bretzelitos

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

Month: August, 2018

Interrail Summary

What a trip!

I enjoyed it from the start to the end – did not feel any stress and had a lot of fun, seeing new things, talking to different people, visiting cities I have not been to before and most important for me – taking tons of trains on tracks I have not be riding on before.

Price-Value-Ratio of the 15 days continuous pass is absolutely great. I have paid Euro 478 for the Summer Special in First Class. Having a look at the normal prices you have to pay for, I had the pass reimbursed after the first two and a half days. To be very honest, it is such a great deal that I would pay even a bit more for it.

So I made it – 15 days, 15 cities. It is absolutely doable if you are interested rather in traveling than in seeing the cities you visit. I have done some monster trips during my travel, for example Berlin to Budapest in 11 hours. I would not plan that as such with my today’s knowledge – trips of six to eight hours are more than reasonable and acceptable to reach out into a complete new region – or country. It is also important to leave your last city between nine and ten in the morning to arrive then between four and six in the afternoon at you destination. This gives you – in Summer here in Europe – enough time to see the city sights in daylight and to have a good dinner of your choice after checking in in the hotel, pension or hostel of your choice. Some hotels also give you a travel card for the local city railways system for free – included in their budget price. This was definitely a bargain, how ever, I always did a lot of walking as well – at minimum 10000 steps in every city.

I made a plan prior to my trip – which was helpful – but you are less free, for sure. As I did the plan and even so I had loads of delays and schedule changes during my trip, it helps you to stick to a schedule of cities your would like to see.

Very helpful as well was the hotel booking portal of booking.com. I have booked all 14 one-night stays with them. I can’t say that it was cheap – but it was also partly me, like going to Amsterdam during Gay Pride, going to Freiburg during a sport event and The Kelly Family concert exactly that evening. Well, never mind, all fine.

Another two pieces of advice I take out of the travel planning and doing it afterwards as such:

  • It is highly advisable not to travel on the main routes during weekends in Summer as all vacationists from Europe tend to travel on weekends by train. I have seen this especially during my trip to Binz auf Ruegen, towards Amsterdam in the afternoon and towards and from Kiel
  • Do a seat reservation for the long distance trains you are traveling with. The prices are quite low and you will get a seat for sure.

 

So let us see the statistics of my travels:

Planned cities: 15

Seen cities :15

Not arrived in a city due to issues with the trains system: Zero

Planned total train distance: 10240 kilometres

Longest delay in a train: 85 minutes – Arrival in Budapest

Forced train changes due to break downs, stops before destination: Two

  • Day Two: Berlin to Budapest – Complete train change in Dresden
  • Day Four: Munich to Amsterdam – Train overload, Air Conditioning failure, Board electronics issues

And now some personal opinions:

Best hotel room: LINDNER DOM HOTEL in Cologne

Best hotel bar: DECK 8 in ATLANTIC HOTEL in Kiel

Best hotel pool: MARITIM HOTEL in Nuremberg

Best hotel breakfast: FALKENSTEINER HOTEL in Prague

Best evening restaurant: There is a tie… ALSTADTBEISL in Innsbruck and BANTER RUINE in Wilhelmshaven

Best train product: By far on top RAILJET of OEBB in Business Class – rated top value in comfort, personal on-board service, Internet access, food, space for luggage, accuracy of reservation, on board communication in multiple languages, on-board displays and on-time performance

Best tourist train option: PANORAMA coach of SBB in the Transalpin Intercity from Inssbruck to Graz

Summary of highly interesting places passed through by train:

  • Elbsandsteingebirge in the Elbe valley between Dresden and Prague
  • Mittelrheintal in the Rhine valley between Koblenz and Mainz
  • Arlberg Pass between Bludenz and Oetztal –  up to 1300m altitude
  • Alps Passing from Innsbruck to Graz
  • Semmering Pass between Graz and Vienna – up to 900m altitude – including the whole Suedbahn track, an UNESCO world heritage rail track construction

