Yes, the last trip to Germany was exhausting! And yes, we are doing it again! That’s one (of many) disadvantages of living far (or at least further) away from your family. It’s also another chance to “increase your self-confidence in dealing with small children”, as Karsten likes to put it (mind you, most of the times it’s just the little one and myself doing these trips while he enjoys some time to concentrate). It’s one of the things that change when you have children – are you complaining because your train is late and you have to spend two hours at the train station? Be happy that you don’t have a small kid with you! Are you disgusted by the toilet on the train because you have to turn up your trousers so they won’t touch the completely wet and sticky ground? Be happy that you don’t have a small kid with you! Are you annoyed by loud children which are sitting next to you? Be happy that they don’t belong to you and that you can simply switch on your mp3 player or use ear plugs and ignore the situation!
Ever since the little one was born we have been travelling (not to go on holiday, no. Mainly to visit family). When she was 2,5 months old I took the night train to my parents place. At that time I didn’t recognise how easy it could have been. I didn’t sleep all night because the little one was lying next to me in a narrow train bed and I was too afraid to accidentally crush her. Try to imagine sleeping next to a bunch of raw eggs in a 80 cm bed – that’s how I felt. On our way back, I let her sleep in her barrow of her stroller. It was the easiest train ride so far!
With 6 months we did the same journey again. This time Karsten joined. The little one was too big to sleep in her barrow, so I let her sleep in the downstairs bed. She was (and still is) a very active sleeper, so I didn’t join her in the bed but we built kind of a castle wall out of blankets, pillows and bags around her so that she wouldn’t fall out (although I am sure that there are plenty of children travelling by night train, the German trains still don’t provide a proper bed rail for toddlers). I took the bed in the middle as I was still breastfeeding, and Karsten unfortunately had to take the bed right up at the ceiling (he is afraid of heights). This night, the little one got her first tooth. She woke up every 20 minutes and I was constantly climbing up and down the beds. First time I had sore muscles after travelling by night train.
A few weeks later we went to Finland by plane. The journey was surprisingly good! We discovered that Zurich airport has a very convenient family room with plenty of toys, microwaves, changing tables and so on. It’s almost a pity to be at the airport on time and not an hour early. And the flight to Finland was about 2 hours, so nothing we can’t handle even if the kid is grumpy.
When the little one was 11 months old we attended our friends wedding on Spiekeroog. Which was by far the greatest challenge in regards to travelling. It was a 12 hour marathon including 1 bus, 3 regional trains, one flight, one ferry and a bit of walking. The little one was awesome, sparing us our nightmares we (or mainly I) had before the trip started.
On the way back, I was on my own with the little one. I went from Spiekeroog to my parents place, which was another 12 hour marathon (including, yes, a bit of walking, a ferry, a bus, two trains and a car ride). It was horrid. The little one was awesome, as usual, but the bus was delayed so I risked missing the only train connection I could take on that day. With only 2 minutes time to change, I ran from the bus stop to the train station, dramatically underlined by big thunderstorm (and the little one sitting in her stroller, waving at everyone while shouting “huuui! huuuui!”). The second train was so crowded we squeezed ourselves into a family compartment – 4 seats which were taken by 4 adults and three children. People were squeezing along the aisle as well, there was no chance to get to the restroom. At that point, I was already on the road for 9 hours and the little one started to be grumpy (me too!). Karsten called, telling me how much he just enjoyed the sauna and the whirlpool at the hotel he was staying at during his conference. I just told him that the connection was really bad and hang up. That’s how I got my free day at the thermal spa in Zurich…
Last month in Germany, one of our trainrides (note: just me and the little one again) was absolutely perfect. The little one was happy and entertained all the other passengers for six hours. It was amazing. On our way back she was sick and tired and in a bad mood. It only took three meters down the aisle before she threw herself on the floor, refusing to get up again. The train was crowded, the restroom was a disaster, and she full-throatedly cried for 30 minutes until she fell asleep on my lap. Fortunately, I only got compassionate expressions from my fellow travellers. During the last hour she befriended an old woman and decided to call her Oma. Oma was great, so great that the little one almost left with her instead of me. Still, that journey still haunts me a little bit (this was the journey that got me the free day in Basel).
But all in all, the little one is a great traveller. She really is. Most of the times when we need to rely on her, a miracle happens and everything goes smooth. I haven’t had to spend a whole night in a bike compartment because she wouldn’t stop crying. I also haven’t spent a whole night in the train with her throwing up every 20 minutes and the conductor refusing to change the linens (hello there, Caro!).
So, tomorrow….tomorrow we will leave for another family party in Bavaria. Train ride: 9 hours. Me and the little one. We planned an overnight stay in Munich to break up the travel time (one does learn, after a while), but our overnight stay got pneumonia. Let’s hope we are all in a good mood tomorrow. It’ll be another chance to boost my self-confidence…and maybe another free day somewhere…