Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to the Present


I finally got back to Glasgow last night.

My journey was most interesting, travelling through Hungary,Austria,Germany and Holland before setting foot on UK soil again.

I'm quite lucky - there must be several tens of thousands still stuck.

Travelling for 2 days across Europe in a train was a salutary lesson. The further west and north, the better the train. I set off from Sighisoara with 4 enormous sandwiches as provided by Alin, a bar of chocolate, 4 half litres of water, some cabbage pie - and a loo roll. I may say I didn't need it...

Nowhere did I see a single UK consular official helping out. In fact, at the main Vienna Railway station where I had to change for Munich, there were probably some 3 -4,000 Brits desperately trying to get to the Channel Coast without money or anything. Austrian Railways, at their own cost, was passing out coffee, water, food and what information they had, and very welcome it was too to those that needed it. They had also made the loos free ( normally 50 cents) to British travellers. An excellent effort.

Once into Germany, I saw just how far down the list of countries we have slipped. Everywhere was spotless. The trains had people clearing up regularly, and also cleaning the loos en route. They had recycling bins on the trains, and anything that was collected was recycled before being taken off. The trains themselves had about 25% more space per passenger than ours do. The train stations, even in the middle of the night, had all-night train information ( and trains that ran all night) as well as attended toilets and shower rooms and places to eat and drink.

At one point on a platform in Dortmund I looked a little lost. We wee man popped out of a sentry box, and asked if he could help. Which he duly did. This was about 1am.

Things were similarly good in Holland as I made my way to the early ( or is that late?) Hook of Holland to Harwich ferry. And there I met up with more hoards of Brits pleading with the officials to let them board. Eventually ( at a guess) a ferry which normally would take mostly freight and perhaps 4/500 foot passengers, took not so much freight but about 3 or 4,000 poor souls.

On board I was able to get a shower and change my shirt, so I looked quite presentable.

There were lots of tales, but two will suffice.

One elderly couple had been at Calais for 5 days. Not one Navy ship, not any British officials, nothing. So they gave up and headed to Hoek Van Holland, where they thought they would have a better chance ( they did).

Another couple had been in Argentina, and, as it happened, had flown with Iberia and therefore back to Madrid.

They had heard Brown intone that there would be a fleet of coaches waiting to take them to the Navy ships.

Not only were there no coaches and no Navy ships, there were again no British officials to help. In the end, they had found that there were possible chances in Holland, had changed their UK flight to Amsterdam, then made their way to the port.

Brown referring to the Dunkirk spirit made everyone laugh. As one of them told me:" Well at Dunkirk at least there were both ships and direction. And I should know, 'cos I was there. Here, this lot couldn't organise a chimps tea party".

I'm not sure I quite get that one, but I'm sure you get the drift.

3 comments:

Winchester whisperer said...

Welcome home, KL!

In Actual Fact said...

"Travelling for 2 days across Europe in a train was a salutary lesson. The further west and north, the better the train."

Presumably, when one reaches Glasgow, SPT has anti-gravity hover trains that travel at 500mph?

kinglear said...

Mr. favt - I was only referring to Continebntal Europe. The Clockwork Orange of course is in a class of its own.....