Best local transport options: INTERCITY HOTEL in Berlin and Freiburg

Best price/value ratio for one night: MARITIM HOTEL in Nuremberg

Fastest velocity: 300 km/h between Munich and Nuremberg in an ICE3 of Deutsche Bahn

 

Bottom lines:

  • I will definitely do it again – applying the advice I found for myself
  • I had a lot of fun, you cannot imagine
  • I met loads of people
  • I have seen really a lot – places I have not seen before, some even a discovery for me
  • I have been to seven different European countries in 15 days
  • I have used train products of five different countries

 

My dear readers – my INTERRAIL blog for 2018 comes to an end here. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask using the comments function. And remember – there are no stupid, crazy or irrelevant questions – I know of the existence of  stupid, crazy or irrelevant answers, but I will for sure not give any of these types.

Thank you for your interest in my travel documentation 🙂

INTERRAIL ticket

 

 

Day Fifteen – Wilhelmshaven to Obernburg

Last day of travel yesterday – and for sure with a good replanning of routing. But I did not mind at all.

After having breakfast in the ATLANTIC Hotel in Wilhelmshaven, I took a taxi towards the Central Station where I started my journey at 0844 in the morning. Plan has foreseen to travel via Osnabrueck and Duesseldorf back to my parent’s home in Obernburg. Just after leaving Oldenburg, I received the message that the train to Duesseldorf has been exchanged and has at minimum 40 minutes delay due to some issues close to Wolfsburg – means, I do not have my reserved place anyhow and I will not be able to reach my train connection in Duesseldorf by any means. Hence: Replanning! I consulted the DB Navigator and found out that there is a connection possibility via Hannover and Wuerzburg towards Aschaffenburg – even with enough places available.

That was reserved quickly and I took a Regional Express train to Hannover, changing there into an ICE to Wuerzburg – the relation takes only two hours. And then back to Aschaffenburg through the Spessart mountain hills with an ICE in just 38 minutes.

The last trip of this 15-day-journey was with the local Regional Bahn to Obernburg stopping at every house.

My dad picked me up at Obernburg train station and brought me to their house – where two cats were waiting for me 🙂

Day Fourteen – Luxembourg to Wilhelmshaven

At the end of the trip, you think that you are more experienced now and you try out different things that might work – or not. In this case, everything went well without any issue. Only a small re-planning of train connections, everything else – super fine.

I changed trains three times yesterday and I took a very long distance with a Regional Express train from Trier to Cologne.

I planned everything as such that I have a cool start at a quarter to 10 from Luxembourg. However, I woke up early and decided to go an hour early as well… having one more hour time in Wilhelmshaven or if anything might go wrong.

On the connection between Luxembourg and Trier, I have been alone in the First class coach. In Trier, I stepped into the RE train to Cologne through the Eifel mountain hills. It went from 130 meters altitude up to 560 meters close to Dahlemer Binz and down again to 60 meters in Cologne. In this train I had an interesting person to talk to – I helped her in Trier as she was suffering from an acute lumbago attack and wasn’t really able to move a lot – and for sure not able to carry her suitcase. So she did loads of gymnastic exercises to lessen her pain in front of me – I think even some Kegel exercises were in it. When approaching Cologne, the train got fuller and fuller, so loads of other people joined. At the end, we had a discussion about refugees – accepting them or not, integrating them or not. Indeed it is quite a hot topic in Germany in these days. Luckily, as far as I am able to see it here in Germany, people just do not follow others by free will, think and make their decision then, questioning the position of others. The most important part is, and that was the overall consensus out of this conversation, not to be driven by fear somebody else tell us about.

In Cologne, I changed trains to an Intercity to Bremen Hbf. I got a nice place close to the restaurant car, but nobody around to talk to – no worries. The blond girl next to me – a typical German type 4 character, I reckon –  was too much in watching her own model photo shooting pictures and suffering a lot when watching them – this is not the right colour, this does not underline her core beauty, this not individual enough… Thank you for not talking with me, I have appreciated it.

