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

Month: July, 2020

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 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!!