bretzelitos

Sven and Andreas' vacations – Published for friends at Wordpress :)

Interrail 2021 – Trip V3.0

Here we go again… in July 2021 for two weeks. Once again, RAMMSTEIN in Trondheim, Norway, was our planned destination…

It was… Yes, it was…

Once again, the concert was cancelled due to the Corona uncertainties worldwide.

But no matter, we go on our 15 days trip anyhow. It is absolutely a beautiful thing, this flexibility of an INTERRAIL ticket. In December 2020, we got a great offer with discount for a 15 day Global ticket in 1st class – it was really a no-brainer just to buy it.

So we have happily chosen Germany as target destination this year and laid out a plan, knowing about the Corona restrictions and the difficulty of travelling in these days. Nevertheless, all of us got vaccinated, documented in our WHO vaccination documents and the French Electronic Vaccination passports already which should open the doors for travel even further.

The following cities or locations are planned to be visited:

  • Obernburg
  • Hamburg
  • Island of Rügen
  • Leipzig
  • Weimar
  • Bamberg
  • Bremen
  • Münster
  • Cologne
  • Karlsruhe

As you can see, this time, we try to step away from the large streams of people visiting the German touristic cities. But we have chosen somewhat unknown jewels of German history and beauty.

Once again, we have booked our hotels via booking.com happily. Also this time, we paid attention that we have a one-day before cancellation policy and nothing prepaid. Security first, we have to say – in these days, you can’t be cautious enough in travel planning.

So stay tuned for another chapter of trip reports from Europe, this time from lovely Germany!

Interrail 2020 summary

Again… what a trip!

The 15 days of travelling through Europe went by quicker than we were able to recognize. And this time, with a bit less ambitious schedule and more time to see all these visited cities, it was much more quiet and less hectic than in 2018.

We have really seen a lot and learnt about places, persons and surroundings. Pieces of information that we did not have in our mind before – and impressions that we will never forget.

The trains were absolutely perfect this time. None of them left our planned start train station with a single minute of delay. And only once, we had a 35 minutes arrival delay. However, it needs to be noted: The trains were fairly empty, sometimes we were the only people in our coach or booking class. We need to underline that the amount of tourists we have seen during the trip in the trains was fairly low as well. I guess mainly due to the complete absence of citizens from outside of Europe.

Now to the questions and two answers each:

  • What was the best hotel room?
    • Maritim Hotel in Dresden – what a room!
    • aDLERS Hotel in Innsbruck – what a view!
  • Where was the best hotel breakfast?
    • Hilton in Vienna – mentioned twice!
  • Where was the best evening restaurant?
    • Sophienkeller in Dresden
    • Weitblick Restaurant in Innsbruck
  • What was the best train food?
    • DoN in ÖBB Railjet
    • Leberkäse with Austrian wine
  • What was the best bar?
    • Irish Pub in Berlin
    • Avalon Project in Vienna
  • What was the best train product?
    • Railjet ÖBB Business Class – mentioned twice!
  • What was the best tourist option in the train?
    • Panorama Coach SBB in the Eurocity Transalpin – mentioned twice!
  • Where was the best tourist option we took unplanned?
    • Horse carriage ride with Viakerei Süss in Salzburg
    • Alpha Romeo Spider tour through Prague
  • What was the most remarkable discovery?
    • The astronomic tower in Prague
    • Salzburg as city
  • What were the most interesting places seen during the trip (multiple answers possible)?
    • Hamburg Harbour
    • International Maritime Museum in Hamburg
    • Sanssouci Park in Potsdam
    • Monument for Sinti and Roma in Berlin
    • Semper Opera in Dresden
    • Clementinum in Prague
    • Beer garden U Fleku in Prague
    • Hofbräuhaus in München
    • Burg Hohensalzburg in Salzburg
    • Museum Albertina in Vienna
    • Crossing the Alps in a Panorama Coach
    • The Alpine lakes
    • Swimming in Lake Zurich
    • Gay bar in Zurich opposite of our hotel
  • Where did we get the best local transport options?
    • Hamburg – a full public transport network card included in the hotel room price!
    • Berlin – a full public transport network card included in the hotel room price!
  • Where did we get the best price/value option in a hotel?
    • Maritim Hotel in Dresden – mentioned twice!
  • Fastest velocity during the trip:
    • Paris – Forbach by TGV doing 320 kmh or 200mph

As last point I would like to give some advice out of our experience to our fellow INTERRAILers, no matter of which age and which origin:

  • Travelling alone and travelling with two or more people by INTERRAIL is a complete different experience
  • It is good to have a planned schedule ahead. Train and hotel reservations are a great help. Thank you, booking.com, for being a marvellous, easy and trustworthy travel companion with fair hotel prices with 1-day-in-advance cancellation policies during these difficult travel times
  • Have your different travel apps on your mobile devices up-to-date. Advisable to have in our trip were
    • INTERRAIL Rail Planner
    • Deutsche Bahn
    • Ceske Drahy
    • ÖBB
    • Booking.com
    • Several different national and international news portals to check upon the latest CoVid-19 travel restrictions information
  • Some trains require additional reservations for quite a substantial fee. These reservations need to be printed and carried along. Attention: they are only valid for that mentioned train and cannot be easily transferred to another one. Better be on-time when using such a train, otherwise it might be quite a hassle
  • Have redundancy for face masks and desinfection alcoholic gels while travelling
  • Keep your travel documents with you and safe at all times

I would like to thank all of you following or commenting about our travel blog over the last 20 days. It has been an experience that needs to be done again, that is absolutely for sure.

