bretzelitos

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

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 πŸ™‚

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 –Β  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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!

Day Seven – Cologne to Innsbruck

One of the longest travel days were done today, but without changing trains. So that’s good and risk free.

I boarded the train in Cologne and found out very quickly that OEBB has changed the carriages – my reserved seat was among the deleted ones. OK, let’s find a seat quickly and I found one next to a charming young woman who has been about to do bicycle vacation. We had a good talk up to Lindau, not boring at all.

The first 200 kilometers, we went through the Middle Rhine Valley – an UNESCO world heritage area. As the valley is narrow and the hills are quite steep, it is very beautiful to pass through. Also all the small villages and cities in the valley, not forgetting about all the castles and monuments, are absolutely worth seeing and visiting – next time by car perhaps.

After Mannheim, we went over the fast track connection to Stuttgart – reaching a velocity of 200 km/h in peak.

Between Stuttgart and Lindau, our train was pulled by double traction diesel power as the tracks between Ulm and Friedrichshafen are not electrified yet. So we went up “Geislinger Steige”, one of the most impressive train track gradients in Germany, with two turbo-screaming 218s in front.

The surroundings of Lindau, a city that is on an island in Lake Constance, are very beautiful. The combination of the lake – that is actually a part of the river Rhine – and the mountains close by are a magnificent view and invite for staying. Unfortunately, our train accumulated close to 40 minutes of delay here.

Entering Austria after Lindau, the weather got worse unfortunately – thunderstorms occured. We went slowly up Arlberg Pass – peak at 1300 meters of altitude and did the decent also very slowly thereafter – just not to overuse the train braking power. The surrounding was absolutely great, however, due to the bad lighting conditions, I wasn’t able to take many pictures. After Bludenz, I have been the only person in the first class wagon.

Down in the main Inn valley, we were doing 160 km/h for quite a while and got rid of several tens of minutes of delay when arriving in Innsbruck – only 14 minutes late at the end.

Little Bretzel arrived some minutes later as well, so we had a splendid Father and Son dinner in Austria just under one of the main touristic sites in Innsbruck – the “Goldenes Dachl” – in the Altstadtbeisl.

Both of us had a room in Grand Hotel Europa – a very nice hotel close to the train station with great clean rooms and a splendid break fast buffet.

Day Six – Binz to Cologne

Today, I took a direct train from Binz to Cologne – a shorter train than foreseen, but I got my place luckily as my wagon was actually running.

After a bit more than nine hours and nice talks with a family from the Leverkusen area – the fifteen year old daughter plays football in a girl’s team, I have arrived in Cologne without delay.

I organised a meeting with my old childhood friend Alex in the beer garden he is working for. We had a wonderful evening together in Volksgarten.

 

Day Five – Amsterdam to Binz

I did a little stunt today in comparison with the other travel plans in the past and future. I changed trains in a non-hub train station with no plan B behind. But, helas, as you say, this time everything went just well and without any issue. Lucky me.

However… the service on the second train was absolutely crap. No restaurant coach on the train at all and the mini bar man came by just once in six hours of travel. But this time, Bretzelito had gathered experience already – which worked out very well.

When changing in Osnabrueck, I had a planned stop for 40 minutes, I just went out of the train station to send some post cards and to rack up two sandwiches and two bottles of water. So I had a good quantity of food and drink to survive the next train ride – whatever would happen.

Company on the train was just really great this time. On the first leg, I have been with a charming Dutch family going to Berlin and a Dutch Father and Son trip playing chess during the ride. I was watching without saying any comments. Unfortunately, the son missed out on a good occasion to dominate his dad and ran into a dead spiral by coincidence. Eventually, it was just one plunder move that turned the whole game upside down. On the second leg, I was with a Swiss family going to have vacation on Ruegen and with two elder ladies of some social reputation – one having published books about social people acceptance and having worked in- and outside governmental environments, for example with Rita Suessmuth, a lady that I recognize as one of the most capable politicians in Germany. As you can imagine, we had very good and fruitful discussions.

Arriving in Binz, I took my room first, followed by refreshing myself. Then I took the obligatory swim in the Baltic Sea – and it was just super fantastic.

After dinner, sending the usual postcards and taking several photos during three walk-arounds, I retired after having Stoertebeker Dark beer in my hotel. I have to underline that any of their staff has been very helpful, charming and solution orientated as I have not found it in any of the past hotels. I have to recommend ARKONA STRANDHOTEL without any question.

Now enjoy my photos taken earlier today.

