Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday 30 June - Köln to London

It was a beautiful morning and we had the opportunity to walk around in the streets which were practically deserted. There were many signs of last evening's revelry. Many small schnapps bottles littered the streets.

Signs of last night's revelry

The pastel shades of the buildings make a pleasant setting
Once again DB managed to wring the maximum confusion out of boarding the ICE. Their computer showed platform 7 but all the printed material showed platform 5. The board on the platform showed a train that had departed much earlier and our train was only shown as it was running in. Of course it was back to front so there was mass confusion as everyone was trying to get to the other end.
Once we had boarded it was a little easier.  The journey to Bruxelles and the transfer to Eurostar was quite easy.  We had to go through two passport and ticket checks in Bruxelles, a ticket check on the train and another full check before they let us out in St,. Pancras.  The UK is becoming even more paranoid than the USA.
A short bus ride to Paddington in bright sunny weather and we checked into the Indigo Hotel.  The manager, Margaret, greeted us as old friends and check in was smooth and quick.
The Mad Bishop and Bear in Paddington station has good beer although the food is not so high quality.  I had a pint of Fullers London Pride and a pint of Fullers Chiswick Brewery bitter.  Both were excellent. Mary had a Tribute which was light and mellow.  The girls were giving us several samples before we made our decision.  Dinner was in the hotel.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday 29 June - Dresden to Koln

DB threw a new curve at us today. There is a board showing the train by car number and the location on the platform. Passengers can then wait at the right place to board. Quite frequently the train comes in back to front and there is a frantic dash by everyone to get to the other end of the train. Today we were waiting at the front of the train which turned out to be reversed but the front portion only. So instead of being in the front of the train we were not at the back but in the middle. Good job we had made reservations.
In France the SNCF is using electronic departure information so this does not pose a problem.
The recent heavy rains have caused extensive crop damage, particularly to the winter wheat and crops sown early in the spring. Some fields are pretty much a write off.
One feature of the former East Germany is the ugly massive square buildings, especially apartments, that look like barracks. There has been an attempt to improve these monstrosities with a coat of paint but they are still a blot on the landscape. I think the architects who worked on these ugly buildings have now found the opportunity to exercise such skills as they have in Ottawa.
An attractive feature we found was the way the gables of many houses were rounded out from the roofs giving the impression that the houses had eyes.
There are many areas of allotments where city dwellers can grow fruit and vegetables. Many of these have small sheds for tools etc.  but some have curtains at the windows and chimneys. I wonder if they are permanent houses?
The actual journey from Dresden to Köln went off quite well. There was a delay getting into Leipzig and we left there 10 minutes late. However, we ran directly through the single line working, where there is about 10 miles of track work and arrived at Frankfurt Hbf. four minutes early. We changed trains at Frankfurt Flughavn and arrived at Köln a couple of minutes late. The Frankfurt-Köln section was the only part where we ran at high speed and unfortunately the driver blanked the screen so I couldn't see out.
Köln was popping when we arrived (Saturday afternoon). The plaza around the cathedral was full of young people. There may have been a demonstration but it was mostly groups of about a dozen, many wearing the same uniforms or with distinguishing sashes or ties. There was a lot of drinking and the bars and cafes were overflowing on to the sidewalks.
We ate this evening at a local place that is close but tucked away so the tourists don't frequent it much. The red-headed serving wench was not there.  People were drinking beer in small .2l glasses. Walking around later we saw some tables had long wooden carriers that would take about 12 of these small glasses.
The bells of the cathedral are quite intrusive. They make a low mournful moaning rather than a happy peal. At least they didn't ring them at night.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday 28 June - Moritzburg and Lossnitzgrundbahn

A free day today and we decided to stay fairly close and gp to the Schloss at Moritzburg. A local train took us to Radebeul Ost in good time for the narrow gauge steam train to Moritzburg.
This is the Loßnitzgrundbahn, a 75 cm gauge line that runs to Moritzburg and on to Radeburg.
I had to buy our tickets from the Guard - none of the train crew spoke English so I did it in sign language and with the help of a timetable
Backing on to our train at Radebeul Ost
Departing from Moritzburg
The 2-10-2 tank engine took us to Moritzburg, waiting a couple of minutes for connecting passengers of the late-running DB. The train quickly ran through the town and into a steep sided, well wooded valley. We broke out into fields and crossed a lake before entering Moritzburg.  A cormorant was fishing in the lake. The engine used the bell a lot when approaching unprotected crossings and the whistle as well at the more important ones.
There was a walk of about a kilometer into town. All along the sidewalks the city has planted flowering plants and grasses, all low maintenance with the stone mulch. This made the walk very enjoyable although we had to be careful to avoid the thistles which tended to encroach on to the side walk.

The Schloss is magnificent, especially from across the lake with good light and calm air to produce great reflections.

