The Trouble With Claudia...
"Guh." I managed to croak out when my alarm went off.
Why do we have to get such an early train? I dragged myself out of my nest and into the shower - a sure way to wake myself up. Twenty minutes later I was stood in front of the mirror examining myself - for a boy I make a damned good girl, but that's no longer really the case is it? Whilst there's barely an ounce of fat on me, what there is forms some er very female curves. That's just it, apart from Herbert and his pals I look like a girl already ; tuck them out of the way, we are talking chipolata rather than Cumberland here, and voila, one erm foxy girl - well she would be if she wasn't me. No , that's not right ; she's still foxy even if she is me.
"Gab are you getting up or what?" the Goth like one demanded from below.
"Be down in a sec."
I took one last look at my reflection before starting to dress.
It's June, the weather can still be a bit unpredictable so I decided to go with the shorts over tights look that seems to be garnering some popularity. Vest top, cardi and trainers completed my look for the day - there would be no mistaking me for a boy today!
Dad just did the eye-rolling bit when I hit the kitchen.
"When you go girl, you really go!" Jules opined.
"I don't suppose you meant that in a good way."
"I was just saying."
"Hut hum!" Dad cleared his throat.
"Sorry, Dad, I'll ring if we're gonna be late."
"You have got your phone I suppose?"
I extracted my handy from my shorts pocket and waved it for a visual confirmation.
"One handy, charged and ready to er — ring."
"Remember what I said, try to stay out of trouble."
There was no point in riding to the station so I slung my mini rucksack on my back and started off to meet Con to walk to the Bahnhof.
I felt quite exposed, the shorts really are quite short and even with the hose fully covering my legs - well I still felt half naked. This from the girl known to wear a bikini and stupidly short skirts! I was still debating going home to change when I reached the bakery; Con and Anna were outside waiting on me and dressed not dissimilarly.
"You take your girl pill last night?" Anna joked.
"Might have." I feigned haughtiness.
"Wish I'd known, I 'd've worn trousers, I can't compare with madoms legs." Con stated half seriously.
"Give over, come on or we'll miss the Express."
"Oh sugar is that the time ? " Anna added.
Our favourite conductor, Marlene , held the Express long enough for the three of us to run the last fifty metres to the platform.
“Th, thanks Marlene.” I offered.
“Couldn't have three of my regulars missing the train – not when I've got the rest of the mad girls already on board.”
“Which?” Anna puffed out.
Marlene pointed towards the front of the railcar.
The others that is to say: Brid, Claudia, Nena, Pia and Steff had two sets of facing seats staked out and the three of us poured into the remaining vacant seats.
“Geez Gab, can you not show the rest of us up.” Pia moaned.
“What'd I do now ?”
“I tell you Claud, she doesn't even realise she's doing it.” Nena stage whispered to her sister.
“Doing what?” this is getting exasperating.
“You just keep doing it.” Claudia suggested.
If I knew what ‘it' was I might know if it was a good or bad thing, this ‘it'.
“So how's erm, Bad Herrenalb?”
“So she came to annoy us.” Her sister joshed.
The last time I saw Claudia she looked to be a sickly twelve year old, if anything she looks even more fragile today.
“Nena was saying that you've been ill.” Claud suggested.
“Some er, plumbing issues.” I allowed.
“At least that's one thing I don't have to worry about,” She grinned, “none of my kit works.”
Wish mine didn't.
“So what's the plan Nen?” Anna enquired.
“Thought we'd do the tourist bit, Claud's never been to the Eck then hit the old town.”
“You must see the Eck.” Steff giggled.
“Hey, so I'm a tourist!” Claudia pretended to be offended.
“We were just talking about it before you got on,” Brid mentioned, “I thought we could use the Bummelbahn up to the river front.”
“Sounds like fun.” Con put in.
“Any of you know whether it takes wheelchairs?”
I nearly asked why but spotted a vacant example parked in the pram space.
“Probably if it's folded.”
“That's what I thought.” Pia agreed.
“I'm not a complete invalid, I've got my sticks.”
“And you know what Mama said.” Nena stated.
“I know, I'm not to get too excited or walk too much.”
“She actually said ‘walk'.”
“Give us a break, sis, it's bad enough having to use the damned chair, a short walk won't kill me.”
The look on Nena's face suggested that that might well not be quite true. My little ‘problem' suddenly seemed to be rather inconsequential.
‘Die nächste halt ist Remagen, der zug endet hier.'
“That was quick.” Con noted.
