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Author Topic: Learning around Europe  (Read 722 times)
grahame
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« on: November 17, 2022, 05:17:31 am »

I have just over a week left on my Interail pass.   In typical "student" mode, I returned home on Monday for just long enough to get my washing done (in none-student mode, I did it myself) and also have a series of meetings, catch up with Lisa, sort out bills, say "hi" to some very excited dogs, etc.    Back on the road again yesterday morning and late afternoon I was here:



I was going to call this "Act 4" but I've started to loose count.   I was going to call it "the final act" but that sounds too final - I'm very much enjoying and learning too on this trip, and setting up memories and places I want to come back to, perhaps not on my own next time.   The window of opportunity taken with the 50% off Interail to celebrate 50 years, but perhaps in truth that was more a trigger than a necessity and there will be other windows. 

The days are shorter at this time of year - I had best get ready in the predawn so that I can enjoy the predusk to the full.
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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2022, 08:38:23 am »

08:30, Thursday 17th November 2022

Just like HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)), the German High Speed Lines seem equally about capacity as, perhaps, about speed.  I landed in Dresden yesterday, and am working my way across east to west on broadly regional service - overnight at Nordhausen on the mistaken belief I could connect to the Harz there; for a brief period between the summer and winter service, the southern through leg is closed for engineering works!

Germany has a network of high speed lines - and I don't think I have been on any of them yet!   I have changed trains in their stations - between 3 and 4 car electrics, some push-pull with locos, others modern sets. At the moment, I'm in a 2 car, but very modern diesel.  An effective network, connections so far designed to work and actually working.  But what has really struck me is the quanity of freight around. Big electric locos pulling long strings of containers (including framed cylinders for liquids), and car carriers too - not motorail, but delivery. Much or post of it long distance - a swiss loco on the front, for example. We're seeing some lovely countryside as it gets light - very much on the "old road" with things that would be missed if I took the new routes.

09:20 (times are European times - posting before 9 O'clock in the UK (United Kingdom))

A change scheduled for 10 minutes in Kassel and a 12 minute late arrival there, however the ongoing train was also running a few minutes late. And I am writing from that train now. The German railways are not as punctual as the Swiss ones, but on a sample this week too small to be significant, better that our local ones in the UK where (you may recall) I started off with a 15 minute delay with a 10 minute connection that failed on a "this train only" ticket.

So how do the Swiss do it?  I suspect by having slack in their timetables; I was struck by the appaently generous station allowances there, though I will admit to being off-season and on less than crowded trains.  They probably have enough staff to get the trains out of bed in the morning too, which I understand was the problem with the 05:17 Westbury to Swindon ("no night shunter at Westbury").

In old fashioned stock here - electric loco on the back, side corridor first class carriage with compartments of the sort I fondly remember on runs like Aberystwyth to York.  However - old FASHIONED and not necessarily old.  We have Wifi. We have power points (and, yes, I have the right adaptor).  And we have electronic seat reservations just outside the carriage door on a screen.  I know I'm in a clear seat, but just as in the UK you need to know the geography of the line to know if your seating requirement overlaps or not, or if there's a no-show. Until this European trip, I would have been hardplaced to know where Halle is in relation to Hamm, or Lippstadt to where I am now!
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rogerpatenall
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2022, 09:11:15 am »

I agree with your comment re German train punctuality. Two weeks ago I spent time exploring the trains in the Zwolle, Almelo, Enschede region of the Netherlands. All three days everything ran to time, except for the Berlin - Amsterdam trains where the average late arrival from Germany at Hengelo was consistently around 45/50 minutes - apart from one on time arrival at Hengelo early on Saturday afternoon. No explanation was given but there may have been engineering works although my observations included Friday pm. Locals from Dortmund were arriving at Enschede on time. So its a very small sample.

Anyway, in spite of the burning jealousy deep within me, I hope youenjoy the rest of your adventure.
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2022, 09:23:03 am »

Anyway, in spite of the burning jealousy deep within me, I hope you enjoy the rest of your adventure.