From Bremen to Wilhelmshaven, I have been alone again in my compartment and was able to enjoy the East Frisian countryside very well.

After arriving in Wilhelmshaven, I decided to walk to the hotel that has been 800m away from the main station. Once again, big mistake… the thunderstorm came closer and decided on its own to give me a good shower – or at least tried to do so.

As 1700 is still the time for “Kaffee und Kuchen”, I found a coffee house just when it started to pour down massively. Nice stop, nice coffee and nice pastry.

After a short while, I continued to the hotel, dropped my luggage and started my walk around the old war harbour sites in Wilhelmshaven. I had dinner in BANTER RUINE (I took a Fried Sole with Potatos and North Sea Shrimps) which was absolutely excellent – and not only the food was superb, but also the customer service and the humor of the bar tenders. I enjoyed it a lot.

Then I continued my walk and saw the sea – finally again. After a nice evening beer in the restaurant “Le Patron”, I closed the evening and returned to the hotel.

Please enjoy – as I did taking them – my photos.

Day Thirteen – Freiburg to Luxembourg

Yesterday, I took for the first time during this journey a regional train for a longer distance – and I tempted to change trains twice. I have to say, this time, everything went well and trains have been on time.

First, I took an ICE from Freiburg to Mannheim – running up to 250 kmh and having a Swiss lady opposite to me who was traveling to Bonn for a symposium about the right use of nutrition – and being tested about it accordingly. We had a very interesting talk about anything and the world – but most of the time, the lady was occupied with reading in her book about the topic being tested upon.

Second, I took the Regional Express train from Mannheim to Trier via Kaiserslautern and Saarbruecken. This was quite an interesting ride. First through the Upper Rhine Valley, then the climb through the Palatinate mountain hills, the decent to the Saar valley through its curves up to the mouth of the Saar close to Trier.

Third, the Regional Express train from Trier to Luxembourg – operated by CFL, the Luxembourgian train carrier.

After arriving in Luxembourg, I took my hotel room in the Best Western Hotel close to the train station and started my walk though the Upper city of Luxembourg. I took loads of photos of official governmental offices and their surroundings, churches, views and shops – just have a look and enjoy the pictures.

The weather was absolutely fine, so I had time to roam around quite a bit before taking dinner at VAPIANO and having a Turkish Tea in an Arabian bar afterwards.

Day Twelve – Kiel to Freiburg

Early start yesterday at 0838 from Kiel Hauptbahnhof to join the ICE direct to Freiburg in Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. The ride with the Regional Express train terminated without any issues. I reached Hamburg even a minute early.

Luckily, the ICE was not as crowded as has been before. I had my window seat and two interesting seat neighbours. Both of them very much senior in age.

First, until Kassel, I spoke to a woman who acts today after her retirement as mediator for family issues. We spoke about characters of people, how to reach people in difficult cases and the different stress levels people can have. I was quite an interesting talk up to Kassel – like this we also did not really feel the delay we started to get as we were deviated via Rotenburg (Wuemme), Verden and Nienburg – and not on the direct track via Lueneburg and Celle. In Hannover, we got 30 minutes of delay – as we had a medical issue of passenger and additionally a power provision issue close to Hildesheim. I reckon this has still been as aftermath of the thunderstorms later this week.