“You girls need a hand?” Marlene enquired.
“If you can turn the chair round please.” Claudia requested.
It was only a matter of like three metres, Nena and Anna pretty much carried her to the chair, Mar navigated the four-wheeled monster up onto the platform.
“I'll ask Theo in the office to hold the down train for you.”
“Thanks Mar.” Nena called behind as we split up, most of us taking the stairs whilst Anna and Nena pushed Claudia to the lift. We clattered down the stairs, charged along the tunnel and breathlessly climbed up onto Gleis 1 where the Rhein Express was already sat waiting.
The five of us skidded to a halt at the first door where the conductor was standing.
“There's a wheelchair coming.” Stef puffed out.
You could see the guy's mood drop some, and on one level I can sympathise.
“Do we need the ramp?”
“I don't think so, we can lift her down.” Con suggested.
I spotted the lift rising up to the platform; they might have been quicker using the ramp!
“Here they come.”
The guy's expression improved when he saw the type of chariot that hurtled along the platform towards us. The drop into the carriage is like fifteen centimetres, not a lot but you need to lift any wheeled thing in or out. The wheeled division arrived with a bunch of heavy breathing.
“Push her to the edge, I'm not supposed to do this.” He stepped on board the train then grabbed the chair complete with cargo and heaved it on board.
“I could get used to that.” Claudia chuckled.
The rest of us got onboard, before we had the chair braked in the bike area the doors slammed shut and the guards whistle signalled that we were clear for departure.
“Geez, that was intense.” Nena stated.
“Great fun.” Claud grinned.
“Hey, it wasn't you doing the chasing around.” Anna mentioned.
The train was quite full, there were seats upstairs but it seemed a bit off to dump Claud with the geriatric Trekkers and two empty pushchairs so we all found perches in the bike park. With a constant stream of lavatory visitors and train wanderers any kind of conversation was at best broken but with it being the Express there were only three stops before Koblenz. He might have looked pretty grumpy but the conductor chap took charge of getting Claudia off his train – another manly lift and the job was done.
We waited outside the station for the Bummel to arrive, the weather warming up compared to back in the Ahrtal at least. I reckon we could've walked best part of the way to the Eck in the time we waited there but eventually the green and yellow land train puttered along from the town. When I saw the price I wish we had walked! Five euros each! Whatever.
There were only a couple of other passengers so we had a whole ‘carriage' to ourselves for the fifteen minute crawl through the town and out to the Rhein waterfront. Claudia's chair had been no issue and despite the price I enjoyed the ride as much as anyone else.
“So where is this famous point?” Claud enquired.
“Not far,“ Brid supplied, “maybe ten minutes walk.”
This bit of riverfront has been turned over to tourists for over a hundred years so we dodged our way between ‘real' tourists from the endless stream of coaches, at least four KD © offices, a couple of souvenir shops and assorted food and drink emporia.
“Ta da!” Nena exclaimed when we reached the back of the monument that forms the centrepiece of the Deutches Eck.
“What am I looking at?” a slightly perplexed wheelchair occupant asked.
“The Deutches Eck.” Pia supplied.
“Come on, you can see it better from the front.” I pointed out.
To be honest I reckon most visitors are under whelmed, the monument itself, whilst impressive is typically stark Prussian in style and unless you can get up to the top of it you can't really see the green waters of the Mosel and the brown Rhein H2O meeting. As you might guess Claudia's current health prevented her making the climb to the top although we did manage to get her part way up.
“I fancy an Eis.” Anna told us.
“I'll get them.” Claudia offered.
“In that case mine's a coconut and pistachio.”
The biggest problem I have with the ice cream bars is the huge choice on offer, often over twenty flavours. I've tried all sorts of combinations but to save excessive deliberation I tend to have C & P as default choice. We found a couple of benches and settled down to eating our frozen food.
“So,” Claudia started between licks, “where next? Someone mentioned the old town?”
“There're some cool shops around there.” Pia noted.
“We can walk from here.” Steff added.
I'm glad I put my runners on.
A few minutes later we were headed into Koblenz old town, a warren of little streets amongst which the town museum, Rathaus and principal town squares can be found along with the aforementioned shops. We don't very often get up this end of town on our visits, all the big department stores and trendy boutiques are a way down the other end. There are more picturesque places, fancier stores even but this bit of Koblenz is just, well comfortable.
© Köln Düsseldorf Line, the biggest operator of passenger carrying riverboats on the Rhein/Mosel.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 01.11.2011