Day Four – Munich to Amsterdam

Getting up early in Munich is not so bad at all – especially if it includes a real Bavarian breakfast. Rindermett, Leberkas – additionally some cereals. This sounds good for the start. I took my ICE train to Frankfurt at 0941 – great service, fast travel and interesting people in my compartment to talk to. There were three US female student of law that had a summer course in Innsbruck, Austria and who were returning to Houston, Texas from Frankfurt Airport that day. First, I was a bit turned down by their eating customs as they brought three bags of Fast Food to the train. Nevertheless, we had a good conversation about a lot of topics, including stuff they learn today and about Enneagram as well as the importance of adjusting yourself to reach targets. Next to them, one more girl boarded the train – a professional of fashion arts, photography and running fashion shops in big cities. We had quite a nice conversation, very enjoyable indeed. Between Ingolstadt and Nuremberg, we were going 280 kmh or 175 mph – you actually did not really feel it. But it was impressive how quickly we overtook all the cars on A9. Service and people we absolutely splendid, no worries at all.

I left them in Frankfurt Central Station to board the ICE train to Amsterdam Central Station.

However, this train had quite a bad maintenance record as it seems. In First Class, no seat reservations were visible and also no coach numbers were displayed. Later, in Duisburg, a PA was done that wagon 33 in Second Class needs to be evacuated as the air conditioning system failed. It took approximately 20 minutes to remove all passengers, put them either out or give them advice what to do next. Additionally, there we loads of passengers without seat reservation in Second Class. The “chef de cabine” spoke to all of us the famous words when crossing the Dutch border: “Wir bitten um ihre Aufmerksamkeit”. Oh oh… not again? But yes indeed… He declared the train to stop circulating in Arnhem as it was irresponsible to continue with so many issues, a passenger charge above and even closed carriages.

So I took two Dutch Intercity trains to follow the path my train was not able to continue. Arnhem to Utrecht and Utrecht to Amsterdam CS.

In Amsterdam, I took a tour through Red Light district and had some Argentinian steak prior to return to the hotel to enjoy some beers and write this blog. I realized as well why the hotel rooms were so expensive – Gay Pride is in town and will give a good boost for the LGBT community. I reckon it shouldn’t be done here in Amsterdam as gay life is very much accepted here – it should be very much held in some other areas, inside and outside of Europe.

So have a look at my photos!

Day Three – Budapest to Munich

 

After a normal fast checkout proceeding, I went with all my stuff to the Keleti Pu train station in Budapest. Loads of international people were already waiting to board any of the trains going to places in Hungary – and some to Austria and Germany for the Railjet connection to Munich.

Business Class – as I have booked it – was empty. I had a compartment all for myself for close to the whole trip.

There was some misunderstanding for the reservation of places for a Quebec couple just next to my area – I helped out with some french language, you cannot imagine how positively they appreciated the help. Some French language they have not heard for days was really something which calmed them down a bit – after being forced to pay extra for Business class rather than having just a first class ticket.

The ride was smooth and without any serious delay up to Munich. I have to say that this train service was one of the best I have ever had in my life, even Thalys from Cologne to Paris in first class has not been as good as this one.

I had lunch by internet order via OEBB Railnet. It was delivered, including the wine (Gemischter Satz) just 20 minutes after the order without any questions. Later I had also some dessert – I know… the one Little Bretzel can never refrain of. Heisser Apfelstrudel with Vanilla sauce. It was just super excellent.

I arrived in time, on the minute, in Munich Central Station and thought about taking the path directly towards the hotel by foot. Not even half down the platform, an Italian guy asked me how to get to his destination… no English, no Spanish… but French! So I took him to the places he needed to go, I had time, so no worries. He just said: Che cazzo, mille grazie. Happy to have helped one stranded in communication, I smiled and went through the central pedestrian area straight to my hotel – not forgetting about the obligatory post cards for Ruth and Helga.

After checking in, I shortly refreshed myself and went straight to Hofbraeuhaus.

I took a table with unknown people – as usual. Two young guys were sitting opposite of myself – Boehmer and Nuebbel. We had several beers together until one of the guys just disappeared. I reckon that our number of jointly drunk liters of beer were a bit too much for them. They eventually disappeared without paying. Not the real good way of celebrating Bavarian beer culture.

Nevertheless, nobody asked me to cope with the damage. Perhaps, the guys can do something after being recognized in this blog’s pictures.

Just when thinking about to leave the site, I heard some Spanish language confusion about the menu on a table next to myself. I helped the guys, they invited me to sit down immediately. I found out that all of them were Spanish – but from different regions. Malaga, Madrid and Bilbao. It was amazed to see the shiny eyes of the Basque couple when I said “ON EGIN” for cheering with the beer. They invited me for another glass immediately – one litre of dark beer!