Second, from Kassel till Freiburg – a 90+ years old gentleman sat down next to me, on the way to visit his daughter in Zurich area. He spoke quite a familiar sounding saxonian dialect, so I asked him where he is from. Eisleben, he told me. I know this area, I pointed out, as my dad grew up in Hettstedt and I still have relatives there. Then to my surprise, he told me that he worked there as engineer in “VEB Mansfeld Kombinat” after his studies of Metallurgy in Freiberg. A company I know very well because most of my relatives were working there, taking their apprenticeship and having a direct relation. Then I spoke about my dad and his time in Hettstedt. He told me that he was in Eisleben in a church organisation called “Junge Gemeinde” and he was very close to be picked up by the Staatsicherheit as young engineer – but he found some “arrangements” not to be convicted. So he stayed in GDR until his retirement. One last thing, I asked him about… if he knew a person in Mansfeld Kombinat called Wolfgang Gorgas. Yes, he said, I have been working with him from time to time, but not very close. That is interesting… as Wolfgang was a friend of my dad!

So you see, the world is small – really it is and we should think about this all the time, save resources, act responsible and just don’t be racist.

But back to the train… Once again, we had the famous words: “Wir bitten um Ihre Aufmerksamkeit!”. The ICE, still having 30+ minutes of delay in Mannheim and originally going to Chur in Switzerland was not “accepted” by SBB, the Swiss railway company, due to its delay. It was ordered to terminate in Basel SBB. That was an issue for sure for the gentlemen next to me. So he called his daughter and she drove up to Basel to pick him up. Luckily that worked out for him, but he told me that this has been already the third time that this happened to him.

In Freiburg, I took my hotel as usual close to the train station and took a walk into the old town. As I have not been in Freiburg yet in my life, I had no idea how beautiful it is.

So I went around, took several photos and took dinner in the Gasthaus Zum Kranz – as suggested by trip advisor. I took a “Sauerbraten with Rotkohl and Spaetzle” with a glass of red wine from the area. I also had nice company – a French women from Lille visiting Germany without being able to speak any English or German and a couple from Saarland area who planned to see a football match between Donostia and Freiburg today on Sunday.

I have also seen some basque people in town – and loads of fans of the Kelly family. They has a concert this weekend here in Freiburg. This explains also the number of people in town and the relatively high hotel prices.

Nevertheless, I have enjoyed Freiburg a lot and certainly will come back – sooner or later!

 

Day Eleven – Nuremberg to Kiel

Next day, next surprises. I didn’t see a lot of thunderstorms that night, but in some parts of Germany, they have been super massive and produced a lot of damage.

In my particular case, there were two issues. Blocked tracks between Nuremberg and Wuerzburg as well as no electrical alimentation between Uelzen and Lueneburg – just before reaching Hamburg.

Up to Wuerzburg, due to the deviation via Ansbach and Ochsenfurt, we gathered a delay of around 15 minutes.

Up to reaching Kassel, it was not clear if we had the chance to pass through towards Hamburg and further on to Kiel. But finally, we got the OK as first passenger ICE train. Result for sure was… all stranded passengers tried to get into my train in Hannover. This led to the situation that Class 2 and Class 1 were both jam packed with people and their suitcases.

Some passengers were very worried as they took this particular train to reach their cruise ship in Kiel harbour area – and when going on a cruise, you also need to have a lot of luggage. Hence the train was very very busy even up to Kiel. Loads of people left the train in Hamburg and it was still having a more than average passenger load.

Luckily, I met two nice Bavarian girls who just sat down in the aisle next to my seat. They invited me to join in a dice game – see the picture. I played twice with them and lost twice good graciously. But it was a lot of fun and shortened the wait time until arrival.

At the end, I arrived in Kiel with a delay of 58 minutes.

So I took my room in the ATLANTIC hotel just opposite of the train station and went on a little walk around. Later I took my dinner in the VAPIANO restaurant close by and a last one in DECK 8 bar in my hotel – an absolutely excellent venue.

Day Ten – Prague to Nuremberg

After a good night’s sleep in the Falkensteiner Hotel close to Prague Central Station, I woke up around 0730 and had an opulent breakfast. After doing some work that was due after the change of the month, I joined the trains again.

I found out that another train connection would put me one hour quicker to Nuremberg, but on a different train routing via Plzen and Furth im Wald and not via Cheb and Marktredwitz.