Thank you ... part of me even wondered whether to suggest / organise a Coffee Shop outing of rail interest using Interail next summer, but yous all would get pretty fed up with me after a day or two. RogerW is the expert at these things anyway, and you choices of places would probably not reflect mine.  Last minute booking of final rooms in cheap(er) hotels probably does not work either.

A very good friend and I toyed with the idea of entering "Race Across the World" having seen the first series.  Relieved we did not when the second series turned into a long distance coach endurance challenge.  But a month with a series of checkpoints to meet up with friends doing the same thing.
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2022, 06:08:36 pm »

I admit it - today was NOT something I can see coming to Wiltshire or anywhere else in the South West ...

From a typical German Station


it's just a few yards to another station ...


... from where the steam trains takes you into the hills ...


... and up above the snowline ...


... where perhaps you could enjoy the view if the weather allowed ...


... but in any weather you can enjoy a bowl of soup

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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2022, 08:25:49 am »

"You travel so far and you see so little" writes a wise friend.  He's talking about Interail, and he's right. Yesterday, I started in the dark, spent 17 hours away from my hotel, and stopped for no more than 90 minutes in any one place. I dread to think how many kms I travelled.

But yet - so much of the pleasure and learning for me is in the journey rather than in any sightseeing or other activities at the destination.  Of seeing what is around me, of meeting occasional people, and - yes - of noting places that I would love to come back with, with good company (and, yes, that mostly means Lisa) in a more relaxed way in coming years.

Breakfast this morning ... nice, but alone


On Wednesday night / Thursday morning, I saw Nordhausen in the dark. On Thursday evening I arrived in Frankfurt in the dark and my hotel is, literally just across the road from the station.   And on Friday, I left long before dawn and returned in deepest evening. A late start today, Saturday, and it was just getting light as our 07:50 pulled out headed south - a chance to be looking out of the windows as we left the city, and now speeding across flat farmlands as we head for a change of trains in Mannheim.   Due there in 7 minutes so I'll save and come back. Headed beyond these flatlands.



And back.  A quick cross-platform change. From the Hamburg (Altona) to Munich train across to the Dortmund to Basel Train.  Flagged up by the train manager (in German and English) as we arrived, and on the DB» (Deutsche Bahn - German State Railway - about) app too.  Even lined up with first class against first class, standard against standard.



Running along the Rhein - and indeed across the rest of Germany - I'm struck by just how much rail freight there is, in additions to all the passenger connections at seemingly each stop on these intercity expresses.  A brief pause at Karlsrhure and we're headed onwards to Baden-Baden and Offenburg.





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Worcester_Passenger
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2022, 10:17:56 am »

Alas, I have to say that my experiences with DB» (Deutsche Bahn - German State Railway - about) have often been disrupted by poor timekeeping. I would rate them as the poorest of the big European operators.

Returning from Munich a few years ago, it looked as if our journey would be disrupted by a strike in Belgium. I enquire at the information desk at Hbf on the day before, to be told "No -our train and the Eurostar will be operating normally".  Predictably, the DB train turns into a rail replacement coach between Cologne and Brussels.  The coach was full well before time, but set off late and arrived in Brussels well past the last Eurostar's departure time.

I could quote several other examples, but I have had revenge.  On an evening journey from Frankfurt to Innsbruck, our ICE was delayed departing Frankfurt ("no driver") and it became apparent that we weren't going to make the connection in Munich. I ask the train manager (Herr Schaffner). He agrees, and directs us to the information desk at Munich Hbf.  The helpful young woman finds us a hotel room and books us onto the 09:30 Innsbruck departure. DB paid for the hotel room - which must have cost them, given that this was the last Friday of Oktoberfest.

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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2022, 07:08:57 am »

I'm a right "Victor Meldrew" this morning ... except ... an early checkout from my hotel for the train just before 7 O'clock, which calls at Wurzburg at around 8, Nuremburg at around 9 and gets to Munich at around 10.  And with the shorter winter days that allows me to enjoy a ride through the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.  It is a joy to have early trains 7 days a week, and from what I can see the loadings are good on this one; only a handful of services here seem to start later, and some of the morning "rush hour" ones are thinned on a Sunday, but otherwise it's pretty much business as usual.

