Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The service of Deutsche Bahn

Dear readers, as you might know I went to the Cactus and Succulent Market in Essen on Sunday July 5th and I would rather post a long report about that but there is a pressing matter I feel like I have to write about first.

I went to Essen with a friend by the German railway company Deutsche Bahn. My friend went from Luxembourg and I joined her in Trier. The travel distance Trier-Essen takes 4h30 to 5h according to our plan, depending on how many times we have to change trains. For the whole trip I paid 51€ with BahnCard 25 discount and she paid the full prise of about 85€. So basically it should have been a one-day trip of 4h there and 4h back for me with the return train leaving at 18h00 and arriving back in Trier as early as 21h30.

Good plan, we thought. We even considered delays and possible travel by a later train. There was enough time. At this point I need to mention that we absolutely had to come back the same day as we had work on Monday and she also had to be there for her young child. 

The way there went well. We had to change trains one time more than expected because of delays but it's okay, we thought, usual thing with Deutsche Bahn, no problem. After a wonderful day in Essen we arrived at the train station to take our 18h00 train back. 

On the platform the display first said the train was delayed by several minutes and then "train canceled". No explanation. Fellow travelers we saying it's due to thunderstorms up north and the trains not being able to come through. Well, ok, bad luck, we can take a later train. We went to the information point (huge queue) where a DB employee printed the new travel plans for us for the train leaving at 19h. As it was almost time we went to the platform where the display said "train canceled". No explanation, no directions for further actions, no alternatives, nothing. Couldn't they have said that to us at the info point? Just let us know that no trains will go, not now and not an hour later? Why print fake plans a couple of minutes earlier? Just to make us leave the queue? We could have just as well printed out no-use out-dated plans at the ticket vendor. At the platform no one had a clue what to do. It was rumored that the only way out of Essen must be through Düsseldorf. Note that no official person from Deutsche Bahn was anywhere near and no announcements came except for "the train xy has been canceled". The train to Düsseldorf came and everyone, no matter the original destination, people traveling as far as Munich, just went inside in the hope to be able to find their connection from Düsseldorf. 

Again, no person from the railway staff there to ask what we should do or whether we should better wait.

To make things worse, the train we were on stopped in a town in the middle of nowhere for what felt like at least 20 min. No conductor or anyone telling us what happened. Then came an announcement that nobody could understand (every second syllable missing) but we just assumed we had to get out as it was a longer one. Arrived at the platform someone was saying "platform 2" and we just ran there as desperate as we were and got on a train standing there that actually indeed brought everyone to Düsseldorf (we had no way of knowing whether it would now that I think about it).

In Düsseldorf we went to the ticket counter like everyone else to get our new connection. Only 2 and later 3 persons (out of 11 counters) were there and around 21h it was our turn. The Deutsche Bahn employee told us then that there is absolutely no way we get to Trier and Luxembourg today as there are no trains, everything is canceled due to the weather and it's too late anyway. Is there a bus? "I don't know, it's not my job to know." No apology, no help and no suggestions. We learned from fellow travelers all trains have been canceled since hours. There were absolutely no alternatives in place and not even announcements or any other information for travelers were prepared. Deutsche Bahn didn't even bother to place an employee on the platforms to explain the situation to people or provide coherent speaker announcements. The completely rude guy at the counter printed a connection to Koblenz for us as according to him this is the farthest we can travel today (we thought of taking a taxi from there).

With the new plans for a train leaving at 21h27 we went to the platform just in time to hear the announcement "train is canceled" that obviously has been playing for while. Why print out the plans then? Why make us wait in queue at all? What now? No DB staff on the platform, no suggestions on the displays, no idea what trains are standing there or where they are going. My phone was dead by the time and my friend's didn't work in Germany. We asked someone to use their phone to google (!!) info on where we should go and whether there are any buses we can take that will bring us closer to our destination. Using a phone of a nice and helpful woman my friend remembered that there should be night buses going from Frankfurt Airport to Luxembourg. We didn't know for sure whether there really were buses that day and whether we could take them without reservation and pay cash to the driver or even if there were free seats. On a hunch we got on a train to Frankfurt Airport (that, by the way, was delayed by 85 min by then). The info on the train didn't match the destination at all so we were just hoping it is the correct one.

We arrived in Frankfurt Airport  exhausted after 23h00, got lost, found an info point and yes, there was a bus going to Luxembourg via Trier at 2h45 and we should be able to buy the tickets from the driver (29€). We waited 3 hours to get on it. Ah, should I also mention that we were dressed for the heatwave and not spending the night at the air-conditioned airport and I had two big boxes with plants (mostly stones) with me (calluses on hands now)?

We changed buses at 4h20 in Frankfurt Hahn and I arrived in Trier 5h30 on July 6th while my friend was traveling farther to Luxembourg. It arrived just in time to bring the plants home, change clothes, wash my face and then get on the bus to work at 6h30.