KEEP SAFE AND HEALTHY at all times! See you next time!

Day 15: Zurich – Paris – Rambouillet

The last day of our European INTERRAIL discovery trip has come – and we have to say: It was absolutely great. Today, we took the direct TGV train from Zurich HB to Paris Gare de Lyon at 13:34 just after lunch.

In the morning, we took another walk through the city, having a look if we can buy some souvenirs or anything crazy from Switzerland – but no… no chance, not even a millimeter, just forget about it!

August 1st is Nationalfeiertag in Switzerland – the national public holiday. Hence all shops remained closed and only some coffeehouses or restaurants remained open.

Nevertheless, we took our small round across the city prior to checking out and walking towards the Central station – where we took our lunch before boarding the train.

The TGV ride via Basel, Mulhouse and Dijon towards Paris took four hours – inspite of partially using two independent LGV tracks between Mulhouse and Dijon and Dijon and Paris. Maximum observed speed was 318 kmh or close to 200 mph.

In Paris, we were nearly overrun by tourists on their way to the south of France as August 1st is a traditional day of starting French holidays. Hence we decided to take a taxi back to Rambouillet (120 Euros) from Gare de Lyon just to escape from these masses of people who did not respect at all the distancing rules. Coming home, you can imaging how happy our two cats Luna and Nera were to see us again back at home – by seeing the photos you can guess which one has which name.

Tomorrow, I will conclude the INTERRAIL 2020 blog session with a summary – like I did it two years ago.

It is great to travel and see the world – but it is also great to be back at home. 🙂

 

Day 14: Innsbruck – Zurich

The crossing over Arlberg pass presented the highest altitude point in our 15 days round trip at 1260 meters above sea level. We had a very enjoyable ride in ÖBB’s railjet in business class – passing through three different independent European countries today, namely Austria, Liechtenstein and Schwitzerland.

In Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries worldwide, we took the whole amount of available public railroad kilometres in one go – without stopping even once between Feldkirch in Austria and Buchs in Switzerland.

The passing of the Arlberg area was impressive again as the Inn valley became narrower and narrower and the mountains around higher and higher. The summit is passed inside a tunnel – which also marks an European watershed between the Danube (Black Sea) and the Rhine (North Sea).

In Switzerland, we passed by two large alpine lakes, Walensee and Zurisee, prior to arriving in Zurich after close to 3:40h travel time.

In Zurich, we had our hotel around 800 meters away from the Central station, mainly due to budget reasons as Switzerland is pretty expensive in comparison with Germany, Czech Republic or Austria. Our hotel room was great and we enjoyed it. However, be aware that Zurich is not really a calm city at night, so you need to choose your hotel carefully.

In the afternoon, we went for a walk along Zurisee and had dinner in the traditional restaurant “Zeughauskeller” – with local beer and excellent swiss local food.

After a glass in a small bar in Zurich’s center area, we returned to Hotel Scheuble just after sunset.

Tomorrow, we have our last ride inside our 15 days continious INTERRAIL journey this year – the return to Paris.

 

Day 13: Graz – Innsbruck

TRANSALPIN – the name of our Eurocity train was the program for today. We took lovely seats in the panorama coach of SBB in our direct train from Graz to Innsbruck.

Six hours of passing through high mountains culminate always an impressive ride – loads of things to see as the mountainous world outside of us changed quickly. We passed by many towns and villages that are very well known for their beauty in the summer for swimming, hiking and calm holidays and their full scale alpine or nordic wintersports activities in the colder half of the year.

The most important ones are:

  • Schladming
  • Hochfilzen
  • Bischofshofen
  • Kitzbühel
  • Zell am See

The two most important passes we have crossed are Schoberpass at 849 meters and Grießenpass at 975 meters, prior to descending to the Inn valley via Brixental. The area around Zell am See with its lake surrounded by high mountains is absolutely remarkable.

In Innsbruck, we had a very lovely hotel room with a view in the aDLERS hotel close to Central station. In the late afternoon, we decided to have a massage treatment in the hotel spa followed by a dinner with a view while the sun was setting out on the terrace (12th floor) with a magnificent view over the tyrolian alps.

The weather was absolutely fine, 30 degrees centigrade and no jacket needed until midnight when we rited to our hotel room.

Tomorrow – the next step through the mountains… via Arlberg Pass to Zurich in Switzerland.

 

Day 12: Vienna – Graz

Today, we had a rather short trip by train, but a very remarkable one. We went over the Semmeringbahn and Südbahn with a Railjet by Ceske Drahy from Vienna to Graz in just 2:40 hours.

