Auf Wiedersehen, Wien

I’m leaving Vienna for Amsterdam today, this involves a mammoth 1200km right across Western Europe. This involves one train change in Frankfurt, 10 hours on the train. This could likely cure me of my love of European train travel. At least the trains have plenty of space to move around and there is a restaurant car.

It’s a very wet day today, probably the worst weather I’ve had in the entire time I’ve been here so a good day for train travel. This might be a long entry by the end of the day

On this train they even give out a little travel guide for this particular train with the services and stops explained

Train left Vienna and within 15 minutes we were out of the city and it had a distinct country look to the scenery

For all the modern technology, tickets are still stamped by an inspector

The ICE train has a dining car, but no food…

Onboard coffee is predictably bad

This river forms the Austrian / German border near Passau

Passau is the first stop in Germany. The police bordered the train and were checking everyone out but not checking everyone’s identification. Looks a very pretty town. Danube, Ilz and Inn river all join here.

Anyone for a riverboat cruise ?

Thankfully I brought some food onboard with me as they are supposed to have food but don’t. Not sure if they ran out or were just slack. Suspecting slack as I asked about it just after leaving Vienna. Not what I would have suspected from a German operated service.

Deep in the heart of Germany now

Some massive solar installs here in Germany. This one alongside the tracks must have been at least 1km long

DB have travel maps and speed directly in their onboard website accessible via wifi. Stops are marked in red. You can zoom in and out

On almost every field in Germany near the woods you see little boxes like this. A bit of googling determined hunters use them to hide and watch for deer emerging from the woods

Train stops at Würzburg and heaps of people take a short break for a smoke. So much more prevalent here than at home.

Wine country

we arrived at Frankfurt late but more than enough time to make my connection. Train to Amsterdam. The one to Amsterdam departed 35 min late. Not sure what happened to the legendary German punctuality, add to that the lack of food and almost all the toilets on the last train were broken. The Austrians are lording it all over the Germans as far as trains are concerned, the OBB trains all look fabulous.

Another one that splits in two, one set to Amsterdam, one to Brussels

At least on this one it’s obvious I’m in the correct seat

You know you are in Germany when the train you are on drops to 180kph and the cars on the autobahn next to the railway are going faster

Went past this, to fast to snap a pic. (Train now doing 300kph)

Some technical issue now and train has stopped on a bend. Announced that since we are delayed an hour all onboard drinks are now free

And they handed out forms to recover 25% of the ticket cost. I’m sure the cost of processing a foreign cheque for €25 will not be worthwhile, but will have to see.

And we are in Cologne

And I’m in the Netherlands. One of the greenhouses that make it the second largest food exporter in the world, yet one of the worlds smallest countries.

Read about it here

Schalkwijk. Just a random pic.

Train running close to two hours late, finally arrived in Utrecht. Still a bit to go

Finally arrived. 11pm on Monday and this place is still extremely lively

Something decent to eat

Room looks ok

Coffee, Crypts and RailJets

I was only in Prague overnight. My intention was to go straight from Berlin to Vienna, but when looking at a map of Europe, the most direct route is through the Czech Republic and Prague. If you do it this way, you have to change trains in Prague, and according to the man in Seat 61 (my train travel bible), if you do this there is a little known option on the Deutsche Bahn website which allow you to have an overnight stay in Prague on a single ticket. Essential you get two train trips for the price of one. Doing this I could see a few things in Prague (of course at the cost of a day in Vienna). When booking from Berlin, if you book First Class you get a reserved seat. You don’t get a reserved seat on the second leg to Vienna, but another little travel hack is to go to the Czech train website and just reserve a seat. The bonus of this is that you can reserve “Business Class” which on this train is a step above first class even. Not a bad option for A$25

I started a little later today, as my train to Vienna wasn’t until 12.51 in the afternoon. I got  up about 8.30, went down for the included breakfast (the Falkensteiner Hotel Maria Prag has been excellent). Whilst there one of the kitchen hands dropped about 50 ceramic plates on the ground accidentally, There was broken plates everywhere, which they cleaned up in seconds, people with brooms came from all corners. I wasn’t sure what to do today, I was thinking about the Museum of Communism, as its supposed to be quite good however having done a communist tour in Poland and the DDR museum in Berlin, I was a little over communism (much like Eastern Europe really…). It was as this exact moment I got a message from my mate Virgil in Sydney telling me not to forget to go to see the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral. The reminder was like a message from some sort of divine travel guardian as if I hadn’t received it at that exact moment I probably would have missed this completely. We went past it on last nights bike tour, but somehow I’d managed to forget about it. The museum there is free entry, however if you visit please donate a few dollars to assist with the upkeep, nothing is ever free, someone pays for to keep it going. Unlike all the kitch and tacky stuff in Prague this is truly worth seeing.

This church was the hideout used during Operation Anthropoid  in WW2 where the allies and resistance assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. The resultant search and reprisals are a truly harrowing story. If you don’t know the story and the wikipedia entry is TL;DR,  whilst Heydrich who was one of the chief architects of the Holocaust was killed, all the operatives in Prague died (either killed themselves to prevent capture or were murdered), their families were murdered and an entire town was liquidated and blown up.

After about an hour here reading and looking, I headed back to the main square to see if I could get some decent coffee. Whilst breakfast was included in the hotel, the coffee was machine made rubbish, not even Nespresso (although as a side note the hotel did give you a Nespresso machine in the room with pods). Wasn’t sure what I’d find and as I got closer to the tourist centre I was thinking the chance of great coffee was diminishing as I walked past numerous Starbucks. Googling for coffee indicated all the great ones were over 30 minutes walk away. I chanced upon “Made in Coffee”, and it turns out this was a great decision. I could tell by the skill the Barista poured the milk into the cup that he knew what he was doing and this would be a great coffee. An 8/10. At $5 is wasn’t exactly cheap, but considering what I’d paid in Copenhagen and I was in the tourist central area not too bad. Unfortunately the famous astronomical clock here in Prague was undergoing renovations.

After this headed back, checked out and made my way to the station. Purchased some lunch supplies for the train ride, which also helped me unload most of the last Koruna I had. At this point I got another message from Virgil to try some Kofola which is a local Coke/Pepsi substitute. Interesting, but way to sweet for my taste.

Business class on this train is fantastic. The seats are reclinable, and business class is almost empty. I have an entire section right by myself. The leather seats recline and are very much like the seats in a gold class cinema at home. I’m given a bottle of water, a free coffee and a €2 voucher to use against any other food order. The train also has a small display in each section which shows how far away each stop is and how fast we are travelling. I noticed it got up to 160kph on this trip. With included WiFi I’ve been able to use my laptop and write these blog entries as the beautiful Czech and Austrian countryside whizz by.

So far Austrian Railways with their RailJet has been my best train experience this trip.