The plan today was simple. Get up – pack and clean up our AirBnb, and then head on the Train to Amsterdam.
Things did not go quite as planned. First, we woke up and our watches did not match our phones! Ah ha! Daylight Savings Time in Europe has ended. That was kind of a bonus – we had an extra hour to clean up the apartment!
We were done early, so rather than get the scheduled 12:14 S-Bahn, we left at 11:30 – figuring we could find coffee at the main Station. We walked the 3 minutes to the train station:
We knew the elevator was broken, so I would have to life the 5 suitcases up the 3 flights of stairs. As I was doing this, hundreds of pro-refugee protesters starting streaming up the stairs. A couple of them helped us with our bags (this is a recurring theme in Germany!)
Next step – a 2 stop trip to the main station (HauptbahnHof). Figure a few minute wait – but a 5 minute train ride:
The hundreds of protestors disappeared as we got onto the platform – we assumed into the waiting train. However, the train never left. It turns out that they had all taken to the tracks. Shutting down the trains. The trains to the station- that we needed to get to.
We tried calling taxis. A very helpful man (see the trend) pointed that an Underground station was just 50 meters north “past the red building” he walked with us ( he was going to the airport). We got down the stairs to the U-Bahn. Hopped on a train.. And it went ONE station. To the Messe Deutz stop:
We are making progress. We try to get out of the U-Bahn station, and there is 2 flanks of police in full riot gear. They see our bags and let us out. We walk up the ramp, and another flank of riot police are not letting anyone in the station. I found a cop who spoke english, and he said trains from Messe-Deutz were going across the bridge to the HBf. So we drag our bags – cross through ANOTHER phlanx of cops into the station. I
I begin humming the Theme to Gilligan’s Island “A five minute train. A five minute train.”
t turns out the cop’s advice wasn’t good. We make our way to the S-Bahn tracks, and there are four cops in full riot gear with their dogs barking blocking the entrance- yeah no trains coming or going here. We turn around.
As we are walking through the station, a cop tells us that it is not safe for “kinder” and walks us to the main entry, and herds us into a corner. The cops all have their full riot gear on. Another group of cops are forcing a group of “pro-refugee” protestors out of the station.
I regret not taking more photos, but I was pulling 2 suitcases, and carrying 2 backpacks. The cop then gies us the thumbs up that all is ok. However, It is now obvious that there will be no trains today to the HbF. So, we head back out – and decend more steps with all the luggage.
We meet up with 2 guys who have some English, and they tell us “don’t go across the station – that’s where the Nazis are.” K thought they meant the police.. but in reality the pro-refugee crowd was a response – an anti-protest- to the anti-Islamic/Pro-fascist protest on the other side of the station – yeah – there were real Nazis there… The cops were clearing the station to prevent any violence (which apparently injured >40 cops last year). They agree that probably the best way across is to walk. Now – we have all our bags.. and K is 7 month spregnant, but we begin a slow walk to the bridge to the HbF.
The cops were hurrying us a bit – cop helped A with her suitcase:
It turns out there were 10,000 more pro-refugee protestors coming. Not violent or anything, but they just didnt want us to get swept up in the crowd. The bridge upstream was a sea of people approaching the area we had just left:
We walked across the bridge – past the cathedral,and into the HBf – where we were swiftly booked onto the next train to Amsterdam.
The 5 minute train turned into a 2 hour adventure. With lots of really powerful discussions about protesting, violence, and why supporting the refugees is so important.
I have to say, I never felt like I was in an unsafe situation during the entire time. We were obviously in the pro-refugee side – and there were rock bands playing in the street. It was a carnival-like atmosphere – if you were not trying to get into a train station. The cops were being VERY over protective – since it went to hell last year.