The Semmeringbahn is recognised as World Heritage by UNESCO due to its immense importance in railway engineering in the 19th century – as it was not seen as possible to build a train through this mountainous area based on friction traction at all. The way how the tracks are build into the hills and mountains of Semmering using viaducts and tunnels is absolutely impressive.

From the height of the Donau valley in Vienna at around 160 meters above sea level to Semmering pass summit, the railjet needed to climb 730 meters, prior to decending down to Graz at around 340 meters.

In Graz, we had a room in the IBIS hotel at the central station, hence it was absolutely easy to reach.

After checking in, we went immediately for a walk through the city as we had a thunderstorm warning for the evening hours. We visited the Schlossberg and took a nice walk through the city center of Graz prior to returning to the Hauptbahnhof area – just prior to the big rain falls.

We had a traditional “Kaffee und Kuchen” session in the Aida coffee house – with Eiskaffee and Sachertorte.

Due to the rain, we skipped going out in the evening – other than just jumping into the Italian restaurant close by to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we will have the big Alps crossing to Innsbruck!

 

Day 11: Day in Vienna

This day has been hot… high temperatures measured at 36 degrees Centigrade. Nevertheless, we enjoyed like little cats. Why? Because we had a good friend and colleague of us who gave us a tour through Vienna, including city parks, museums and a lovely dinner in a liberal artist restaurant in the 8th quarter.

We met him after having breakfast at 10am in front of our hotel. We went straight ahead with a walk through some important parks of Vienna – Stadtpark and Rosengarten. We have taken many photos in these environments as well as in between the parks when passing through the city centre.

We spent some time in the Rose Garden in which loads of people show their affection to others by sponsoring a rose bush – a very emotional environment that touched our soul and heart a lot when reading some of these messages attached to every individual plant.

After we had a light lunch with some Vienna wine in Volksgarten, we decided to escape from the heat and visited two Albertina museums. We have just one picture from the Modern part as we wanted to enjoy the exhibitions without having the stress to take photos. For us, the collection of contemporary Austrian art was very impressive. Especially, the video installations of Humanists and Feminists were remarkable likewise photorealistic paintings of suffering children. This all made people think about it a lot.

For us, works of Maria Lassnig and Gottfried Helnwein were the most impressive ones in pictures and those works of Valie Export in actionism arts. All three artists are seen by the society  as controversial in general – causing partial disgust and more questions than answers. However, isn’t that exactly what arts can and should do? Make people think about something that we do not have in our principle outlook how the world should be. It is difficult to accept something as such for most of the people, no matter which culture or nation they are from. It is also fundamentally important in a living democracy that people can actually say something what they believe in very openly – without being discredited by tweets, without being undervalued and eventually without being detained due to different thinking or being different. We all had that in the German, Austrian, Czech and whoever elses past… we don’t want to see this again. Therefore, these confrontations are useful and must be allowed in a living democracy for the good of all people living it. Nobody shall be allowed to stand above our democratically established laws – no president, no party, no religion.

After having finished the three exhibitions in two houses of Albertina, we took the tram railway to the 8th quarter of Vienna. We had wonderful dinner in the restaurant and bar “Avalon Kultur”, a so called Wirtshausbeisl. We had many interesting intellectual, art related and psychoanalytic discussions – some deep, some shallow, but all of them extremely valuable and positively meant.

We took a taxi back to our hotel after torrential rains, pretty normal after such a hot day that nature looks for an equilibrium in energy by discharging lightnings upon us.

Ready to go to Graz via the Semmeringbahn tomorrow morning!

Day 10: Munich – Salzburg – Vienna

Today, we have done something special, something I have tried out in the planning for my INTERRAIL trips for the first time. We have visited a city without staying there! Means, we have left Munich after a good breakfast in the morning, stopped in Salzburg just before lunch and continued to Vienna in the evening.

Hence we had six hours time to visit Salzburg’s attractions and vista points.

Our Railjet ride from Munich to Salzburg in Business Class went uneventful. We disembarked at Salzburg Central Station and put our luggage into self storage in the train station for the next five hours. We walked towards the old city center and passed the river Salzach just in front of the castle Hohensalzburg. After some meters in the old town area, we found the birth house of Mozart where we took lunch close by – traditional Wiener Schnitzel with a Germknödel afterwards as dessert.

We were then passing some ongoing TV transmission constructions for the “Salzburger Festspiele” that happen in town from the next weekend on. Several UHD production trucks were placed all around stages and event happening area – as it seems, ARTE TV is going to show some of the happenings live. We will certainly have a look when being back in France.

We took then the funicular up to the castle to have a wonderful view over the area where the Alp mountains just begin. We walked around a bit and took several photos before descending again. Close to the base station of the castle train, we found several horse carriages that were offering a 25 or 50 minutes ride. We took the 50 minutes option and it was lovely… Our coachman explained us the town in detail by giving us an extended tour through all important parts of Salzburg’s old city – in fluent English language. At the end, he allowed us to take a photo of him and the carriage. Thank you, Viakerei Süss, we had a very enjoyable ride with you!

We then returned slowly towards Salzburg’s central station, stopping shortly at the Mirabell Castle and Gardens to see the marvellous French Garden architecture around its palace building.

After refreshing ourselves in 30 degrees Centigrade and Full Blue Sky conditions in the train stations coffee bar, we boarded our Railjet train on-time – again in Business Class – to finalise our day with a 2.5 hour train ride to Vienna Central Station. It took 20 minutes longer than planned as there have been track replacement works between Linz and Amstetten, but then we drove up to 230 kmh towards our final destination.

In Vienna, we have booked the HILTON hotel at the City Park – a room with a view – for two nights. We got an upgrade to an Executive room in one of the upper floors – a room that has not been rented to anybody after upgrading works were completed. This was really a treat! We decided after this long day to have a Room Service dinner with a bottle of Vienna wine called “Gemischter Satz”.

We are looking forward to see Vienna in detail tomorrow!

Day 9: Prague – Munich

Today, we have put in a travel day with 5.5 hours of planned train journey from Prague via Plzen, Domazlice, Furth im Wald, Schwandorf, Regensburg and Landshut to Munich. In the Czech Republic, the train is an Express-class service by “Česke Drahy” that changes into an Alex Nord train operated by “Die Länderbahn” in Germany. The train is a direct service without changing trains.

Means, having an early breakfast and check out from our hotel in Prague to board the train around 0930 for an on-time departure at 0943. The train ride was pretty picturesque through Bohemia and the climb over the Bohemian forest.

In Schwandorf, our train got 25 minutes of delay due to an issue with the planned engine driver that got stuck due to an unplanned service interruption earlier.

Arriving in Munich eventually, our train had 35 minutes delay and our train ride accumulated a bit more than six hours travel time.

We took a taxi to our Hotel “Concorde” in which we had a junior suite booked, a very nice place in Munich’s very central heart – 300 meters to Hofbraeuhaus.

After short refreshments and a bit of rest, we went exactly there to have dinner. The load of people in the “Schwemme” was very much reduced – likewise was the allowance of table places. Around 60% of all tables were condemned due to CoViD-19 and everybody need to register prior to taking a seat.

The food and beer was marvellous as expected, the service a little bit slower than earlier – but that is pretty normal as one server had now 15+ tables to look after.

After completing our opulent meal, we took a small walk through Munich and returned to the hotel pretty early. The plan calls for waking up at 0730 to grab our Railjet to Salzburg and Vienna tomorrow morning.

 

Day 8: Exploring Prague

Today, we have been in Prague the full day – means exploring its beauty in culture, history and culinary aspects.

In the morning, we walked from our hotel closed to the central railway station towards an old centre of science – the Clementinum. This is a base building run by Jesuits in the city centre and contains a large historical library as well as the astronomical centre of Prague. From its tower, the time synchronisation of the town was organised by a set of flags triggering a cannon shot from the opposite shores of the Moldova every noon at precisely 12 o’clock. This tower can be visited – a great view over the city is granted.

After this breathtaking adventure over narrow and very steep wooden staircases, we strengthened ourselves in the “goat beer” restaurant – excellent food and beer indeed.

While walking around through Prague, we have seen classic convertible cars that offered tours through the town – without knowing where they are based. Close to the Powder tower, we found two of them waiting for clients. We hired one of it for one hour and had a marvellous round in our Alfa Romeo Spider through Prague – also in areas that are not regularly visited by tourists. The driver brought us back to the hotel eventually where we took a little rest before going out in the evening again.

We were looking for a tradition Czech restaurant for dinner and found by chance the restaurant “Two cats” in the city centre. Once again, charming service, excellent beer and amazing food for an acceptable price.

Thereafter, we returned to our hotel as wake-up time was early – to meet our 0943 direct train to Munich next morning in time.

Day 7: Dresden – Prague

After a nice breakfast in our hotel, the first time with a buffet open for the public, we took a walk into the city centre again. We were lucky to be able to get two visit entries to Dresden’s Semperoper. This famous opera house is already the third one built at this place. The first one burned down, the second one was lost in the allied bomb raids of January 1945 and the third one was eventually reopened for visitors and theater play in 1985, forty years after its destruction during war time.

The interior is splendid and as beautiful as the big reknown opera houses in Vienna, Milan or Paris. The seats are very comfortable – we were allowed to try them out during our visit. We took many photos to document the beauty and told ourselves that we should come back to see a piece here.

Afterwards, we had a nice lunch at the cafe house in front of Semperoper. We returned to our hotel thereafter, packed up our luggage and joined Dresden Hauptbahnhof around 1430. Our train to Prague was on time at 1517 and took us uneventfully to the czech capital in two hours and twenty minutes.

We took several photos during the ride while passing the landscape of “Sächsische Schweiz”, a really beautiful part of the narrow Elbe valley with all of its boulders, ancient houses and castles around.

After checking in our hotel FALKENSTEINER in Prague, we took a walk through the city and joined “U Fleku” restaurant for dinner in the beer garden. We quickly started exchanging some words with our table neighbors and enjoyed the time in true czech beer garden atmosphere with good food and drinks.

Being happy with our acquaintances and intake, we decided to go for a short walk through Prague’s old town prior to returning to our hotel, taking some photos of interesting architecture on the way.

Looking forward to spending the day in Prague tomorrow!

 

Day 6: Berlin – Dresden

After a good early breakfast at 0800, we packed up our stuff, paid our hotel and went by taxi to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Our train to Dresden left from platform 2 at 1026. The IC train was a new product as it was a single four carriages unit of the two storeys STADLER KISS wagons. Only one of them had in the top floor 1st class seating, hence it good a bit crowded during the trip.

We arrived in Dresden on time and decided to go for a walk towards our Hotel MARITIM next to the Landtag of Saxonia, the saxon country parliament. It was a nice walk through the old city of Dresden, passing by many rebuilt heritage buildings. They are mostly rebuilt as Dresden got destroyed massively in the last months of the second world war by British and American airraids. But Dresden has been rebuilt since – slowly but surely – and the city has again a lot of its charme again.

This time we had a suite in our hotel which was available for not a lot of money more as the hotel itself was pretty much booked already. We enjoyed the spacious and elegant environment of our hotel room a lot.

In the afternoon and evening, we took some time to explore the really beautiful city, several photos show it clearly. For dinner, we went to the “Sophienkeller” where we have experienced a very nice evening – between traditional saxonian food and animation by artists.

Shortly after midnight, we returned to our hotel for a good man’s sleep.

Tomorrow more from Dresden in the morning – and in the afternoon off to Prague in the Czech Republic.

Day 5: Potsdam Castle Sanssouci and its surroundings

Today, we have dedicated our visit in the Berlin area to a historic site of Prussia and its kings Friedrich and Friedrich Wilhelm. We took the S-Bahn from Berlin Zoo to Potsdam Hbf, followed by a 20 minutes bus ride to castle Sanssouci.

Unfortunately, the CoViD contigent of possible entries for the castle was already sold out, however, for the other attractions around, we were able to get our tickets, including the “Neues Palais”. The Gardens are anyhow free to visit.

Sanssouci has been meant to be the answer of King Friedrich of Prussia to the castle of Versailles by the French emperor. So, knowingly and carefully planned, some rooms, picture collections, halls and garden architectures were meant to be more splendid and pompous in comparison. This was reached punctually, but not overall. Nevertheless, the environment and its landscape architecture is a MUST SEE when visiting the Berlin area.

Words do not really fit when describing the beauty of the site in its Rokoko style, so I let loads of picture speak and explain the story.

After the visit in Potsdam, we took the train back to Berlin Zoo, had dinner on the terrace (with a little visitor looking at us) and finished the day in a nearby Irish Pub.

Tomorrow, we will continue our trip towards Dresden.

Day 4: Hamburg – Berlin

After a lovely breakfast in our hotel “Europäischer Hof” in Hamburg – with very kind service in spanish languague by Ms. Benitez from Cuba, we packed up our things, checked out and went to Hamburg Central Station. Today, a rather short trip of only two hours in an ICE train – this time an ICE 1 type – towards Berlin was planned.

The trip was completed uneventfully and on time.

We checked in at “Steigenberger Hotel” at the Los Angeles Platz, close to Kurfürstendamm and Gedächtniskirche. Once again, a nice room with a view.

Short refreshments… and off we went to have lunch in the food court of KaDeWe. The initial plan needed to be changed as the “5J jamon bodega” was still closed due to CoViD. Hence we looked around and found a nice place in the “Augustiner Schwemme”. We took then a walk to the nearest U-Bahn station and went to the area of Wedding. From earlier trips, I knew that we can find there cost effective hair dressers – it was very much needed after these months in confinement. We chose eventually “Hu’ng Style”, a shop run by a young Vietnamese couple – who did a magnificent job for a very acceptable price with absolutely excellent customer service.

After a short rest in an Arabian Shisha bar, we took the U-Bahn back to Friedrichstrasse train station. From here, we started our walk through Berlin via Unter den Linden passing by several embassies, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and Tiergarten. We took some extra time to visit the monuments for the killed Sinti and Roma, Shoa victims and the Russian soldiers who all were abused, tortured and eventually killed by Fascist Germany following National Socialist ideas. We just concluded with one voice: “Never ever war again!”. A creepy surprise occurred just after leaving the Shoa monument towards the South, passing by a public car park area. This has been the place where the so-called “Führerbunker” was located – the actual place where Hitler and Goebbels ended their lives by suicide in their last hideout in April 1945. We continued our walk via Berlin Mall, Bundesrat and Potsdamer Platz where we took the train back to our hotel.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant “Berliner Stube” and retired after having walked another time 12 kms through the city center.

Day 3: Stay in Hamburg

Just after 9am, we decided to start the day with a nice breakfast in our hotel “Europaeischer Hof” in Hamburg. No buffet, but still a vast choice – just delivered to our table by the charming servants of the breakfast team. We took regional cold cuts, eggs with bacon and Earl Grey tea from a local dealer.

It was raining during the night, however, with the increasing sunlight over the day, the clouds disappeared gradually turning a gray morning in a day with blue skies and a lot of sunshine.

After breakfast, we took the U4 to the new “Hafen City” quarter to visit the International Maritime Museum. It is located in one of the old quay warehouses that has been converted for different use. On display are a lot of things, clothes, medals, photographs and weapons used in maritime trade or conflict. The museum is so big that we needed to leave after six floors of high quality input. We just decided to come back another time to see the rest of the great collection.

We completed the museum visit with lunch in one of its restaurant called “Catch of the Day”. It was absolutely excellent – marinated tuna steak with yellow curry rice in vegetables.

Afterwards, we just took a walk towards the Elbe river again – when we came by some offers to go on a “Hafenrundfahrt” – a tour through the port of Hamburg by a small ship. It was different in comparison as the small “barkasse” type of boat went around in a large circle clockwise through the different parts of the quays and terminals. We came very close to some container ships, freighters and war ships – really interesting. Close to the end of our tour, we heard one of the AIDA cruise ships signalling three times as it started moving from its parking towards the Hamburg’s cruise ship terminal with the help of two very powerful tugs.

After a little bit more than one hour, we rejoined the “Landungsbruecken” area again and decided to see the “Schanzenviertel”, a quarter of Hamburg in which alternative life style is very popular. We surrounded the former theater house “FLORA” that is occupied by squatters since many years and let us inspire by some of its ideas.

We took the S-Bahn then back to the Hauptbahnhof area where we had dinner in the PAULANER restaurant inside the block of our hotel. That was very tasty, including the hot applestrudel which we shared as dessert. We are definetely looking forward to visit some beer garden in Munich in some days.

We called it a day after finishing the delightful meal – looking forward to our trip to Berlin tomorrow.

 

Day 2: Obernburg – Aschaffenburg – Frankfurt – Hamburg

After a good breakfast at my dad’s house, we started our first daytrip inside Germany. We left Obernburg-Elsenfeld station at 10:17. This time, we needed to change trains twice on our way to Hamburg in the North of Germany – in Aschaffenburg and eventually in Frankfurt where we took the high speed ICE towards Hamburg. The Intercity Express train we took was an ICE-4 type – the newest model in the family of trains with Deutsche Bahn.

The trip was comfortable and uneventful – we played cards, had lunch and arrived in Hamburg with a minimal delay at 15:35.

We checked in at the hotel “Europaeischer Hof”, just close to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof towards the East in the city quarter St. Georg. It is a well equipped 4-star hotel. We got a room with a view – and a balcony in the fourth floor. We also got free HVV-tickets for local transport during our stay – organised by the hotel. A very comfortable travel option inside Hamburg indeed!

After refreshing ourselves, we decided go for a walk towards “Landungsbruecken”, the touristical part of the port of Hamburg. Loads of people were around this place on this beautiful Sunday afternoon evening.

We had dinner in Hamburg’s “Hard Rock Cafe” with a lovely glass of beer and a nice view from its terrace. One large ship passed by on the Elbe river, a 200 meter car transporter, operated by GRIMALDI.

Later on, we continued our walk in a circle via Reeperbahn, Fischmarkt and Hafenstrasse to the U-Bahn stop “Landungsbruecken”. From there, we took the U3 back to Hauptbahnhof and enjoyed a nice Gin Tonic at our hotel bar to close the day. It did not feel like it – but we have been walking close to 14 km through the city.

More to come from Hamburg tomorrow!

Day 1: Rambouillet – Paris – Frankfurt – Aschaffenburg – Obernburg

Our Day 1 in Interrail has been completed without any hiccups, means on time, no late departures, no late arrivals and no sudden messages from the train personnel.

We left Rambouillet at 0645 with the TER train to Paris-Montparnasse. The train was not very full, everybody wore their masks and behaved well with regards to the distances between each other. At 0720 we arrived at the “terminus” station after stopping once in Versailles Chantiers. As you can see, the train was a so called “Blue Sofa Train”.

In Gare “Paris Montparnasse”, we joined the Metro Line 4 towards Gare de l’Est. Here we got a little bit nervous because people did not really take care about the distance rules, sitting down at prohibited places and we saw several people running around without face masks.

In Gare de l’Est, the situation was better. Hence we took a French style breakfast as we had 50 minutes of required redundancy to get rid of.

Boarding to our TGV towards Frankfurt started 25 minutes before departure. The seats in the upper floor environment were comfortable and invited for looking out of the window. We left on time and after leaving the Paris agglomeration, our train driver accelerated to 320 km/h or close to 200 mph – an incredible speed in a train. Shortly after Metz, we left the LGV EST towards Forbach, our only and last stop in France, just shy of the German border. After stops in Saarbruecken, Kaiserslautern and Mannheim, we eventually arrived in Frankfurt absolutely on time.

In Frankfurt Central Station, we took lunch in the Markthalle, some Italian pasta with a glass of white wine.

After the anticipated 55 minutes of change time, we took the ICE in direction Munich, just for one station… changing for the last time today in Aschaffenburg.

Our regional train to Obernburg was already prepared when we arrived on track 4.

After another 20 minutes of Diesel fuelled propulsion, we arrived at our first night stop – my home place where I was raised until leaving house for studies and work. We had a good dinner with my dad – still going strong, being 84 years old.

