Cologne to ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Our fortunes with travel connections on this trip continue. Our plan was to catch a train from Köln at 07:25 to Mönchengladbach, where we would have 5 minutes to transfer to a train to Venlo. We set our alarms to wake up at 06:30, to give us time to do final packing and leave the hotel, walk over to the station, and grab some breakfast before catching the train. But when we got up I checked the Deutsche Bahn app and it said our train was running 15 minutes late… meaning we’d miss our connection and have to wait almost an hour in Mönchengladbach for the next train. We could have rushed and tried to catch an earlier train, but I didn’t want us to have to race over to the station and not have time to get something to eat, so we relaxed a little and resolved to be late.

I sent my Dutch friend Jan a message saying we’d be an hour late into ’s-Hertogenbosch. We took our time to get to the station where I got another one of the porridges from Haferkater, while my wife got a coffee and a croissant. On the platform it said our train was only running 5 minutes late, but this updated to 10 and finally to 15 minutes late. Eventually it arrived and we made our way to Mönchengladbach. The train made up some time on the way, but we still missed our connection to Venlo at 08:25. The next train was supposed to be at 09:25… but this was cancelled! So we had to wait all the way until 10:25 for another train. I sent Jan another message saying we’d now be two hours late.

We exited the station at Mönchengladbach and found a BackWerk bakery to sit in for a while. Being before 09:00 on a Saturday, pretty much everything else was closed. We just grabbed a bottle of water to drink and I had a chocolate croissant. At 09:30 the department store across the street opened, so we went in to wander around a bit and use the toilet. This cost 0.50€, and I took the opportunity to rid us of a pile of 1, 2, and 5 cent coins. When I dropped the handful of shrapnel in the tray next to the attendant, she laughed.

Our second train eventually took us to Venlo, where we had a 16 minute wait for the third and final train to ’s-Hertogenbosch. Only this train was also disrupted! Thanks to staff shortages, it was only going as far as Eindhoven, and we were advised to change trains there for a connection to ’s-Hertogenbosch. This added yet another 15 minutes delay to our journey. Of a 3-train journey, every single leg was disrupted, and in a different way: lateness, cancellation, and early termination. Fortunately I managed to message Jan when I had WiFi and he knew not to get to the station too early to wait for us.

Finally, we made it to ’s-Hertogenbosch around 12:20, a total of two hours and fifteen minutes late. Jan met us there and directed us to the adjacent bus stop where we waited for a number 1 bus to take us most of the way to our hotel. Guess what? The bus was about 10-15 minutes late; I lost track exactly. Anyway, we finally managed to make it to our hotel, where we dropped our luggage and set out immediately on a walking tour of ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Jan guided us past a supermarket where we grabbed some lunch to go. We walked through Het Bossche Broek nature reserve, a large low-lying area of mixed grass and wetland, dotted with walking and cycling trails. This was very scenic, and a chance to spot many different types of birds. I did a count with eBird, and by the end of it we’d recorded 21 different species of birds that we could identify, and there were also a few tiny flitting birds that we couldn’t identify. We went along a bike path and then a pedestrian-only path along the edge of the Dommel River. At the end of this we used a small hand-cranked chain ferry to cross the river. This is called the Pontje ‘De Moerasdraak’, which means “the swamp dragon”.

Looks like the Netherlands

From here we walked into the city centre, via a shady tree-covered footpath along the west side of the Dommel, looking across to the old city wall on the east side. This was also a beautiful walk, which didn’t feel especially urban until we emerged at the far end in the heart of the city with the bustle of people. We walked back over the river into the heart of the city. We went down some pedestrian streets hemmed by old buildings and found a cafe-bar to sit in and have a cool drink out of the sun for a bit.

After resting a little, we walked into the market square, where the market was in the early stages of packing up. We got freshly made stroopwafels, which were hot and delicious – not as sweet as the packaged ones you can buy in supermarkets.

Making stroopwafel

We walked around the Sint-Janskathedraal, but we couldn’t go inside as they seemed to be just closing for the day. This cathedral has a strange mix of Gothic stone and brick architecture. Jan said it was based on the design of Amiens Cathedral (as was Cologne Cathedral), so we might observe some similarities with that of Cologne. Indeed there were some in the shapes of the exterior, but Cologne’s version is just so much bigger in size.

We ended up in the restaurant Tante Wonnie’s, which has Surinamese food. The menu mostly seemed to be influenced by Indonesian cuisine, which seemed a bit odd. But the food was delicious and had an interesting range of spices.

After eating, Jan grabbed his bicycle and took us to the main road back to our hotel, where we could walk back while he went home.

One thought on “Cologne to ‘s-Hertogenbosch”

  1. You had all those train problems without even going to the UK, where the rail unions are on strike. I hope that you’ll have a better time tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *