44. Yes, it’s 44. According to Wikipedia, 44 is a happy number. I don’t know what it means, but it was still 44.
As you may have already guessed, 44 was the number of participants today. As you may well know, it is the largest number so far.
Maybe needless to say, but I was completely losing control over the group, which did not become a problem luckily. So the problem started in the morning, when we were going from Düsseldorf to Duisburg Hbf. In that moment, we must have been something like 25 people in the train (other people joined us later on). Maybe I never talked about it, but here in North Rhine Westphalia, there’s a particular system for people with a ticket subscription (which automatically includes all students), namely if you have a subscription, you can not only ride a train as much as you want within this region, but you can also take another person for free on weekends. Essentially, if there are more people with a subscription, we don’t have to buy a ticket at all. If there are more people without subscription, we essentially have to buy only the number of tickets corresponding to the difference between subscribers and non-subscribers and we simply split the cost. Thanks to this system, usually we do not have to pay at all most of the times. And even if we have to, we can often divide one ticket by three or four persons. So it’s anyway not a big issue.
Paying these tickets is indeed not a big issue, but it is an extremely complicated task to count the number of people who need a ticket and those who can take another person. And I’m sure that it is much more complicated than you think for the following reasons:
Regardless of the meeting time, there are always people who arrive later, mostly because the railway system in Germany is a disaster and people simply cannot arrive in time.
There’s always confusion with the language(s) (I understand that some people come to Germany to learn German, but at the same time Düsseldorf is an international city, so we cannot blame either of them…).
Some of them raise a hand maybe for 2 or 3 seconds.
Some people (who don’t have a subscription) arrive with their partners (who have a subscription). I do understand their logics (although it’s not quite compatible if we try to split the cost) and I do respect their decision, but it just creates confusion as they often wobble between having a ticket and not having a ticket. (It was perfect when Daniel Kuschinsky, who didn’t have a subscription, came with his girlfriend, who had a subscription, as they simply got out of the circle saying they are not a part of the discussion).
So next time, I’m gonna ask those who don’t have a ticket to find a partner (i.e. someone who has a subscription) themselves when they arrive, and I’ll simply count the number of people who could not find a partner. This has actually been proposed by some people several times. I never did it. Thinking back what I did, going through all people myself is also somewhat against my policy of not intervening (or as little as possible) in the organization. It was quite stupid of me.
Anyway, after counting several times, I thought we did not need to buy an extra ticket. Also there is usually no control in the German trains (for those who live outside of this area: ticket control in Germany is INSIDE the train and not before entering it). So I sat back in the train.
A couple of minutes later, I heard a voice from far away “Fahrscheine bitte”.
The ticket inspectors were in our coach. I started to recount the number of people who had a subscription and who needed a ticket in a hurry. As it turned out, there was one guy who I thought had a subscription, but in reality he actually needed a ticket, meaning we needed two more tickets. As far as I know, the fine is 60 € per ticket, so 120 € for two tickets.
This was the moment, when the train arrived in Duisburg Hbf. We rushed out of the train, with me saying “Hallo” to the inspectors warmly. We saved at least 120 €, maybe more. Lennart, whom I met at an expat meeting, who participated for the first time today, was worried about me having trouble. To be honest, I’m myself not particularly proud of myself having created the trouble at the first place. Anyway this incident taught me something to some extent.
At Duisburg Hbf there were people from Bochum waiting for us. Most of them were students. So for the train from Duisburg Hbf to Duisburg Bissingheim we did not have to pay anyway. Bochum is a small city, but there’s a big university there. Düsseldorf, on the other hand, is much larger than Bochum, but the university is very small. For this reason, it’s always like students from Bochum and oldies from Düsseldorf in our hike group. Anyway, I don’t know how much I appreciated to see students in that moment.
Today’s area was famous among the locals for the 6 lakes there, which certainly were not impressive for Théo, who comes from Marseille, or Alfredo, who comes from Málaga. But for the German standard, it is quite a resort. Except for the sporadic rain and fairly low temperature (around 10 °C?), it was quite nice to walk around this area.
I met some more Syrians today. Apparently Qusai brought them with him. I wonder how much the world would appreciate them if we knew them better personally. As I am going to Café Eden tomorrow, maybe I am going to invite some of them to the coming sessions.
Today, there were a couple of groups who got lost. And I don’t know how many of them there were. At least one group, that could not catch the train from Duisburg Hbf to Duisburg Bissingheim, because they arrived too late in Duisburg Hbf (and this, of course, because of the German railway), arrived in a different station and tried to look for us. Apparently this group then split up into small groups for some reason. There was another group, that was actually with us at the beginning, but somehow they got lost. Everyone arrived in the same place when we were having a break on a beach (?) which is where the path looks like a hook in the map above. I’m sure that the place would have been really lovely if the weather had been good.
Whenever I say I’m from Tokyo here in Düsseldorf, they often talk about the Japanese community here, although I have myself never really been there yet. It is funny to think about the fact that it was the first time today that I spoke Japanese since I came back to Germany, as Koichi spoke a little bit Japanese.
As I stated above, the success of this hiking group was quite unexpected. According to Bhavna, who was there for the first time, there is no other group in North Rhine-Westphalia that organizes hikes regularly.
At the beginning of this article, I wrote “the problem started in the morning”. It continued at the end. The railway station we were heading for, Duisburg-Bissingheim, is a rather isolated place and not really well frequented. Appropriately enough, there was only one train and one bus every hour. The bus did not come into question anyway since there were too many people there, but I didn’t really check the timetable. When we were about 600 m away from the station, we found out that the train was to arrive in 5 min. Great organization.
Waiting for one more hour in an isolated railway station is not so much fun, especially when people are exhausted. When we arrived at the railway station, I was cursing my bad luck.
And here you are, God bless the Deutsche Bahn: 5 min delay. When we arrived there, almost simultaneously the train arrived. Isn’t it great that the German Railway is a disaster?
Next weekend is a long weekend. We’ll hike from Werden to Steele, which is the other side of what we did two weeks ago. Looking forward to your participation!