On our balcony, we closed the day with a glass of traditional herbal liquor from our region.

Three days to go!

We are getting pretty excited about our trip as our first departure is getting closer and closer – only three days to go. 06:45 is our first departure from Rambouillet train station.

Three rebookings needed to be done to accomodate imposed changes in our schedule. Nothing really dramatic or critical at all, but it is worth mentioning.

  1. Our planned hotel in Innbruck on July 30th, 2020 cancelled our booking as they remain closed “by director’s decision” until August 15th, 2020. Luckily, we were infomed via the notification service of Booking.com in time. As such, we were able to rebook our stay in Innsbruck in time – now we have a room with a view at “aDLERs HOTEL”, also pretty close to Innsbruck Central Station. Let’s see how it will be!
  2. Our train from Munich to Salzburg on July 27th, 2020 was suddenly marked as “not reservable” and my current reservation just disappeared in the travel application we use. Hence we decided to change the reservation and go now with RJX 63 in Business Class on this relation – arriving in Salzburg at 10:58. This leaves us six hours to visit the city – not too bad at all. And after the good experience with ÖBB’s Railjet product in 2018, it is going to be enjoyable.
  3. Due to work in progress on ÖBB tracks between Linz and St. Pölten, our forseen train RJ797 from Salzburg to Vienna in the evening of July 27th, 2020 would have arrived after 21:00 in the Austrian capital. A bit too late for us. So we decided to profit from the early arrival in town, keeping our six hours time window for the city visit. We decided to rebook to RJX 69, also in Business Class, leaving Salzburg at 17:08 and arriving in Vienna just after three intermediate stops in Linz, St. Pölten and Vienna Meidling at 19:50. This gives us the opportunity to have dinner either in the train – if the service is available – or in a Beisl restaurant close to “Wien Hauptbahnhof”, Vienna’s Central Station, our last stop for that day.

All other reservations, hotels and trains, remain confirmed at this stage and we are really looking forward to travel. It needs to be noted as well that many hotels offered us upgrades for a really low price for premium rooms. Normally, they would be off budget for our trip – but this time, we are happy to take them up for just some Euros more. I am really looking forward to staying in a “Executive Suite” in Maritim Hotel Dresden on July 23rd, 2020.

I have also gathered some travel information about the routing we do, as such we are able to read and learn about what we will be able to see, visit and enjoy during our trip. So far, we have gathered 25 pages of Wikipedia excerpts about locations, cities, mountains and railroads – to let us learn about Europe and its beauty in history, democracy, antropology and technology.

Later more — time to pack my suitcase for the trip! Wehey!!

Our train planning this year

With the help of some web pages, we have been able to calculate the approximate kilometers that we will go every day when we take a train.

This will be our train planning this year:

18.07.2020 – 573 km without Metro
Rambouillet – Paris Montparnasse with TER 862404 – leaving at 06:44
Paris Metro Ligne 4
Paris Gare de l’Est – Frankfurt Hbf  with TGV 9551
Frankfurt Hbf – Aschaffenburg Hbf with ICE 627
Aschaffenburg Hbf – Obernburg-Elsenfeld with RB 23319 – arriving at 15:15

19.07.2020 – 450 km
Obernburg-Elsenfeld – Aschaffenburg Hbf with RE 4382 – leaving at 10:17
Aschaffenburg Hbf – Frankfurt Hbf with RE 4610
Frankfurt Hbf – Hamburg Hbf with ICE 76 – arriving at 15:35

21.07.2020 – 255 km
Hamburg Hbf – Berlin Spandau with ICE 707 – leaving at 11:36
Berlin Spandau – Berlin Zoologischer Garten with RE 63976 – arriving at 13:29

23.07.2020 – 166 km
Berlin Hbf – Dresden Hbf with IC 2175 – leaving at 10:26

24.07.2020 – 192 km
Dresden Hbf – Prag hl n with EC 175 – leaving at 15:10

26.07.2020 – 433 km
Prag hl n – München Hbf via Schwandorf with EX 358 / ALX 358 – leaving at 09:43

27.07.2020 – 381 km
München Hbf – Salzburg Hbf with EC 217 – leaving at 10:17
Salzburg Hbf – Wien Hbf with RJ797 – arriving at 21:05

29.07.2020 – 189 km
Wien Hbf – Graz Hbf with RJ 73 – leaving at 10:58

30.07.2020 – 304 km
Graz Hbf – Innsbruck Hbf with EC 164 – leaving at 09:45

31.07.2020 – 216 km
Innsbruck Hbf – Zürich HB with RJX 360 – leaving at 07:45

01.08.2020 – 528 km without Metro
Zürich HB – Paris Gare de Lyon with TGV 9222 – leaving at 13:34
Paris Metro Ligne 14 and 6
Paris Montparnasse – Rambouillet – unknown yet

All over, we will go this year by train with our INTERRAIL tickets 3687 rail kilometers. This is a distance as if we would go from Paris CDG airport by plane to Luxor in Egypt, Tabriz in Iran or Orenburg in Russia.