We went inside the Schloss but the exterior held the most attraction. There were a lot of rooms, well restored but mostly exhibiting the heads antlers of the many deer etc. that they had killed.
We made our way through several gaggles and flotillas of geese and walked around the western side of the lake. The views of the Schoss were good but seeing it looks pretty much the same from all four sides sothe views were somewhat repetitive.

Lunch was beer/wine with chicken salad/schnitzel.
A leisurely stroll back to the station and it started to rain lightly as forecast.
To see all pictures taken at Moritzburg click here:
Click here to see these pictures in slide show format
We caught the train to the end of the line at Radeburg and passed an area of marshy woods and lakes. Two swans were swimming in an area that was covered in green pond weed. There were mostly geese  with a few ducks as well as the swans.
The crew took a break for 20 minutes at Radeburg then started to fiddle with the engine so we left 5 minutes late. 
There were antlers everywhere - even on the station

To see all pictures of the Lobnitzgrundbahn click here:
Click here to see these pictures in slide show format
The run back to Redebeul Ost was uneventful but then DB threw a curve at us. The Dresden trains left from track 2 but to get there involved a walk of about 3/4 mile with no proper sign posts. With the benefit of hindsight it would have been easier to have taken the first train from platform 1 to the next station and transfered there. DB gets my vote for the worst railway on Europe.
For our wedding anniversary we went to the Cafe Schwinkelwache.
  Wedding anniversary photos 2013
We had been there earlier and went back because Mary liked the Reisling. We had a glass of Proseco each and a bottle of Reisling, the only one on the menu.
Jellied meat with potatoes and salad
 The meal was good, I had jellied meat, and we both had ice cream with alcohol for dessert. The waitress was tall and thin and walked around using great strides. When it came time to pay the bill she asked us where we came from. When we said Canada she replied
"That's where the wine comes from."
It turns out it was a Niagara wine, Konzleman Estates, and very good too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday 27 June - Bad Schandau and the Kirnitzschtalbahn

The plan today was to take the DB local train to Bad Schandau then the ferry across the River Elbe to the town proper then therivertric tramway up to the Lichtenhainer Falls and return the same way. At the start DB were again messed up in that they showed a different train from the one we were supposed to take from the designated platform.  Ray went to talk to the DB Information office and they corrected it.  We knew more than they did.

Its good to know that DB provides entertainment for the locals.
The line to Bad Schandau follows the Elbe closely and has been affected by the recent flooding so trains are running slowly.
Because of high water the ferry was replaced by a bus.
We were late into Bad Schandau but we couldn't take the ferry anyway because of high water so a replacement bus was provided which was quicker and took us right to the tramway station so we didn't have to walk half kilometer or so from the ferry.
The tram ride was delightful.  It runs on one side of the road through the national park in a steep sided wooded valley.  The river is swift flowing. A kingfisher was perched on a log on the bank. The trams are all vintage.  There are two sidings and we passed a train in each one, authority to run is by small cylindrical pieces of wood, three in total, painted different colors.  At the falls the motor car runs round its train and returns, a half hour service is provided.
Ready to leave Bad Schandau
On the way up we fell into conversation with a German lady from Koln who said this was her first visit to the former East Germany.  She was very frank.  She found people had more of a don't care attitude than at her home and admitted that the transition to a unified Germany was difficult for many.  One good feature was that they all spoke the same language.
Having uncoupled the motor car runs around its train at the falls
Running round at the Falls
The falls are not very spectacular.  The locals decided early on that the run off could be made more spectacular and built a dam.  In normal times there is not enough water so they turn on the falls only when tourists are there.  A notice sets out the times when the falls will be running.

The falls are only turned on for the tourists.
We had a beer and a snack, goulash and wurtzfleische which turned out to be chicken pieces in cheese and sauce.
A train departing for Bad Schandau

The motorman's compartment showing the wooden token with a large split ring on one end
The line is unusual in that it is mostly "gutter running", a type of track layout once common on rural tramways in Germany. In the case of the Kirnitzschtal Tramway, the track is laid in the southern lane of the road, which is the right hand lane when heading towards the waterfall. Thus trams heading towards Bad Schandau travel against the normal flow of road traffic, requiring heightened attention from both tram and road vehicle drivers. Although the tramcars are double ended, only the doors on the south side are used, as all the stops are on the south side of the road.
It was soon time to return to Bad Schandau where the bus picked us up and returned us to the station.  The timetable was completely out of whack and we had a long wait during which time we debated the best way to get back to Dresden.  All trains were running late.  A favorite would have been to have taken the train from Budapest but this was running 30 minutes late.
To see pictures taken of this electric tramway click here:
To see these in slide show format click below:
While waiting for a train to Dresden this Prague-bound train with a Czech locomotive came in.

