Travelling with small children this year, we decided to keep the time in the car to a minimum and tried the ‘Autozug’ (car train) in Germany. This meant we put the car on the train, boarded the train and slept our way through Germany. We boarded in Hamburg and got off in Lörrach. Travelling like we did (from Hirtshals, Denmark in the morning) we reckon if not taking the train we would have had three more sleepovers on the way south and used a lot more petrol.
We took a ferry from Norway to Hirtshals, Denmark and slept on the ferry. We had planned to have 13-14 hours to drive through Denmark down to Hamburg. This would include a long stop in some park where we could tire out the children and make it a memorable and fun day. Instead, the ferry was severely delayed. We were supposed to reach Hirtshals at 7, instead we left the ferry at 1.30pm (13.30) This meant we had to drive straight down to Hamburg, stopping only for food and the occasional diaper change. Not an ideal start, but we made the best of it.
We reached Hamburg after dark. We did not have the exact address for the check-in-point for the ‘autozug’ but had an approximate address (which we left for the sat-nav to find) and a small printed street map to find the exact place. We managed to get there quite easily, but I have consider myself to have proper map reading skills and a good sense of direction. There was a small sign on one of the larger roads taking us into what seemed like a mix between a small alley and residential area. So if you’re every there trying to find the place, keep your eyes open!
When we got there we had a wee bit of time to kill. First all four of us, but then Husband had to leave us to get the car onto the train. The setting wasn’t ideal. Two kids who were tired, who had been in the car all day long with very few breaks at a train-station or the lobby of a hotel (the DB (Deutsche Bahn) has an agreement with a hotel connected to the train station) was not much fun. As soon as we got on the train things improved. Son thought it was fun being on a train (for the first time) and Daughter finally had some space where she could move about.
We had a couchette compartment to ourselves. There were four seats on opposing walls (altogether eight) and above were three foldable beds. The seats also functioned as beds, but were slightly smaller than the foldable ones. Travelling with a baby then became a bit of a challenge. She’s at the age where she finds something to hold on the and stands up if she awakes during the night. The seats were to small to share with a baby all night, and the foldable beds were quite high up, and we were afraid she’d suddenly crawl over her bedmate and end up on the floor. Our solution was to build her a nest on the floor using the blankets and bed linen provided and our bag or suitcase to frame it. It wasn’t ideal, but it functioned well and we all managed to sleep (at least some).
We had breakfast served before reaching Lörrach, quite a good breakfast actually.
It was a good way to travel. We didn’t sleep much, but then again I rarely do in new, unfamiliar places. Economically, as well, the train was the better choice.