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Rewarding German trip as detour offers travel challenges

My recent trip to Germany was very rewarding but involved some minor hitches that travellers sometimes deal with. It was my first trip to a developed European country in more than two decades since visiting Russia in 1995, so I hope my experiences are useful for people planning a trip to the west.

The Monument of Beethoven (Beethoven Denkmal), the world famous classical music composer, marks the centre of Bonn.

After a couple of minutes at the immigration point, I entered the territory of Germany. I made my first trip to this country through Dusseldorf International Airport, the south-west air gate to the country.

With two light pieces of luggage, I followed other passengers, who were all other nationalities and took the same flight here, until the exit of the terminal. I asked officials directions to the railway station - they pointed to the sign with the letter S and number 11. Then I descended to a subway platform.

My final destination was Bonn, the city where the Global Media Forum 2017 took place from June 19 to 21. I was invited to attend the event by Deutsche Welle, the host of the international conference.

As services at the station were totally automated and I have bad sight, I asked a lady to pick a train ticket for me from the ticketing machine. I told her I wanted to go to the main station and gave her a five euro banknote.

After the machine gave me a 2.70 euro ticket and change, I began to wonder if travelling on this route was much cheaper than what my host had ordered for me, but I got on the train anyway and listened carefully for the onboard announcement.

We passed some stations before the train arrived at a multi-platform station above the ground. Doubt came over me, and I asked other passengers if the train went to Bonn Central Station. “No,” they answered.

I decided to get off the train and found that I was at central station, but instead of arriving at Bonn central station I had instead ended up at Dusseldorf Central Station (Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof) or Dusseldorf Hbf. I went to the information desk and picked up a new ticket from the counter.

I eventually made it from Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof to Bonn Central Station (Bonn Hbf) through Cologne Central Station.

En route I took in the German summer countryside scenery including farmers mechanically harvesting wheat and baling large rolls of hay.

Before starting the trip from Vientiane, I had studied Bonn on an e-map, particularly how I would get to the hotel from Bonn Hbf.

My reserved accommodation was the B&B Bonn hotel, which was one and half kilometres from the station (Bonn Hauptbanhof) and could be reached on foot in about 20 minutes.

After getting off the train at Bonn Central Station at around 4 pm I headed to the north of the station. I couldn't really remember the names of the roads I had to follow from Bonn Hbf to reach my hotel (I later discovered they were Thomastraße and Heinrich-Böll-Ring), but I guessed the direction and started walking.

Nick-named the ‘sleeping city,' Bonn had only a few people outside on the streets, especially in the old urban centre far from the central station. The streets were clean and lined with trees on each side, and I could see the river in the distance.

I entered a pharmacy for directions to the hotel and a young lady looked it up on her computer and wrote out directions with three roads, including Thomastraße and Heinrich-Böll-Ring.

“First, turn left, then turn left, and after that turn right,” she instructed.

I followed the instructions but couldn't find any of the three roads. Reluctantly, knowing I had gone the wrong way, I switched on my mobile phone hoping for an e-map of Bonn even though I didn't have a German sim card.

Sure enough, not only did the map appear but also the moving dot representing my location, and at last the mobile map accompanied me to my hotel after walking around for almost two hours. The hotel is located close to the railway and my train had passed it before reaching the main station.

Lessons learned

Not following my host's instructions had caused difficulties on the trip. The host had booked me a ticket on the express train but I forgot to show it to the information official at my arrival at Dusseldorf Airport.

There was no need to worry as the host arranged appropriate transportation (flights and train) and accommodation for guests so they could easily get to the conference venue.

On this trip, I departed from Wattay International Airport at 9.30pm and travelled via Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok on to Abu Dhabi, UAE and finally reached Dusseldorf International Airport at 2.10 pm the next day.

At Dusseldorf, you should take the airport sky train to the railway station, which is located next to the end of runway in a north-east direction.

With the perfectly connected Germany transport system if you take the wrong train you don't need to backtrack - just go to any main station and from there make your way directly to your final destination.

While you'll hardly find any English signs in Bonn, don't worry because almost everyone there can speak English.

Even if the trip is arranged by a host, it's a good idea to bring some Euros in cash in order to pay for unforeseen expenses as card payments are not always possible.

My trip was challenging but rewarding, and I hope others are inspired to make a similarly interesting trip.

 

By Somxay Sengdara
(Latest Update July 14, 2017)


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