I had a short walk afterwards and decided to see my favorite Shisha bar here in Munich. With two glasses of mint tea, I enjoyed like a little cat.

Afterwards, I took a taxi back to my hotel place – time to write for my blog.

Day Two – Berlin to Budapest

Breakfast and Checkout in Berlin were done fast and efficient, very pleased by the staff of Intercity Hotel Berlin. So I went straight to Berlin Hauptbahnhof to take my direct train to Budapest. It was planned to be an 11 hour ride, a single window seat with a table reserved just for me.

As soon as my EUROCITY train arrived in Berlin, I sensed that there is something just not right. It was a train operated by Deutsche Bahn – and not by Czechsky Drahy, the Czech Republic train operator. And – my wagon in which I had reserved a place was not in the train. There was only one first class coach and felt thousands of American and British tourists that wanted to go from Berlin to Prague.

Luckily I have been early enough and got an empty non-reserved seat in the middle of a six person cabin. For sure, no WiFi, no table, no real space. I thought that this is going to be complicated as such.

But complication seems to follow me from the first into the second day. After leaving the Berlin area I suddenly heard the famous words: “Wir bitten um ihre Aufmerksamkeit”. Me immediately: “Oh no!”. The announcement said that this replacement train is going to quit service in Dresden Central Station – being replaced with a nominal Czechsky Drahy one. The new one will leave the same platform with a delay of 50 minutes… I sighed and shook the head in disbelief.

At least this announcement was correct. We should have left Dresden at 1113, eventually it was past noon when we set out. At least I was able to get some magnets and post cards from Dresden during the stop.

Now, in the right coach and with the right seat, travel unfolded its magic. I have always known about the Rhine valley tracks – its beauty of country side and romanticism. The Elbe valley thought the National park of “Saechsische Schweiz” is really a ride that can compete with it. Marvelously narrow, miraculous rock formations and a calm river in the middle.

We reached Prague with a delay of 50 minutes – after receiving another shock. Due to technical reasons there will be no restaurant service what so ever on the train today. No drinks, no food at all. At the first stop in the Czech republic, some water bottles were loaded and distributed freely in First class – at least. I had planned to have lunch and dinner in the train – so I needed to have two bars of white chocolate as replacement that I had bought earlier.

We passed through the inner part of the Czech republic and – not surprisingly – had to wait more minutes at some places as our train was the offender of all possible time schedules at that particular moment. In Brno, we already had 60 minutes delay – in Bratislava, capital of the Slovak republic, it had raised to 70 minutes.

Due to a signal failure at the Slowak-Hungarian border – we were admitted by replacement signalisation, forcing us to go no more than 30 kmh for two kilometres. We added up at the end in Budapest 80 minutes of delay.

I was planning to take some nice photo shots of the Danube river at sunset as I was planning to arrive in time at 2016. As I arrived at 2140 approximately, I was in pitch black night – I took a photo of the train station and went to the hotel by foot – to reach my daily quota of walking at least.

When I arrived at the hotel, it started raining – the approaching thunderstorm was about to discharge all the rain. So no walking around or sightseeing at all.

What can you do?

Day One – Obernburg to Berlin

An easy travel day at first, there are loads of trains going to Berlin somehow. So this was my first choice. However, it was also one of the few days in which I had the idea of changing the train twice to reach the target.

No worries – it went exactly as you would be able to think about it: re-planning, re-engineering of the trip.

But first to the start.

My dad took me to the train station of Obernburg-Elsenfeld at 10am. The first Regionalbahn train arrived on time and all were happy. First change was in Aschaffenburg to get the train to Frankfurt – the train station that I needed to join to be able to board the train to Berlin. Still no issue so far – all on time, all happy.

Then I got a notification that my booked train to Berlin is 40 minutes late. OK, I thought, might happen, not a big deal. But I did not know the real cause of it – no obvious reason was given… I learnt about it eventually while having a little munchie in a MITROPA bistro in Frankfurt Central Station just before midday. Suddenly, the train was canceled – there has been a derailment of a regional train which blocked two of the high speed train tracks close to Mannheim. Hence, I have canceled my reservation and was looking for a new connection right away. Luckily, another Intercity Express train was 45 minutes late, coming from Switzerland and going to Berlin. It intended to leave at 1113, originally prior to my arrival in Frankfurt. It left at 1200 with me – not via Leipzig, taking the new high speed tracks to Berlin, but via Hildesheim, Braunschweig and Wolfsburg, taking the traditional high speed route through Germany.

But just hold on a second – this was not the path that we took at the end!

