I spotted a few panel pieces on the trains at the station as I waited for my trains to arrive. First I went from Zaandam to Amsterdam and then changed for the train I was taking to Germany. This was my first border crossing train. It was nice getting to just sit, listen to music, and peer out the window at the scenery. As we approached the border we were reminded that we now needed to wear masks on board as rules in Germany are still that face masks must be worn on public transport. We pulled into the first station in Germany and I got excited that a dog was running up to me, but I then realised it was with a bunch of cops so I didn’t get excited and pat it and let it keep on going. There were about 8 police officers that boarded the train and traveled the length of it. I saw one woman be escorted off and watched out my window as she was taken to the cop car and the contents of her bags were examined. I saw another man be escorted with 3 officers, his passport in the hand of one and his bag held by another. There was also another woman who was escorted away from the station by 2 officers, and then the train pulled away. From witnessing that I am going to assume that the train from Amsterdam into Germany sees a bit of action.

I got to the station where I had to change for my third train as I was heading to meet up with Basti in Hagen after work. Basti was the 3rd backpacker from 10 years I was getting to collect on this trip. He came and met me at Hagen station and then we got another train (my fourth for the day) and headed to Bochum, where he and Romina, his girlfriend live. As I could only fit in a short visit mid week, Basti generously took time off from work to hang out and spend the time catching up. We went and dropped my luggage off at his house before getting on a bus to go check out the Bochum Christmas market.

It was nice getting to experience my first German Christmas market with company. We stopped and had a Glühwein and then walked around checking out the stalls and keeping an eye out if there were any vegan food options. Surprisingly we did find one stall that had a potato and lentil dish. So I got that, and it was satisfying. When we were done checking out the market we got back on the bus and headed back to Basti’s. Romina came home not long after and it was lovely to get to meet her. We hung out, chatted for a bit, and then I headed up to my cute little bed nook for the night. I was pretty exhausted after a day of catching trains.

The next day Basti made super delicious pancakes for breakfast and then we decided to go check out the Mining Museum. This area was built a lot on coal mining and it was interesting to start to get a bit of an understanding about just how important coal has been to people for so long. One of the things about living in and growing up in such a young country is that we really don’t have a comprehension for how long some elements of history are. I have learnt through visiting places and chatting to everyone how majority of infrastructure here is built on the use of gas. Where as in Australia we really do have more infrastructure built that uses electricity. Which can sustainably be produced. Converting all the buildings and systems over, especially in such old structures, I can now see a bit more how it isn’t that easy to just stop. When places built up in the 1200’s were built off the foundations of coal mining.

We also went on the mining tour however it was all in German so the few words I did understand really didn’t help me to get as much out of it as I would if it was in English. I did get to play with large power so tool that was exciting, and we did get to end the tour at the top of the tower which provided some great views of the area. I got to see the machines they use and tried to make sense of it all through broken German comprehension and my basic knowledge of how things work.

After the museum we walked into the city centre to have a look at some things and grab a bite to eat. Then we went home to both do some work we needed to do and chill out for a bit. That night Basti made us a great dinner, and we all chilled out and watched a movie.
The next day Basti had to pop into school for the morning and I took that as an opportunity to get some work done too.

It was my last day and so in the afternoon we headed out to check out the big Winter Wonderland market. Not so much of a market but a fair. With rides and carnival side games and all that jazz. There were some market stalls, but otherwise it was just pretty cool to check out. We were picking Romina up from work that evening so once we were done exploring here we just went and walked around one of the other local areas. After getting back we ordered in some food and I got introduced to some new games. It was a lovely way to spend my last night with Basti and Romina as I was off to Hamburg the next day.

It’s been really cool to get to catch up with people on this side of the world, who I met on the other side of the world. And to be welcomed into their lives. It’s pretty incredible to also feel so comfortable spending time and reconnecting after so long.