Feel free to contact us if you use INTERRAIL as well and you are in the same train by chance 🙂

Interrail V2.0

We got concert tickets for Rammstein in Trondheim, Norway… how to get there was the question for us. Flying was for sure an option. But we thought about that it is a good idea to go there by train – by INTERRAIL. So we bought the tickets right after having purchased the Heavy Metal admissions. One week going there, stopping at nice places for a night or two – and one week coming back to France. Nice idea indeed – Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo… wonderful places reachable with comfortable trains.

But then CoViD-19 came and all of the planning went into the bin. Concert cancelled, moved to 2021. Travel restrictions due to closed borders, high rate of ill people in Sweden, cancelled international trains… but still having the INTERRAIL tickets already in our hands. GLOBAL PASS 1st class for 15 days – on the verge of sending them back for refund.

But we did not dare to do so as the situation in Central Europe became better with regards to this Pandemic.

Means complete replanning of the trip – cancelling and rebooking hotels, changing train seat reservations, laying out a new plan for 15 days of travel. But that is not an issue as the web gives you good help. So here we go from July 18th to August 1st, leaving Rambouillet to see the world again. Was about time after three full months of confinement at home!

This time, we have split the trip in two halfs, actually rather in two thirds and one third. In the first part, the bigger chunk, we will see big cities. At the beginning, we will visit my Dad in Obernburg after the TGV trip from Paris to Frankfurt. The real tour starts on the next day as Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Prag, Munich, Salzburg and Vienna are planned to be visited. We are having one or two nights in these lovely cities prior to moving on. The second part then goes through the Alps, crossing this impressive mountain range from East to West this time. We will start the crossing in Vienna by using the Semmeringbahn towards Graz, a UNESCO world heritage engineering work. The main crossing will be done from Graz to Innsbruck on the following day. We finally join the Arlbergbahn towards Switzerland leaving Innsbruck. From Zurich, our last rest point in this year’s trip, we will return to Paris via Basel, Mulhouse and Dijon by TGV.

Hotels are all booked now – great service of Booking.com with the genius level 2 rebated room tariffs. It needs to be underlined that we reserved all the hotel rooms only with a credit card guarantee and will later pay directly in the hotels – in case another unforeseen event would stop the second plan as well. That means also that all of the bookings can be cancelled at no cost just a day prior to arrival. For sure, this leads to a bit more expensive tariffs than the normal relatively low prepaid price, but this year, it just makes sense to do it as such.

Seat reservations for the trains are also nearly completed, only the relation from Prag to Munich remains still open. Either we take the direct Express train via Schwandorf or we take a connection with three train changes via Bayerisch Eisenstein through the center of the Bohemian Forest in the Czech Republic and the Bavarian Forest on the German side. Let’s see, both options have its charme. All of the reservations are printed out which is mandatory for international trips anyhow. To obtain the seats, we have done business with Deutsche Bahn, SNCF/SNCB, Die Länderbahn, Czechske Drahy, ÖBB and via the INTERRAIL application on my mobile phone.

Especially when planning to take TGV trains in France or any of those connections between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdan, Cologne and London, you need to be quick with these obligatory reservations. It is advisable to have additional money budgeted as places for INTERRAIL ticket owners are very much limited and pretty expensive. The reservation cost for Paris – Frankfurt was 39 Euros per person, Zurich – Paris even 69 Euros per place.

On our trip, we will use in most cases direct trains. Only on day 1 and 2 when reaching my Dad’s house, potentially between Prag and Munich and when stopping in Salzburg, we will have to change trains. All of these changes are non-critical, means we have either planned stops or there are many more trains available after at maximum two hours of waiting time. It was not like this during our first trip in 2018.

As said before, the relation with France will be done in TGVs on the first and the last day of our travels. This will be done in a special multisystem double decker TGV to support the different electricity supplies and train security systems whereever ETCS is not available.

In Germany, we go with the following train types:

  • ICE 3 from Frankfurt to Hamburg
  • ICE 1 from Hamburg to Berlin
  • IC from Berlin to Dresden – the new double decker Intercity train
  • EuroCity from Dresden to Prag and from München to Salzburg

All of the places are reserved in vis-a-vis seat positions at the window with a table in between.

In Czech Republic, we might need to see what we take eventually.

In Austria, we have booked seats in three BUSINESS class railjet trains. These will be operated by ÖBB on the relations

  • Salzburg – Vienna
  • Vienna – Graz and
  • Innsbruck – Zurich

The Alps mountain crossing from Graz to Innsbruck will be done in a Panorama car of the TRANSALPIN Eurocity, operated by SBB.

Very helpful to find the right seats has been the czech page of http://www.vagonweb.cz. Don’t be afraid – it is also available in English and other European languages. While consulting their page, you can see the actual composition of trains before you book something. The search function by train number works very well. There are even pictures available of the seat space and the surrounding, seat plans and much more. I found it very useful indeed.

So… our dossier preparation is 95% ready now and we are looking forward to our trip “INTERRAIL V2.0” next month! We keep you posted. If you have questions, please use the comment function below, we will answer for sure.

More to come about our planned rides and city visits in the coming days and weeks. 🙂