It’s not easy finding a station starting with X. In fact there aren’t any in Britain. I was tempted to cheat at one stage and go to King’s Cross or Exeter and count that as my X but I wouldn’t have been happy. Eventually, after a bit of digging I discovered Xanten in German, on the River Rhine.
After a bit more homework I discovered it would be possible to do X,Y and Z in one trip to broadly the same area as there is a Y in Belgium and quite a number of places beginning with Z in Netherlands.
Who better to suggest joining me on completing this challenge than train enthusiast Ian. Luckily for me not only is he a train enthusiast but an expert planner. We happened to meet up in Cardiff in February 2020 and were beginning to talk about planning the trip. At the same time there were media reports appearing about an infectious disease called coronavirus. It didn’t sound good but at that stage we were thinking it may mean we’d have to postpone out trip by a couple of months. Almost three years later we set off!
To add to the adventure I was travelling using my first ever Interrail Pass. Yes, I know most people have one as a sort of coming-of-age thing at 18 but I waited just that little bit longer for mine.
You just wouldn’t believe how little planning I had done. Almost three years ago I had looked up the town of Xanten and it sounded good. It wasn’t till after we’d arrived and were sat in the lovely town centre having a snack at an outdoor café did I remember reading something about a Roman museum. After lunch we walked the 15 minutes over to the museum. Boy, it’s massive! If we’d have missed it, it would be on a par of going to Athens and missing out on the Acropolis.
It’s the Roman City Colonia Ulpia Traiana and if anyone knows how to do a good Roman Museum it’s the Germans. Just the right amount of information and very well presented. The indoor museum is large and housed on about five floors. There’s an annex where the ruins of the baths have been exposed and preserved. We went on to see the reconstructed boats too but didn’t get a chance to get as far as the amphitheatre. I almost forgot to mention – it was free the day we were there – bank holiday apparently.
Oh, and the reason we came here, the station. How could I forget. Well, it’s not massive. It has, just one platform, a shut ticket office and a vending machine. It’s at the end of the line these days so a couple of other trains were there in sidings. I don’t think I’ve eaten anything from a vending machine for years. We can honestly say that the waffles we not only edible but in fact pretty tasty.
Our journey to Xanten had started the day before in Amsterdam. We travelled to Utrecht and then onto Venlo where we spent the night, wandering down to the river as the sun went down before heading to the Irish bar for a Guinness and some food.
The next day we did some more train travel, changing at Viersen, spent an hour in Wanne-Eickel which was very quiet as it was a public holiday, another train to Duisburg and then onto Xanten.
After Xanten it was back to Duisburg, a change at Dusseldorf and onto Wuppertal for the night and a magnificent pizza.