trains at Cologne for Bonn with only 2 1/2 minutes to spare. Along, down, across, then up to another platform! In Bonn our friend Horst Muller was there to meet us. He and his wife Heidrun and their then 12 year old Julia lived below us in Beijing. Alan knew him as Horst worked for the German equivalent of AusAID and worked closely with WFP. We didn’t really see them socially but always got on well. Alan met up with Horst again when we lived in Rome. So it is good to see them again.
They live 20 minutes out of Bonn in a very pleasant village in a forest area. On the way there Horst took us on a quick trip in the car around Bonn, including to see the Rhine – our first glance ever. We then joined Heidrun for German sparkling Riesling followed by a beautiful supper as they term it, and more beautiful German wine. We talked non-stop catching up about where we had lived since China. And we heard about their art works. They have a huge collection from Brazil of amazing paintings, sculptures, and all sorts of folk arts and crafts. It is everywhere in their house, and a marvellous presence.