We are now back in Blighty after a seventeen day jaunt by train through France, Italy, Austria and Germany and quite a break it's been. Where to start?
Train travel is fantastic, especially the decadence of a splendid meal in the dining car then going back to your cabin to find the beds have been made up with lovely fresh linen sheets. Incredibly it doesn't break the bank and you don't have the completely over the top security crap to suffer that they put you through at airports. So we took Eurostar to Paris then an overnighter to Venice. A day in Venice then the pleasant train ride to Rome where we had an apartment for nine nights.
We attended a General Audience with Pope Francis in Rome, visited as many historic sites as we could fit in and managed a day trip to Naples to visit Pompeii. Wonderful country and Rome is a very special city.
From Rome we took the sleeper to Vienna, this was last Thursday (8th October). There was a crisis at Terminii station in Rome but we finally got the train. The fun started when we got to Vienna on the Friday morning.
We'd been warned about travelling by train to Munich (our next destination) and Vienna by friends before we left. We had kept abreast with the news but our friends had reliable contacts, especially in Munich and warned us that the situation was worse than suggested by the British media. We decided to take our chances as there was still nearly three weeks until we got to Vienna and Munich. The three weeks had passed and there we were.
We arrived last Friday in Vienna to find the Hauptbahnof teeming with migrants, over 95% of whom were young men in their twenties, some maybe early thirties. The atmosphere was quite threatening and outside the station, as at the Westbahnof in Vienna, there were police vans and ambulances. We are not inexperienced or particularly nervous travellers, in 1990/91 we travelled overland through Central and South America including Bogota, Colombia at the height of the drug cartels. But this was a new experience, and it was in Europe.
On Sunday we checked our tickets to Munich for the following day and found that we didn't have reserved seats, so we went to Westbahnof tickets in hand. Passing by police, ambulances and gangs of young migrants we went straight to the information stand to be told that our train to Munich the next day had been cancelled. That train hadn't run for three weeks as the border at Salzburg had been closed because of the migrant crisis.
When we got over the shock we were told that we could swap our tickets for tickets to a small town in Bavaria called Plattling and then would take a local train to Munich. It meant that we only got into Munich around 8 00pm and we would sacrifice our afternoon in Munich but at least we would be able to get back on track for our early departure on the Monday to Paris.
So on Monday we turned up at the station and boarded the train. There were still hundreds of migrants, police and so on around the station but we got into our seats and suddenly the carriage filled, just before departure with migrants. At a guess our carriage, with around 120 seats, had around 100 migrants in it. The train departed heading to Germany where we would cross the border at Passau.
We arrived at Passau to hear a voice coming down the train asking for passports. We got ours out ready for inspection. We then heard people being ordered off the train. When we looked back down the carriage the polizei were ejecting migrants without passports or ID cards from the train. Of those in our carriage the only people with Syrian passports were a family of four. All the others that we heard claimed to be Syrian but when challenged had no papers and admitted not being Syrian when pressed, they came from a whole range of countries except Syria.
The train eventually left Passau and a full train was virtually empty. Looking out of the window we saw hundreds of illegal immigrants being herded onto buses outside the station. As in Vienna over 90% of them were young males.
We've never really been beach holiday/sun worshipping people, each to his own, but this was a new experience we really didn't expect. Yes we knew there had been trouble at many stations in central and eastern Europe which is where we feared there may have been problems. But it seems the problems with migrants at Munich have been pretty well sorted after the border closure. We can only think that our route (Hamburg the ultimate destination) is now being used to funnel the migrants to Passau, presumably to be given asylum or to be repatriated.
The Hungarian government claims that up to 30,000 migrants were repelled on its southern border this last weekend. This not a refugee crisis, this is a migrant crisis brought about by the megalomaniac German Chancellor. She precipitated this crisis by opening German borders to all Syrians and dropping the necessary checks and regulations to speed up the process. That is why potentially millions are flooding into Europe overland, without any identification but claiming to be Syrian. As we saw for ourselves the overwhelming majority are neither Syrian nor refugees.