So why the "Victor Meldrew" moment.  Have you ever tried to juggle your baggage with a flimsy disposable coffee cup (lids conveniently on a separate stand once you have paid for it) and a breakfast roll - which though lovely to help your self with tongs onto a sheet of paper on a tray is yet another element to juggle with.   The payment counter has a more decorative surface than one that will actually hold the tray, and unless it's held on to it topples over - or starts to and has to be grabbed - while adding either a cash or card to things in my hands all at the same time.

Somehow, I managed to pay (and also for my bottle of water and sarnies for later!) without spilling things and was left grabbing for a bag into which to put my purchases, which had been lifted up onto the counter so thr lady could see what I was paying for ... and of course the machine refused my card the first time and it required a second go, when it was approved.  And the queue behind me builds!

And so to the lid and bag station ... and the plastic lids are designed, it seems, to be hard to take off - which conversely makes them hard to put on ... and in holding the cup firmly to try, I squeeze it and the cup crumples sending some of the precious liquid over the stand, and the floor - a right mess.  And in usual manner in such situations, the actual amount of liquid lost is not massive (I retain two thirds of the coffee) but the mess looks vast and the silly tissues there to mop it up (while, remember, juggling all the rest) are woefully inadequate!)

But, yes, I am thankful for a catering operation that's open for the customers catching the early train.  I have seen this in other places and perhaps we could bring such opening to Melksham too.   The very fact that there was a queue rather suggests to me that thre IS a demand ;-)



After all of that, this train has at-seat catering and I will admit to being settled in now with my second cup of coffee and a butter croissant.  Served by a charming and helpful gentleman in a real pottery cup. For sure, the butter Prezel is a bit "plastic", but as dawn comes across the snowy German Countryside, I look forward to a day filled with sights and experiences

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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2022, 08:31:11 am »

07:20

I'm coming towards the end of my Interail experience - really enjoying it but at the same time looking forward to being home.   This morning finds me on the 07:14 from Villach as far as Klanenfurt and headed off there onto some less-main lines seeing typically wonderful (and always very differnt) countryside - and most of it IS countryside - Europe is a vast place, no longer wild forests but rather all managed for agriculture from the fields and olive groves of Scicily through the damp forests - but obviously managed ones - of the Harz mountains.  Whilst I'm coming to the end of this experience - a "bucket list" thing - it leaves me with additions to the list to go back with Lisa, and with other items which remain on the list which there has not been time to do, or which circumstances have conspired to render impossible this time.

08:20

And onto my second train of the day ... after another coffee juggle. But that's another story ...

I know this line's a bit more obscure ... the train is running directly on fossil fuel for I think the first time since the train I took way up north in the old East Germany into Halle.  But I did see a lot of proud display boards at the station before I joined showing how it is in for a major - and I mean MAJOR - upgrade.  Looks like they're not just talkin but doin!

So a little diesel train, and new infrastructure which is fit for Railjet expresses which I'm sure are coming. Not that this diesel we're in is old - it's modern and would put the GWR (Great Western Railway) fleet, perhaps with the partial exception of the IETs (Intercity Express Train), to shame.  It's those little things like the step that extends from the train to the platform and makes for a smooth passage for prams, cycles and wheelchairs without the archaic need for the train manager or station staff to lay down a ramp.



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grahame
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« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2022, 06:48:31 am »

My final Interail day - my pass is good up to and including Saturday, but I'm back today for a catchup tomorrow and to be fresh for a once after a lifetime event on Friday.  From Passau this morning, changes planned at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, Brussels Midi, and the across London from St Pancras to Paddington and on to Swindon, from where I hope to make the last connection to Melksham to be home mid-evening, with a planned fallback of carrying on to Bath for the late bus.  Current status "I'M ON A TRAIN", but can't shout that as I'm in the quiet carriage. Dawn rising over the Danube and very misty she looks too.
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