2009-02-22 51 10
Between reed-like plants next to a fast-flowing muddy creek in a rural area north of Erfurt, between Niederspier and Otterstedt
 Regensburg - Würzburg (Tomcat, Hans, dawidi)
dawidi: For once, I managed to get up at the intended time (around 4:00), but after my usual long-winded morning routine and hectic packing it was already past 6:00, although I had intended to leave at 5:45. So I had to walk really quickly through the dawn on a thin layer of fresh snow, from my home to a village across the river from where Tomcat and Hans would pick me up. They had, of course, been waiting for me for quite a while when I got there, and we got on the Autobahn immediately. The road was a bit icy and slushy in places, but despite the delay I had caused, Tomcat managed to get us safely to Nürnberg in time, and as he had promised, found a good free parking spot just a few hundred meters from the central station. They bought some pastries for the ride, I bought the ticket, and we got on the train to Würzburg.
 Tübingen - Würzburg (ekorren)
Ekorren: Since it was sunday, which meant that there was no earlier connection than the 5:36 train, I set my alarm to 3:45. Had it been a weekday, I had probably started at 4:20. I had failed to prepare everything in the evening, so there was some more hectic searching, as I couldn't find everything I had planned to take with me, including games we could play on the train - what we finally didn't do anyway. Around 5:15, I shut down the computer, grabbed my bags and got on my way. I had planned to take a quick bike detour through the inner city to buy my ticket at a different ticket machine where it would be an interesting collectors item. When I left the building, I found - a few centimetres of snow, covering a wet, partly iced surface. That came a bit of a surprise and it meant there wouldn't be such a thing like a quick bike detour. In fact, quick was a word which would only be appropriately usable in a context of falling. So, instead I took a slow direct ride to the station, bought a ticket from the standard machine and got on the train to Stuttgart. Nothing remarkable happened on the way, anyway. At Stuttgart I decided to take an earlier train to Heilbronn (as opposed to waiting for the direct train to Würzburg) - the main reason being that I hadn't had breakfast, and I would prefer the food obtainable at Heilbronn station on a sunday morning over that you get at Stuttgart. You see, I somehow know my stations. After a short stopover at Heilbronn I finally got on the train to Würzburg, where it arrived in time at 9:22. It wouldn't be before 10 that we would continue, so there was plenty of time to look for the others.
When I came down into the passengers tunnel, a steady stream of pedestrians came from platforms behind, and just as I joined the stream to the exit, I saw - known faces. And a backpack with something attached to it that looked like it could fly. Which meant, I already had found the Regensburg group before even reaching the station building.
The Regensburg group was heading for a geocache near to the station which I had planned to visit on the way back anyway. So I went with them, finding a bucket which was not the geocache first (but filled with water and decayed yoghurt, leaving the place in an ugly smell after being opened), but the real box couldn't hide much longer. We went back to the station and easily found Danatar who was already waiting for us.
 Würzburg-Erfurt (Danatar, ekorren, Tomcat, Hans, dawidi)
Danatar took the tram to the main station, where he searched for the others until they returned from the geocache. The train from Würzburg to Erfurt passed through the Thüringer Wald mountains, which were covered deeply in snow.
In Erfurt, we quickly located another geocache and then started to solve the riddles for a third one. While the others calculated the coordinates, Danatar went to meet Thomcat at the platform. After a quick introduction (and a meeting of the Cats) we bought food and boarded the train to Niederspier.
 Hildesheim - Erfurt (Thomcat)
Thomcat: My handy German phrasebook and I walked from the city center in Hildesheim along the pedestrian boulevard to the train station, where I was unable to make the machine understand he wanted a "Happy Weekend" ticket AND speak english at the same time. So, 39 Euros out of pocket and onto the train. Most signs and announcements are in German, but I got by pretty well, until the nice lady came up and asked for my ticket. "Oh, this ticket is not good for ICE," she told me. Faced with being thrown off the train or paying for another ticket, I opted for the latter - I have hashes to go to and people to meet! I then settled down and enjoyed the scenery, which went from nice to cold to less nice... we had crossed into former GDR.
 Erfurt - Niederspier
On platform 4, a class 642 DMU waited for us and a few other passengers. We boarded, had free choice about free seats, and started to explore the train. The most important question now actually was: Where is the button to press for a "stop on request"? They weren't near the doors where we expected them. And would they tell us in time when we need to press? Another passenger overheard the discussion and pointed to the luggage holders above the seats. Problem solved.
After leaving the suburbs of Erfurt, a hilly landscape of large fields and small villages opened outside the window. We had reached the rural parts of northern Thuringia. Through these fields, along a small river, we went out into the emptyness, didn't forget to press the button shortly after leaving Wasserthaleben. We passed the hashpoint in a distance of about 300 metres and tried to catch a view - successless, as there was a slope inbetween, and got off at the small stop of Niederspier. The gatekeeper working the two railway level crossings gates of the village tried to exchange some coffee for a piece of our cake but failed because she didn't have coffee ready. After the train had left, we headed for the village and the hash.