In the end we chose a train which was waiting in the platform to return to Dresden.  It was shown as running to Schona on the Czech border which it didn't and going to a station in Meissen which has now been abandoned.  This train left as it should but lost a lot of time to Dresden because of the slow track.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday 26 June - Chemnitz

It was raining again this morning but the forecast was for showers later and gradual clearing. We took the 0901 train to Chemnitz which left a little late because the crew were chatting. We traveled right behind the driver.  Once leaving the Dresden area we had clear signals throughout.
Ready to leave Dresden
Just after the Frankenstein station we disturbed a fox which was hunting in the grass.  It froze in its tracks and watched us go past. The line is pleasant going through fields and woods with the occasional small hamlet. The conductor came into the cab and started showing the driver pictures he had taken on his cell phone.  It is these distractions that can lead to an accident.  Chemnitz station has a wide overall roof which is shared by the trains and trams.  We bought a two-person day ticket from a machine and caught the #522 tram train as far as the end of the fare zone at Klaffenback Haltepunkt which is a small single platform.

Chemnitz tram station.  #522 tram train on right, #2 city tram on left.
#522 train to Chemnitz arriving at Klaffenbach Haltepunkt

#5 tram at Schule Altchemnitz
The next #522 took us back to Schule Altchemnitz where we crossed the tracks to take #5 to Hutholz.  This was a tatra tram and was a bit uncomfortable, particularly when the brakes were applied as they grabbed on stopping.  At Hutholz we decided to take the #4 back into town but let the first tatra tram go in favor of a more modern and comfortable one.
The enthusiasts may like these but they are uncomfortable.
We chose to ride in this back into Chemnitz
A quick lunch was indicated, salad and a wrap, also a piece of cake which we shared. A tall old man with white hair came in and ordered two large pieces of cake with icing and fruit and a capuccino - a very good lunch.
There did not seem a great deal of interest to hold us in Chemnitz, apart from an enormous statue of Stalin's head, so we decided to return to Dresden in the hope that there would be better weather which would allow us to walk around the old town.
We took the next train back to Dresden which turned out to be a two coach double decker that stopped at all stations.  It was 6 minutes quicker than the next fast train.  The view from the top deck was great and the stations were interesting.
Arriving at Dresden we were happy to see the sidewalks dry although there was a cool breeze.  We were able to see the main buildings in the old town.  They are impressive but most are a nasty black and desperately in need of a good clean. We stopped at an outside cafe near the Opera for a glass of reisling.
Unusual entrance to a building. On the right is the police headquarters.
The organ is placed above the alter

Bruhlische Terrace

The Zwicker - clock and bells
A 360 degree panorama view of the Zwicker from inside.
Goldener Reiter of 1736 in the Neustadt
Crossing the river, by tram we saw the Goldener Reiter then walked to Carola Platz to catch a #7 tram to dinner at Dresden's Treppechen at 35 Kesselsdorfer Strasse near the Bunaustrasse stop. It was dark inside with dark wood and orange brickwork.  There was no English meno, no pictures and the waitress didn't speak any English.  It was a typical local place which turned out very well.  The cuisine was home cooked rather than fine dining but was plentiful, well prepared and came quickly.  Mary had breaded salmon and fetuccini while Colin had Steak mit Wutsfleische uberbacken dazu champignons inf Bratkaetagfein.  This was quite a pile of food with a base of very tasty baked potato with a slab of pork on top which was covered in chopped cubes of pork bound together in a cream sauce and with cheese on top.  Add to this mushrooms, carrot salad and cole slaw and it was pretty good. We shared a portion of apple strudel which came with ice cream and whipped cream.  I had a beer while Mary had reisling.
There were several people in the restaurant before we got there including an old man who was feeling up his old lady companion. She seemed to be enjoying it.  The restaurant filled up even more by the time we left.  A #7 tram quickly brought us back to the hotel.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday 25 June - Dresden in the rain

It is raining and cool today and will be like this all day today and tomorrow. A good day to ride the trams. The trouble with trams is that they don't have toilets.
I went over to the hauptbahnhof which has three very large arched roofs. The two outside ones have several high level through tracks while the centre one is a low level stub end.
The kids love the model railway where they can control the trains for a euro.  This one is three rail Marklin, one I saw at Frankfurt Hbf was two rail.

The Central, low level area.

One of the high level through sections.
We started off on the #7 to Weixdorf. 
Most trams are single ended and have a gallery at the back.
About half way out a group of about 16 eight year old kids with 2 teachers got on the end section with us. The supervisors had them under full control.
The kids left in good order in the rain.
The end of the line is just a turning circle so we stayed on and went to Pennrich which is in the middle of nowhere.
The line is a mixture of centre street running and private right of way with portions of single track in restricted roads and at the end of the line.
We are waiting for a tram to clear a single line section
There was a break at Hauptbahnhof for personal needs and a snack and then sampled the #4 route to the eastern end at Laubegast and the western section as far as the end of the fare zone at Forststreasse. We passed a lot of historic buildings and hope that the weather will improve before we leave so we can get to see them properly.