I decided to take this train and just some minutes after, it started moving. Until Schwandorf in der Oberpfalz, the Czechske Drahy Express train destination, I have been the only person in the compartment. In Plzen, we changed from electrical to diesel powered locomotives.

Unfortunately, due to some track construction works in the area of Plzen, we got some delay that made it impossible for me to reach the direct connection to Nuremberg right away – I needed to wait 50 minutes for the next Regional Express. Time to eat something and to send postcards indeed 🙂

The following RE arrived in time – under diesel traction – and brought its passengers with up to 160 kmh towards Nuremberg. In one of the train stations before I reached my final destination, my train was combined with the one coming from Cheb – so I did not have any time advantage anymore.

In Nuremberg, I arrived in time – in sunny weather and 34 degrees outside temperature. This was quite impressive. So I went to the MARITIM hotel close-by to Hauptbahnhof, took some refreshments and started my walk through the old town area of Nuremberg.

The pretty large old part of Nuremberg’s city center reaches back to the 12th and 13th century, house facades and city wall armory – such as city wall and its joint towers – are in very good state. It also needs to be noted that there are loads of technical and historical museums in town that are worth a visit.

Especially interesting in the old town area is the part between Handwerkerhof and the main market place with its gothic well and church arrangement.

For sure, this doesn’t mean anything without having original 12 Nuremberg Bratwursts on a tin plate with potato salad, a dark beer – and a bretzel 🙂

So please have a look at the photos and enjoy – as I did – the time in Nuremberg.

Day Nine – Graz to Prague

Today I took a direct train – a Railjet in Business Class in my last passing through the Alps this time from Graz via Vienna to Prague. As part of the Austrian Suedbahn, I went over the difficult pass through the Semmering mountains.

This is a very interesting path engineers have constructed and improved since the 1850s. In loads of curves, the tracks descend slowly from 900 meters summit altitude at the Semmering station towards the Vienna lows in the Danube valley. While reading about how and when the Semmering pass track was built, I realized that it is actually UNESCO world heritage due to its amazing engineering achievements in the 1850s. There were many “firsts” realized on this track, including valley passing viaducts in a 180 degrees hairpin curve (I took a photo passing over it), many tunnels in rough terrain – short and long ones – and a very curvy path all the way along the Semmering hills with radii down to 190 meters.

After passing though Vienna and having Business Class filled up with very noisy US tourists that had no idea what they were talking about, we reached Czech Republic. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived in Prague Central Station with minimum delay.

I have to say that I like the Railjet offer of OEBB. It is by far the best train product I have been in during this trip so far.

After arriving in Prague, I went on a hike to Prague’s old town close to the river Moldau banks to have dinner. On my footpath towards the famous Uflecku restaurant and beer garden, I got surprised by a 30 minutes lasting heavy thunderstorm over the city center – and got quite wet. But in these temperatures above 30 degrees, it was not uncomfortable at all. I even saw a rainbow!

On the way back to hotel, I passed some 100 meters along Moldau river to join Prague’s pedestrian area, taking more photos. Just have a look below!

 

 

Day Eight – Innsbruck to Graz

“Bergfest” is the German word for having something half-over – and this time I take that word by its very original meaning. I took the the Transalpin Eurocity through the Alps mountains in a Panorama wagon of SBB.

That was a lot of fun! The load factor was not very high, so I had a window seat in direction of travel all the time – including lunch at the place.

The highest gradient, including some serpentines, was between Woergl and Zell am See when we climbed out of the Inn valley to Zell am See up to 900 meters of altitude. For this part, we had double traction electric power in front.

The trip was really fabulous and I recommend doing it perhaps even from Zurich HB to take the Arlberg Pass all in one go – a nice full day trip.

Arriving in Graz, a heavy thunderstorm hindered me from going to the City Centre – however, I had good dinner just next to the hotel.

As you can imagine, I have taken loads of pictures – 38 have survived the quality control. Enjoy and be ready for big mountains!