 Niederspier - Hashpoint
Now for the last part of the outward journey. Outward, indeed, out of all cities, out even of this dozy small village, out on an empty road, out into the grey of a wet, yet not too cold, thuringian sunday afternoon. Out...
Up to now everything had gone surprisingly well, so something simply had to go wrong soon. Was it that the gatekeeper tried to hold us back to get a second chance to swap in some cake? Was it that a force from the tourist office tried to hold us back from leaving the village? Fact is: Just as we approached the second railway level crossing we would have to cross to get on the road, the gates went down right before us. And stayed there for about ten minutes. But finally they went up again, and we waved goodbye to Niederspier and headed for the hash.
And there it was. Water. Water in the creeks, water on the tracks, water on the fields. Water even on the top of hills, coming from nowhere, or everywhere, water seemingly even going uphill, brown and muddy, cold, flowing, wet. Where could all that water come from? At least, there wasn't much water on the road so far, so it was safe to walk on, over a hill, and then down into a valley, where the hash should be near to the road, between some trees. And on approaching, there was - more water. Water on the road, this time. Water on the track to the hash, blocking all possible ways to the hash.
But somehow we made it, all of us. Some climbed around it, some tried to find shallow spots to step in, some tried to jump, but in the end all of us got there.
 Hashpoint - Wasserthaleben
After taking pictures at the hashpoint, we decided not to stay in this half-flooded area. We continued along the road to the next village, Otterstedt. Since Otterstedt is almost non-existent on OpenStreetMap, we split up and made GPS tracklogs of every street. Another 2 kilometres later we arrived at Wasserthaleben and had enough time left before the train would be due. We ate Danatar's cake and dawidi made his R/C flying object fly around a bit.
 Wasserthaleben - Erfurt
 Erfurt - Hildesheim (Thomcat)
Thomcat Arriving back in Erfurt, I received an education on how to work the train information computer, and then received a no-ICE intinerary back to Hildsheim. That done, I waved goodbye to my fellow hashers. The light was soon lost, and I arrived in Göttingen in darkness. Not quiet darkness, but a darkness filled with the sound of many happy Eishockey fans - Hannover had won their game, and the faithful were headed the same direction as I. This turned out to be a very good thing, as they held a train in Nordstemmen for the throng - and me! I took a short walk back to the hotel from Hildesheim Hbf. Thanks again for a great geohash!
 Erfurt - Würzburg (Danatar, ekorren, Tomcat, Hans, dawidi)
dawidi: After instructing Thomcat for his return trip, we headed for the final coordinates of the other geocache near Erfurt's central station which we had calculated on the way, and after we found a way out of the station building, quickly got there, found it, logged, and returned to the station, well in time to get on the train to Würzburg.
That train, which took us up through the snowy Thüringer Wald mountains again, used tilting technology to go through curves faster, which was quite a nuisance in the dark without visual reference points outside. A few of us got a bit dizzy from that ride, since we were also pretty tired at that point. Still, we managed to finish the cake :)
In Würzburg, Danatar split off and went home rather quickly, but the Regensburg group and ekorren stayed in the station waiting for their respective trains. ekorren's train was scheduled to leave first, but ours was waiting at the platform already as well.
 Würzburg - Regensburg (Tomcat, Hans, dawidi)
dawidi: After a rather quiet and tired train ride, the only notable aspect of which was a rather cute young couple across the waggon conversing in sign language, we arrived in Nürnberg at around 22:00 and walked back to the car. The snow and ice had melted away during the day, so the drive on the Autobahn back to Regensburg was unproblematic. We arrived at my apartment building around 23:30, after which Tomcat and Hans drove home to Eilsbrunn (and presumably got there shortly before midnight).
 Würzburg - Tübingen (ekorren)
I had the choice to stay at Würzburg for another hour, or to take a train shortly before the one of the Regensburg group. Since there wasn't really anything useful to do with another hour at Würzburg, I chose the earlier one, parted with the Regensburg group shortly before departure and got on the train to Stuttgart which was scheduled to depart at 20:37.
Only, first we had to wait for passengers from a delayed connecting train, and then the remote control of the locomotive didn't connect. Which meant, that, although being a push-pull-train, the locomotive had to be moved to the front end. Finally the train got off with a delay of 16 minutes, which I didn't really care about because I would have almost half an hour of time to change the train at Stuttgart. Nothing remarkable happened at all on the rest of the journey, and I got home around 0:30.
Total travel distance by train: 1010 km (based on official track length).