Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday 20 June - Koln to Mannheim then Speyer

At this time of day trains were leaving Koln Hauptbahnhof at the rate of almost one a minute.  With this sort of decoration it makes you want to visit a South Aftican game park. Note the QR code on the locomotive door.
It was a little cooler this morning and it rained as we left Koln. There was mass confusion boarding the train at Koln because the electronic seat reservation system was not functioning so people were sitting in seats reserved for us. Mary and I found seats opposite two delightful German ladies who were traveling to the Dresden area. Evidently performers, one played the violin and the other was a singer. They were going to miss their connection at Frankfurt Flughavn but didn't seem too concerned. 
We checked in to the hotel and decided to go to Speyer, a small town to the south recommended by the violinist. It is on the Mannheim suburban network but we had to change at Ludwigshavn.
Of course, all of the trains were late. DB claimed they were 5 minutes late but in practice this is 10 minutes. DB timekeeping is atrocious and the sloppy station staff are quite content to let it be.
The station at Speyer turned out to be a little way away from the town centre. We ate at a Chinese buffet. The town itself turned out to be very pleasant, well maintained and with no peeling paintwork. We entered an enormous church which was beautiful inside with beautiful stained glass. It was big yet seemed in scale and much preferable to the Dom at Koln.
Speyer clock tower.

Speyer church - I couldn't get far enough away to get it all in.
Speyer Church
InterCity Hotels provided a comprehensive local travel pass for the duration of our stay. It proved invaluable.
We took the train back to Mannheim and, after checking in to our room took the #4 tram out to Heddesheim. This runs first through the city centre, then suburbs and finally green fields of grain and some market gardening. A lot of flowers, including roses, were being grown. Heddesheim itself is a real dormitory suburb. We could see only houses and not a commercial establishment to be found apart from a smoke shop at the station. A bus arrived and dropped off passengers for the tram. Quite a bit of this line is single track, including a tunnel and the section from Kafertal is run under railway rules.
The tram stop outside the Hauptbahnhof is very busy.

There are still some of the older style trams in evidence, mostly on the #5 route to Heidelburg
The ride through the centre of Mannheim gave us a good perspective on the city.  It has a number of green spaces and a lot of vehicle free wide pedestrian shopping streets through which the trams run. The city centre seems more friendly than either Koln or Dusseldorf and deserves more exploration.

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