Thursday 7th July, 2022
Getting to Aachen was a bit of a marathon, considering it's quite a short journey as the crow flies. It was really only practical to go back to Brussels on the train, change for a train to a place called Eupen (no, me neither), disembark at Welkenraedt (again, no) and take a short train ride over the border to Aachen. You also have to book as it's between countries, and I upgraded to first class (for a massive 5 euros) to avoid the misery of having to stand again.
So - back to Antwerp's lovely station again to discover that there are three (at least) levels of platforms and of course my train was leaving from the bottom level and the escalator had failed. (Sometimes I regret bringing the bigger bag!)
However, once the train arrived I had the first class carriage almost to myself and plenty of room for the luggage too.
It was a relatively short hop to Brussels-Nord then it was a change of platform (no of course no lifts or escalators!) and onto the next leg. Again First Class was relatively quiet and I had a solo seat, on a nice comfortable, modern train.
Then the fun began.
Most people disembarked at the afore-mentioned Welkenraedt. My Belgian Rail app had said we would arrive at platform 5 and that the connection to Aachen would also leave from platform 5 8 minutes later. However, there was no platform signage at all to say what trains might arrive there - confusion reigned.
A conversation with other passengers in a mixture of English, French and German revealed that we were all confused, until someone on platform 4 shouted over that the Aachen train was going to depart from there.
We herded down the steps, through the underpass and up again and the "train" arrived. Well more of a glorified bus on rails - two coaches - and (shock horror) no first class (sorry I didn't manage to get a photo!) On we got - again confused because masks are mandatory on German railways but apparently we were still under Belgian jurisdiction. I had put mine on anyway as a lovely German woman travelling with her wee girl and a scooter had said it was required (and you do what you are told in Germany!).
The (thankfully short) journey into Aachen was punctuated by a woman sobbing into her phone (I mean big loud sobs, not sniffles) and the rare appearance of a conductor who seemed taken aback at my mobile phone ticket, as he had to fire up his reader. In all my Belgian rail miles I had never had a ticket checked and there are no barriers either!
I was very grateful that my hotel was only a very short walk from the station, and I dropped everything off and headed into town. The weather isn't quite so good but still warm enough to wander around with just a thin fleece.
Aachen old town is beautiful and very charming and I look forward to exploring more tomorrow! It was an early night for me after a dinner of currywurst and beer (well I had to!) after all the excitement of the day!