My wife and I are in our "golden years" and during our married life have travelled extensively both with our 3 children when they were growing up and now as senior citizens. One of the lessons we have learned in our adventures; no matter how many years of travel experience you have under your belt, there is always something new waiting for you around the next corner, sure to throw a glitch into your travel plans or create a new experience that you can have a good laugh about after the fact.
In June of 2017, we decided to travel to Northern Germany after visiting family in Ireland. We had three reasons for the German trip. One, our eldest son had married into a family with relatives in Lubeck who had attended the wedding and who had extended an invitation to us to visit if we were ever in Germany. Secondly, I wanted to do a bit of family tree research, exploring my ancestry in the little village of Kellinghusen, Northern Germany where my great-grandfather was born. Thirdly, to meet a family in Kiel who were connected with my family through an event that took place in World War II. The Kellinghusen and Kiel visits were very interesting, but stories for another day.
From Ireland, we had flown into Hamburg where we had spent several days touring this very delightful water city with its Beatles history, its Reeperbahn and an estimated 2,300 bridges. We had arranged our own accommodation in Lubeck and reserved what turned out to be a spacious apartment above a restaurant owned by the same people as the B&B and about a 15 minute walk to Lubeck’s downtown area.
Before leaving Hamburg, we contacted our relatives in Lubeck to advise we would be travelling by train and arriving around four in the afternoon. When we arrived at the Lubeck train station, we inquired at the information desk as to which bus to catch to the address for our B&B – “No.5 Seimenstrasse”. An email from the B&B rental advised our accommodation was a 12 to 15 minute ride from the bus depot that was located across the road from the train station. An information staffer told us to catch the number 15 bus. At the bus depot, we saw the bays were numbered 1 through to 20 and plunked out bags down at bay number 15. Ten minutes later, the bus arrived. I had bought up Google maps on my phone and had No. 5 Siemenstrasse displayed.
As we got on the bus, I showed my phone to the driver who acknowledged the bus stopped near that address.
Anticipating a 15 minute ride, we were a little nonplussed when 20 minutes after leaving the bus depot, we began passing through countryside and farms. I got up from my seat and again showed the driver the address on my phone. He nodded and said we would be arriving at the bus stop near this address in about 20 minutes. Now, we were very confused. Forty minutes after leaving the train station, we arrived at the bus stop near Siemenstrasse which seemed to be located in a residential area. No sign of a restaurant. We collected our luggage and walked up the street to number 5 which turned out to be a residence. At this point, we determined that we had somehow been misdirected or had the wrong address. This was confirmed when we knocked on the door of N. 5 Siemenstrasse. It was answered by a very nice German lady who assured us in good English that her place was not a B&B. Not having any other options, we walked back to the bus stop. There was a young man now waiting at the stop with two small children. We said hello and he responded in passable English. We started chatting and he told us he was taking his children into town.
“Lubeck?” we asked.
“No. Ratzeburg.” he replied.
This was when we realized we were at the correct address but in the wrong town. After we explained how we had arrived at that location, he said eventually a bus would come for the trip back to Lubeck. We chatted for a while and the bus for downtown Ratzeburg arrived. As our new friend was boarding, he paused and said we could take the same bus and then catch a train back to Lubeck, which would probably probably be quicker. He very kindly got off the bus with us at the train station, made sure we bought the correct tickets and also made sure we were on the platform heading in the direction of Lubeck. Here I thought, is a great example of a stranger helping strangers, one of those wonderful small moments one experiences now and then when travelling.
We eventually arrived back at the same train station we had arrived at over two hours previously. Again, we asked directions to the bus that would take us to No. 5 Siemenstrasse. Again, were told No. 15 bus. We insisted the No. 15 bus was the wrong bus. After a few minutes of back and forth, the information attendant figured out the problem. The bus leaving from BAY No. 15 was actually BUS No. 10 that stopped at Siemenstrasse in Ratzeburg. The correct bus, the bus we needed to be on, was BUS No. 15 leaving from BAY No. 10 and stopping at Siemenstrasse, Lubeck. We had been at the correct bay for the bus for Siemenstrasse, Ratzeburg; the wrong bay for the bus for Siemenstrasse, Lubeck.
When the No. 15 bus arrived at Bay No.10, we clambered on with our luggage and I displayed the Google map with No. 5 Siemenstrasse to the driver who confirmed this was one of his stops. There were only about 6 people on the bus. The other 4 people disembarked before us and the driver, with just the two of us on board very kindly dropped us off at the end of the street, just a few minutes’ walk to our accommodation.
Our relatives in the meantime had been texting us, wanting to know why our arrival time was so delayed. They roared with laughter when we met them the next morning over breakfast when we told them of our unintended hop-on, hop-off bus and train tour of the countryside around Lubeck / Ratzeburg. The rest of our stay was a wonderful experience of German hospitality and culture. My wife and I highly recommend including Lubeck and Ratzeburg on the itinerary of anyone planning on visiting Northern Germany.