Sunday, August 16, 2015

Utrecht to Cologne on the ICE Train: Cross Border Commuting Travel Tales

I commute on a weekly basis to Cologne, Germany for work mostly with the ICE train. It takes approximate 2 hours and 15 minutes travel time from Utrecht, Netherlands to Cologne, Germany.

The travel hours are spent on working which I see as great value as I can think deeper and do some analysis stuff. Working doesn’t have to always mean physically in working action mode. When you sit alone and have time to think, all your wild imagination and creative juices come out to play. Thinking is also working. Think = Work.

I am a strong advocate of the theory that managers need to take some time to think through and reflect in order to make their jobs more fulfilling and successful. New creative ideas come into fruition when you have the time to analyse things, and inspirations may come from outside work and even when you are on the road such as commuting in a train.

Whilst I do work stuff in the train, I also get to experience interesting happenings in the train.


Working and having tea here at the Bord Bistro Restaurant of the ICE Train.

I get to meet people. Some I manage to have a chat. Like the retired couple that were on vacation in France, their car broke down and they have to cut the holiday short. The car was sent to the garage and they travelled back home with the train. Funny thing is they somehow treated the train as their camper, they brought some really stinky cheese and bread with them and ate it. You can imagine the smell in the cabin, well at least near them.

I also met a man who had a problem with his eye. He said he almost went blind. He was working in the sound and light department of a show and accidently had the laser light zoomed in into one of his eye. He is having treatments for months already with a specialised eye doctor in Germany who had some experience in similar cases. Our talk was cut short as he had to get off in Duisburg.

Because it’s the summer season I am seeing now a lot of young teenagers travelling with the European Inter-Rail pass. Many of them are what we call backpackers and it seems that their favourite journey route is France > Italy > Croatia. I remember one of the guys said, ‘Why is it that everytime I go out of the country, everything just seems less maintained and less orderly.’ This is unfortunately the disadvantage if you live in a country like the Netherlands where almost everything around you is spic and span. The amount of maintenance and upkeep on the infrastructure in the country cannot be compared to for example Germany and Belgium. I do not think there is a country that does it better than the Netherlands, not even Switzerland methinks. Perhaps because the Netherlands is a small country, it makes it easier to manage and maintain.

Few weeks ago the train was delayed because there were 2 individuals strolling on the rail tracks nearby Cologne. The police were called in to get the 2 individuals out of the rail tracks, and until they were not found the train could not push through. I mean hello? Who goes strolling on the rail tracks?

Two weeks ago as well, 2 mothers with 3 kids and a nun went on board in Utrecht. As the train slowly chugs towards the direction of our next call, which is Arnhem Station, one of the mothers suddenly went berserk, shouting out in a different language to the other mother. Frantic exchange in a language I have no clue about ensued, followed by the now-in-panic mother dashing through the isles to the next cabin of the train. Everyone could hear the wailings and the screaming in another language. It was a chaos. We later found out that the family left one of the kids, a 10 year old boy in Utrecht Centraal Station. The mother then got out in Arnhem and was sent back to Utrecht. After an hour, we heard on the intercom that the mother and son were reunited and were on their way to Germany to join the rest of the family.

Last week a Dutch father and 2 kids sat on the other side of the cabin from me. The kids could not stop playing, talking and laughing. When we finally arrived in the Netherlands (at the Arnhem Station), the boy said, ‘Look, the NS! The Dutch trains look much nicer than the foreign trains.’ He told his sister proudly, and then he added, ‘It’s always good to be back in the Netherlands. It just feels good.’ I had to smile when I heard this from an 8 year old kid. You love your own eh? =)

There was also an English couple with 2 boys. They were going to spend a week in the south of Germany after their Amsterdam leg of their family holiday. It was the first time for the young boys to be in Germany but they do not really care where they are except for the film they were watching in front of them in the train. ‘We are in Germany boys! Look out the window, it is Germany! Boys?!’ repeated the mom a few times. The boys did not even bother to blink their eye, move their head and look out the window. They just stared at the film on the laptop continuously, as if they were in trance. The father shook his head and told his wife to just leave the boys alone. Kids you know.

I also noticed that the types of passengers changes through the season. Autumn and winter brings a new set of people in the train. Hopefully more soon of my commuting travel tales! =)

Summer 2015
ICE train to Cologne, Germany

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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