Riding the Rail to Rostock
I mentioned in a previous article that, while I won’t be telling you every detail from the next few locations, as the main part of the “unplanned” travel is finished, I will give you some of the highlights. And, by the way, coming to the town of Rostock was very unplanned. To be honest, I’d never heard of it (well, have you?) until someone at the German Tourism Board mentioned it in passing in an E-mail.
As I’d spent quite some time in Berlin and was ready to leave the big city, and it’s fairly easy to catch a train and be in Rostock within about three hours, I made the decision to leave just a couple of days ago. The harder part was finding a hotel room for New Year’s Eve with only a few-days’ notice. While I found one for 1-4 January (that’s how we say it over here), I had to stay at a different hotel on 31 December. No worries, both are close to the old city.
I take a taxi to the train station and, with ticket in hand – I’ve purchased that online, as well as a Bahncard 25 which gives me 25% off train fares for three months. At just €19.95, I think it’s a good deal as I’ll be riding some trains around Germany for the next month – I head down to my platform. Again, once you learn to look at the signs and trust the system, it can be fairly easy (well, easier). I run into a family who speaks English and seems to be panicking as there’s a train here but they’re not sure if it’s theirs. I offer that, if they’ll watch my bags, I’ll hop on board and ask, as they’re taking the same train as me. If this is it, it’s quite early. The father looks around and breathes hard. He doesn’t answer and sprints off in another direction clearly agitated. As someone steps off the train, I calmly show them my ticket and ask if they know if this is the train.
“Yes it is,” they answer.
Problem solved. I’m not sure where “Type A” dad and the family went.
I board and, five minutes after we leave, it’s time to get off and transfer to my next station (feeling a little more confident about the longer distance train though it was much more crowded than I thought it would be).
After ninety-minutes or so, my stop – Schwerin – is announced. I gather my things and hop-off the train (okay, with my bags it might be considered more of a schlepp-off) into what seems like the middle of nowhere. I notice the sign says Schwerin Sud (South). My ticket says Schwerin Hbf – which stands for Hauptbahnhof and means main train station. This does not look like a “main train station.” I walk over to the cars parked close by, show my ticket to a family and ask if this is the right stop.
“No,” they say. “That’s two stops ahead.”
Oh crap, crap crap! My connection leaves from there in twelve-minutes.
They obviously see the look of panic on my face and reassure me that it’s okay, as the next train will come along in a few minutes and that’s the train I would transfer to anyway. I thank the family (and the Train Gods) and before long, am back on the road to Rostock (learning from my mistakes).
I arrive in Rostock and somehow navigate downstairs to the tram station. My train ticket says +city which means that fare to my base location in Rostock is included. I’ve worked out how to get to my hotel on the Deutsche Bahn app.
As I look out the windows of the tram, I’m getting excited. This is what I was looking for. It’s charming! Three stops later, I step off the tram and in the Hopfenmarkt, the main town square. It feels almost as if I’m in a movie. It’s a bright, sunny day (finally) and the square is wide open and bustling with people. I kind of expect a flower seller to appear singing, “Who Will Buy” from the movie Oliver. As I know the way to the hotel once I find the landmarks on my map (again, as my phone is on “Airplane mode” I’ve prepared and taken a photo from the Deutsche Bahn app. previously), I stop a man and ask if he speaks English.
“A little,” he says. Hmmmm.
I show him my map and ask if he knows in which direction I should head. He tries hard to figure it out. He also spends a few minutes practicing his English which seems to make him very happy. He figures out which direction I need to go and excitedly gives tells me to have a happy new year. A great first impression of Rostock.
When I find the reception of my hotel, they give me a map and tell me to head two small streets over as my room is in a separate building. I head out and, somehow, I’m lost again. Tired of dragging my luggage across cobblestone streets, I stop a couple who are walking with their small child and ask directions. They tell me I must first go to reception and check-in (wow, this is either very common, or they know this hotel well). I tell them that I’ve done this and they then point around the corner and tell me it’s there. As I thank them, they add, “Have a great time in Rostock!” Seriously, I love this place already.
I enter my tiny, tiny hotel room, try unsuccessfully to rest, give up and go out to explore on this New Years’ Eve. As I’m walking through the square (my hotel is literally a block from it), I see a mob of people walking towards me. I would be afraid if this were some other place and if these people didn’t appear to be in their 70’s and 80’s. If they’re going to try to attack me, I can surely outrun them.
I stop a couple walking near me and ask what’s going on. They tell me they were trying to figure out the same thing. We speak for a while and they give me a dining recommendation at a local steakhouse where I have a nice steak and a nicer glass of wine.
Next, I head over to the waterfront where, I’m told, there will be New Year’s Eve celebrations. As I walk towards a collection of lighted boats, I notice a tent with music coming from one. It turns out it’s a now retired ice-breaker and I’m welcome to come on board and have a glass of Glühwein (you said the magic word). There’s food and drink for purchase as well as techno-music playing (yeh, I could do without the techno-music). I grab my Glühwein and step outside to enjoy the beautiful harbor and the fireworks.
A word about the fireworks – they love them. I mean, really love them. Just like in many places in the U.S., you can buy them in stores. Half the people on the train had at least one pack, and they’ve been going off here since the moment I arrived (one of the reasons my nap didn’t go so well). For a few moments, I went back in time to the 1940’s and thought Germany was being bombed.
After a while, the techno-music gets to me and I go for a walk along the waterfront. I pass by a tall, sailing ship built in the 1920’s and attempt to speak with those on board since, well, I used to work on tall, sailing ships built in the 1920’s. I want to know more about the ship, but the snooty French lady on board wants me to go away. She wins.
I moved on to Noah’s Ark (apparently this is where it finally landed). It’s actually a floating, Bible-themed amusement park (Noah-land perhaps?). I would go in but I’m alone and it doesn’t feel right (think about that). Anyway, it’s closed.
I head back to my tiny, tiny room, happy that I made the last-minute decision to come to Rostock.
Tomorrow, highlights of Rostock and New Year’s Day with 82,000 of my closest friends in Warnemünde.
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