Getting to Berlin Hauptbahnhof
To get from the hotel to Berlin Hauptbahnhof, I first take a short walk through the park surrounding the zoo to get to the S-Bahn. The stations Zoologischer Garten and Tiergarten are more or less the same walking distance, on the other side of the park
From Tiergarten it’s three stops or seven minutes to Hauptbahnhof.
The DB Premium lounge
Apparently, my First Class ticket gives me access to the DB Premium lounge. Only, there’s a long queue forming outside, and they’re not accepting anybody else in for the time being.
Across the vast hall I spot another DB lounge, located right next to the Vapiano restaurant. This lounge is also quite busy, but at least there’s still room to sit. I’m not familiar with the Deutsche Bahn’s frequent traveller programme, so I’m honestly not sure what the difference between the lounges is.
In any case, there are complimentary drinks available in this lounge, but no food.
And I thought boarding an Air Europa flight was a mess… I arrive on track 8, which is in the basement level of the station, from where the long-distance trains depart. The platform is crawling with passengers and it’s chaos! There are screens along the platform to indicate what train will be arriving next, but none of it makes sense, because although the train number indicated is correct, it says the train is going to Hamburg. The train is also running twenty minutes late, which is very normal in Germany, apparently.
It turns out that two trains have been merged together somewhere along their journey, to run as one train until Berlin. The forward section will carry on from here to Hamburg, whereas the rear section will keep on going to the Seebäder on the Ostsee. What strikes me is that during all this, there is zero staff available and not a single announcement is made, which might have helped.
Seating in First Class on the ICE is in a 1 + 2 abreast configuration. There are some facing seats, if you’re travelling as a group of two or four, while other seats are in an aircraft seating configuration.
The seats are covered in leather and those facing each other have a generously sized table between them. The single seats have a fold away tray table.
And the seat recline is ample.
There’s litter and empty plates scattered all through the cabin, and it looks as though it’s been a while since an attendant passed through for a clean up.
The crew on the train behave as though they’re part of a socialisation programme for behaviourally challenged adults. I’m sorry, but if you work in the service sector, you need at least basic people skills – which apparently this lot does not have. It must have been their warm and charming personalities that landed them this gig…
Just as the train pulls out of the station, an attendant appears with a tray to start clearing up. He clears away the table on the row behind me. Suddenly there’s the loud noise of glasses falling over. And then a lot of complaining and cursing. He spilled left-over liquid all over the table, seats and partly also over the passengers. And then he just walks away. The woman in one of the seats is still complaining over the mess he’a made – and he just walks away. No apology, and certainly no attempt to clean up the mess.
After about an hour on the train, I start to get hungry. And there’s still an hour to go until we have to change trains. So I venture into the dining car, which is half empty. The other half is taken up by the train crew, who are loudly discussing – and complaining – about the state of their employer. I go up to the bar to inquire about the vegetarian pasta, only to be told that they’ve already sold out most of the hot dishes. So I settle for a small cheese and cabbage sandwich (??) and an Apfelschorle.
Transfer at Züssow
After two hours we reach Züssow, where I alight. On the other side of the platform is a short, diesel- powered train of the UBB – Usedom Bäder Bahn. From here it’s another hour to Heringsdorf-Bansin.
And then from Bansin station I take a bus for another ten minutes to get to my hotel by the beach. Just a word of explanation for anyone wanting to visit: Heringsdorf is the name of the area, and not just of a town. In as much, Heringsdorf and Heringsdorf-Bansin are two different places that are about 40 minutes apart on foot.
To me, this trip with Deutsche Bahn has been quite an eye-opener. I think service is something they just really don’t do very well in Germany. Not because they’re Germans, but because they pay such dreadful salaries that most people probably wouldn’t take a job in the service sector unless they haven’t got much of a choice. As an employer too, you get what you pay for.
I mention this because I always thought the problem was Lufthansa. But after this trip I’m starting to realise that customer service seems to be a general issue in Germany. Either that, or perhaps we’re just spoiled in Switzerland.
Other than that, travelling with Deutsche Bahn is a bit of a struggle until you finally get on the train. But once you’re seated and manage to ignore the constant complaining of your fellow passengers and the staff equally, the ICE is a brilliant train and the First Class seat provides a high level of comfort.