Just after the train station of Kassel-Wilhelmshoehe, we received some pieces of information via public announcement in the train – starting with “Wir bitten um Ihre Aufmerksamkeit”. Generally, if something starts as such – it is important and you better listen. The tracks via Hildesheim and Braunschweig were unusable – as the high tension power line above the tracks just failed in parts of this area. Pretty clear – no power, no trains – especially if you are in an high speed electrical one. We were eventually deviated via Hannover Exhibition station – putting another 10 minutes of delay to the account. The train conductor did really a good job by shortening the time where ever he has been able to do it – full acceleration and full brakes applied.

Expected in Berlin Central Station at 1530 – this was the target arrival time of ICE372 – we arrived finally in Berlin at 1615. Interestingly, this was 15 minutes earlier than the originally planned time with ICE690. Hence nothing to complain about.

I took it easy with deboarding my train and arrived at my hotel close to Berlin Central Station 20 minutes later.

After short refreshments and a short shower – we had 36 degrees Centigrade outside temperature – and receiving my Berlin travel pass, I went to have a look what my country’s capital can show me.

So please have a look at the attached photos.

 

Interrail 2018

This year, vacation times are somehow different. We do not really go by plane on long distance. Neither taking Bretzelmobil through Europe, nor going for a package tour.

The reason is INTERRAIL.

That is a program that is put up in cooperation with all standard old school train companies throughout Europe and eventually put to market by an Irish company providing European travel passes to any European citizens exploring Europe – outside of their home country. Different prices for different traveler age, days of travel and selected country programs.

The all-over offered price for the ticket is interestingly low in comparison what you are able to do with it. So for me, as an interested train enthusiast, this is all I ever wanted. Actually, I thought since long time that this type of ticket is only available for young people up to 26 years. After seeing that it is also available for adults… no chance not get it. It has just been a must for my son and myself.

Little Bretzel travels on a 8 day per month plan this summer, while Bretzelito takes chances by doing the hard stuff travel program all the way down the path with a 15 days continuous ticket – means at the end: 15 days, 15 cities.

Have a look now what we both have been able to see during our trip!

Etretat, Fecamp, Dieppe, Rambouillet – 3774km

I woke up at 0830 after having been interrupted several times in the night – the worst was the community waste collection truck at 0320 at night passing through with its noisy diesel engine. As I slept with open windows to enjoy the lovely salty seaside air, this got amplified a lot.

After taking my usual morning toiletry and having breakfast in the hotel, French style, I decided to have a look after Bretzelmobil immediately. That parking place, I thought, was not really a good one to let it sleep there overnight. But, as always when you are more cautious than necessary, my fears were not reasonable.

So I checked out of the hotel and decided to start driving right away as the weather was cloudy now with patches of rain. As one of my work colleagues suggested earlier to consider also Dieppe as possible one-day-trip-to-the-sea target, I decided to go there and have a look, stopping shortly at Fecamp on the way.

Dieppe has the size of Rambouillet approximately and is spread out along the seaside, including sea harbour with ferry lines to the UK and some remains of castle fortresses close to the ever present white cliffs in this region. Parking places are easily available, directly at the beach which consists also of pebbles.

After having lunch at the Casino restaurant with a nice view over the beach and a little walk on the promenade with some really dark clouds around, I took Bretzelmobil to drive back to Rambouillet via Rouen and the A13. After Rouen, the weather got really worse and it started to rain cats and dogs. Not easy to drive on A13 – especially as many drivers did not select the right lighting for this type of weather – from full scale fog lights with high beam in front to nothing at all. Once you have to put up your hand in front of your face not to get the bright light mirrored from everywhere into your eyes, next time you just need to avoid a car appearing out of nothing behind the spray of a lorry with no lights in use at all – just in time, luckily not too late.

Back here in Rambouillet, I had a nice dinner at home and started cleaning up my flat.

 

 

One day in the sun at Etretat – 3499km

I had a look at my weather app and decided right away. The only partially sunny day in Etretat of this week is today – I need to go… now!

And I wanted to stay overnight, so I have booked a room in Hotel des Falaises, opposite of Le Galion restaurant, via booking.com on the spot. I was quite surprised to see that rooms were still available as I consider this time of the year as Extreme High Season for tourism in Etretat.

The ride was uneventful via A13 and Pont du Tancarville. This time, I decided to go directly to Etretat as I was already late at around 1100.

Too late – with regards to parking. The usual parking place that we take was already full and the cars were lined up along the western inbound road towards Etretat minimum a kilometer away of city limits in any direction – including campers. So, no chance this time, but I needed to park Bretzelmobil in the no-fee parking zone just behind the last houses of the southern Etretat area. Means, a 1.5 km walk towards the beach – but no other chance at all.

