Moving on slow trains from South to North, we encounter a lot of countryside – not always voluntarily.
After a number of unmotivated stops, our train comes to a halt in Uffenheim. Three people disembark. The train does not move. The conductor, a stout man with a red puzzle piece on his lapel and a name badge (P. Roth), is walking up and down the train talking into his phone. “Will you send one?” Finally, he decides to tell us that we are standing still. “Thank you for your patience.” Another ten minutes later, he returns to the microphone for a new announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please … An important announcement! Errr… I guess we’ll have to wait for a new locomotive.”
The about 80 passengers have to leave the train and wait behind the station building, because the platforms in Uffenheim are too dangerous to stand while faster trains are passing through. The graffitied waiting room is completely empty except for a waste separation box, and outside the station, no town is to be seen. Two women browse through the leaflets in the room where the ticket window used to be. “Your mobility is close to our heart,” they read out and send everybody laughing hysterically. An hour later the next regular train arrives, and Mr. Roth, now wearing an orange safety vest, leads us all to platform 4. The other train is still standing on platform 3.
"The doors on your right will open. We wish all our guests a pleasant onward journey." A week later, the Metronom to Uelzen arrives punctually and leaves a crowd of passengers on the platform waiting for their connection 15 minutes later. This time, the non-smokers at least would have happily accepted a short delay and less time to spend on the windy, if Hundertwasser-designed platform. But this is where Northern Germany clearly beats the South, usually so smug about their efficiency and competence: The Metronom is not only punctual; the trains also offer snack vending machines and regular seats for commuters, and the staff treat travelers as customers.
At least this area of the North has better weather, too: with a lot of wind but much sunshine, too. The first frost is on the grass, and Thorsten is earnestly checking whether all his hens are scratching for snacks. They are the veterans – Polly and her friends, last year’s newcomers, have all died this summer. Meanwhile Esmerald the gander is devouring the leftovers from their regular food, the floury stuff that the chickens don’t like. This happens to be the power part of the power food they need because they are still programmed to lay too many eggs. No wonder then that Esmerald is strutting over the pasture as if the Metronom had been his idea.