North or South?

Picture the scene. It’s 6:30am after watching St. Pauli lose 1-0 at home and having two men sent off. I’ve had five hours sleep. It’s snowing and freezing. I have an hour to catch the train from St. Pauli to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, before heading onwards to Bremen Airport. I’ve done the journey on this route twice, so for some unknown reason I’m sure there is a direct line. I’ve no grounds for my certainty, as my memory is terrible. The previous two times I had done the journey with friends, so I wasn’t really paying any attention.

Uncertainly sets in when I buy my ticket and look at the two platforms infront of me from which to choose from. Neither seem to go to the Hauptbahnhof. One seems to suggest you can go to the South station, but I’m imagining that this is a completely different station on the outskirts of Hamburg which isn’t the one I need. I consult the Hamburg underground map, which to a Yorkshireman in desperate need of sleep is as clear as mud. There is a Nord and a Sud station. And a Hauptbahnhof too. I know Hamburg is ace, but does it need 3 stations?

Finally, I think logically. I remember that on the way from Hamburg airport I went past a station called Schlump. A wonderful name for somewhere. It describes how I feel at this moment, even though schlump isn’t really a word. I decide I should go in the opposite direction of the airport and Schlump, so get the train going in the opposite direction. I decide to get off at Rathaus, which seems to be a calling point for all the lines, so I assume i must be able to get to the Hauptbahnhof from here.

A couple of stops later I’m at the Rathaus. I see all the other lines, but none of them seem to be going to the Hauptbahnhof. Now panic is setting in. I need to catch my train from a seemingly imaginary and impossible to reach train station in under an hour. Do I want to risk going to the north or south station? Is it all just one big station with different names to confuse idiots like me? I’ve practically resigned myself to failure, perhaps I was going to end up living like Tom Hanks in ‘The Terminal’, but with Rathaus underground station rather than an airport with lots of shops.

There’s no people here, unsurprisingly since its not even 7am yet. I’m rapidly searching on my phone for answers, but asking google whether hamburg had 3 main stations didn’t seem to work either. Finally, a glimmer of hope. A man wanders into the station, and in my basic German I asked whether he spoke English. ‘A little bit’ he replied, which is the standard German response to this question, even though many speak better English than me. Lets hope he knows the way to this imaginary station.

‘Of course!’ he said. ‘Just go up those steps and walk 500 metres down the street’. After a short walk in the snow, there it was, the holy grail of train stations. I’m not sure whether it was the north, south, or the middle of nowhere station, but I was where I needed to be.

I hope this cheers you all up on your way to work, particularly if you’re looking at the league table and wondering when St. Pauli will next score a goal. But if you’re like me, stood at Rathaus underground station searching google for the answer to this dilemma and have found our website, I’m sorry – I’ve not got a clue.

Rathaus ist Braun-Weiss.

7 thoughts on “North or South?

  1. HBf Sud and HBf Nord are the U/S-Bahn stations that sit either side of the actual mainline station. So in future just head for either of them and you’ll be right!

    This is from the boy that once had to get a taxi to Lubeck after failing to find the Bus Station in time for the Ryanair bus and then running onto the train platform just as the Lubeck train was pulling out!

  2. I had a similar experience in Berlin, trying to get to Schoenefeld airport after all the S-bahn trains were cancelled (so much for German efficiency). Unfortunately I didn’t make it and had to get a very speedy taxi to Tegel airport for another flight!

  3. I have read your blog for the first time today (tonight) and the story you told, makes me sure I will be back, all the more so, as tings like this always happen to me.
    By the way, in Rotterdam (where I live at the moment) people also always answer the question of whether they speak English with “a little bit”, though almost everybody does it very well.

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