Thank you Deutsche Bahn. I am not going to use your services ever again.

...  is what I'd like to say. But unfortunately people traveling in Germany don't have any alternative but to use Deutsche Bahn. Therefore Deutsche Bahn will never be motivated to improve its service. 

I will try to get my money back this time but I doubt Deutsche Bahn will manage even that. I doubt I will get even an apology.

I'd like to use this as an official complaint. Not about the canceled trains (I understand that the weather is no one's fault), but about how the situation was dealt with and how the travelers were just left there on the platforms and in delayed trains without any help or guidance from the Deutsche Bahn staff.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

New pebbles 3 (3 pics)

I tried to grow L. verruculosa before but the plants didn't survived in the long run. This time I got some nicely grown specimen from Kakteen Haage nursery and they are such beauties, especially when arranged naturally. I love the "blood drops" and the color and the shape. It's gonna be difficult to keep them alive but I believe I have better conditions for my plants now compared to the old apartment so we'll see.

New pebbles 2 (5 pics)

I'll continue the introductions :)
The new guys are the lovely L. dinteri C206 from Cono's Paradise nursery (german), L. lesliei v. hornii C015 from Rare Plants nursery (czech) and some surprisingly well-grown L. schwantesii from a local hardware store.

Friday, July 3, 2015

New pebbles (4 pics)

Since I have much more room now I'm getting more plants. I've sown some too but the heatwave is trying very hard to ruin it. The adult plants are truly enjoying it! It's 38°C in the shade, no idea how much in the sun, it's crazy! And it seems the living stones can't get enough of it.

Anyway, I'll be posting about new pebbles this weekend and will start with Lithops ruschiorum I purchased recently. They vary from completely white and opaque to white with fine golden lines. The surface is a bit  rough, similar to L. vallis-mariae, I imagine, eve though I've never had those.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Frithis pulchra blooming

My Frithias definitely like the new apartment more than the old one :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lithops experiment part 1 (7 pics)

Today I went to a hardware store in Luxembourg and did something I would not normally do - I bought three Lithops plants that are in such a bad shape I very much doubt they'll survive. The reason behind this is an idea I got from my previous post and the question if it is possible to not only save but also correct a plant that has been treated very badly for a long time. I will try this and document it here in the blog. I'm pretty sure the next entry will be "they all died" but this will at least tell you to avoid this kind of purchases ;)

So this is how they look like. All three are L. pseudotruncatella. They are bloated and cucumber-shaped.

This one has grown so long that the only solution I can see for it is that, if it survives until fall, the new leaves will break through at the root and the old ones can be cut off. No water until then.

The other two look slightly better and I'd say there is at least a chance of survival. They will not receive any water ever again until the new leaves come out. My plan is to make them shrivel to the half their present size. All three have good root system which means they are ready to fight but actually it doesn't matter much since they won't use them anyway. One of the plants was wrapped in old dried leaves and will be sensitive to the sunlight, I imagine. I will have to let them all get accustomed to it gradually. 

Now they are washed and will dry until tomorrow when I'll put them into dry pumice and the experiment can begin. The goal is to keep them alive and if successful to get them as close as possible to their normal shape (white Lithops in the square pot to the left). Also, when planting cucumber-shaped Lithops the worst thing to do is to bury them. It won't make things better. You only bury them as far as you wish them to be - if the plant should later be 1 cm high it should be planted 1 cm deep into the ground. With the cucumbers it will look ridiculous but better ridiculous now than dead later.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More thoughts on "downsizing" (4 pics)

I've been thinking further on the topic of getting our nursery-grown plants adapted to the windowsill conditions. And the more I think about it the more I am convinced that, well, size matters. I was instinctively accepting the reduction of size in my plants as a good thing in the past and was actively contributing to it with poor soil and withholding of water. But it wouldn't hurt to contemplate on this matter a bit more.
In the comments of my previous post Bob Stewart and I were elaborating on this while Bob has provided insight and explanation as well as established clear correlation with the light situation on a windowsill that has to be compensated. Please read this when you have time :)
I was thinking about my previous experience with greenhouse-nursery-lithops and could name five instances in which the plants I bought were way too big although probably normal for commercially grown ones. The L. dorotheae and L. aucampiae I got from Mr. Shimada were in fact so huge I had to use two 7cm pots - and they were all one-headed! His L. lesliei were not far behind. Similar situation with the plants from Kakteen Haage. Both growers are not some non-specialized shops - they know these plants and do grow them appropriately. Under their greenhouse conditions however they can feed and stimulate their plants and let them get big because they will get enough light. And light is luxury for us, windowsill growers. In four out of those five instances I had 2 plants of the same species and same previous growing conditions and by now only 1 of each has survived thanks to timely downsizing. Basically, one plant has choked on big old leaves during the first or second regeneration at my place while the other plant has gradually reduced its size and is now doing fine. In those four cases downsizing was essential for survival. In the fifth case both have died leaving me with their babies that are in turn quite small.