As expected and seen in the parking situation, Etretat was full of tourists. I went straight to the hotel check in, got my basic room and continued by looking for a place to eat. Not so easy this time, all places were taken at Le Galion and La Salamandre, so I went to the large restaurant just before –Β La Taverne des Deux Augustins – and had to wait for one hour to get my food. Some interesting scenes were on display at this place – well noted during my wait time.

  1. An Italian family of six people wanted to have a table that was foreseen for four people only – and got kindly rejected as there was no place available for six at all, followed by some very picturesque Italian swearing in the direction of the public, god and finally themselves. They walked off in anger and came back after 15 minutes, queuing and waiting without a word until they got a table – inside this time. Obviously, they were not able to find anything else.
  2. A German couple just skipped the queue and sat down at an empty table, complaining about no service for 15 minutes and finally been shooed off to the end of the waiting line by a waiter for occupying an unassigned table. They wandered off in disbelief.

I need to say, it is not a problem of communication, but of respect and adjustment to the visiting country’s costumes and organization. And the people there were really working like little cats to cope with all the international guests as best as they can. They had a full house and were advising incoming guests politely that the meal preparation time will be at least one hour after order.

Right to the beach thereafter as fast as I could.

Three times into the water, swimming out towards the little platform. And drying off in the sun – getting some nice color on my skin. The water was immaculate as always, this time even luckily without any jelly fish of any kind. And, as we had full moon, the tidal difference was considerably higher than normal. At full low tide, loads of sandy patches became visible in the pebble beach area and herds of children immediately gathered around it – building sand castles for their princesses in true fantasy.

I took dinner in Le Galion which was, to my surprise, not fully booked. Excellent as always, no need to say.

Afterwards, I took a little walk on the promenade and returned back to my hotel room short thereafter.

Return to Rambouillet after 3279km

Today, I have decided to return to Rambouillet, mainly to look after my two cats Luna and Nera. I left Chatel after a good Savoy breakfast and drove down to Evian.

I still remember my good friend from the US telling me if you think that Evian is better water than any other, read its name backwards and that is what you are… ;-). But for sure, Evian is a nice and expensive place at the southern shores of Lake Geneva with a marvelous view to the Jura mountains in Switzerland and its surroundings. Luckily, I got a small parking place for Bretzelmobil and was able to take some pictures.

After this short stop, I followed the lake shores down to Annemasse where I joined A40. Passing on to A6 and A19, I took the exit at Pithiviers – paying EUR49.80 for using the autoroute network – and joined Rambouillet happily after 3279 kilometers.

Crossing Switzerland, Arriving in France – 2617km and counting

After a nice breakfast and quite an important bill in Switzerland as expected, I continued to drive westbound. I followed the already know path I had discovered with Sven in 2010 with some slight modifications.

After my departure from Bergun, I drove northbound towards the city of Chur, passing Lenzerheide, a city well know for its Biathlon winter sport events, and crossing Parpanpass at 1547m altitude. Quite strange, there is no indication at the summit, just a Postbus stop called “Parpan, Hohe” exists. Nevertheless, the decend towards Chur was great and the view spectacular.

Via Disentis, I followed the Rhine river valley to my first real pass road crossing for today – Oberalppass at 2044m summit altitude.

The up and down drive continued through Andermatt (1400m) and up Furkapass at 2431m towards my personal summit for today. During my decent towards Kanton Wallis, I stopped at the Belvedere (2300m) to take some pictures of the Rhone glacier. Quite impressive how much got lost of it since I have been there for the first time in the late 1980s. I still remember seeing the glacier in front of me. Today, you need to look closely uphill to find some rests of it. In the photos, you can clearly see where the glacier was 20-30 years ago.

After having lunch in a nice restaurant next to the young Rhone river just after the main Furka pass descent, I continued to drive along the Rhone valley, not missing a great view on Leuk Earth Station on the northern hills above the town and taking a stop at Goms’ suspension bridge. I took the challenge and crossed it in both directions. What an experience – just being supported by six centimeter thick wooden planks and six steel cords, 90 meters above the Rhone river, swinging in the wind and by the rhythm of the people walking over it.

After passing Sion, turning right, I continued following the Rhone valley up to Monthey. Then I climbed Morgins Pass to 1369m summit altitude, crossing the border to France and arriving at Chatel – still at 1220m above sea level.

After a good french style dinner – Aperitif, three course meal with wine, Digestif – I slept very well and woke up refreshed in the next morning.