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Germany

Köln - Travel Tips

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Köln Hbf

Köln Hbf

I arrived in Köln on a DB Bahn (German railways) ICE from Brussels. By booking well in advance on a “specified train and no changes” ticket, and with a discount for my Official Old F*rt status, I paid €30 for a 1st class seat. It was very fast and very comfortable. Not all the journey was on dedicated high speed track, but still.

The journey time should have been about 2 hour, but we were delayed slightly on that shared track by a broken down train ahead of us.

My return journey was on a Thalys train, Thalys being the multinational version of the French TGV which serves Brussels, Amsterdam and Düsseldorf (via Köln). The cost was €59 in Premium. Thalys operates 3 classes - Standard, Comfort and Premium. The difference between the latter two seems to be free food and drink.

Altstadt Backstreets

Altstadt Backstreets

It was all going well until the train broke down at Liège. Eventually all the passengers got off and we caught an SNCB intercity to Brussels arriving 85 minutes late. Whilst frustrating, the train crew did a good job of keeping us informed and the getting us onto the next Brussels train. The delay entitled me to compensation. At the time of writing I have been offered 25% of the ticket price. I am confident I am entitled to 50%. We will see.

In Köln I stayed at the Lint Hotel, in the Altstadt less than 10 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof. The room was excellent and so was the breakfast. We did have one glitch however. Their reception is not open after 6pm on a Sunday and I seem to have missed their email about the self check in arrangements. The issue was quickly sorted out by a phone call, however.

Lint Hotel

Lint Hotel

It cost me €103, including breakfast and city tax. Good value.

Hotel Room View

Hotel Room View

My brief stay in the city did not involve visiting any restaurants, so they will have to wait for the next time. Certainly the area around the hotel, and between there and the station, offered plenty possibilities.

Posted by IainT 23:42 Archived in Germany Tagged trains germany transport köln Comments (0)

Krefeld

sunny 10 °C
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October in Krefeld

October in Krefeld

I bet you have not seen many travel blogs about Krefeld!

The road less travelled (again)...

It is a city of 235,000 very close to Düsseldorf and Duisburg. I traveled there and back by train from Köln, which takes about 45 minutes on a DB Bahn regional express.

My visit was 100% for ice hockey. Like ERC Ingolstadt, Krefeld EV plays in the DEL - the top German professional league. As an Ingolstadt fan when I was visiting the city regularly over 6 years, it is something I have missed in the years since those visits stopped.

Warm Up

Warm Up

In that time I have often thought of a short trip back to Germany to see a game or two, but their games at the right times and places have never coincided with my ability to make the trip. Finally it worked out as part of my F*ck Brexit escapade in Brussels and Köln.

They have a great arena - small like the one in Ingolstadt - but with more seating than in Ingostadt. The sport is not a cheap option for a DEL game and my prime location seat cost me €48.60. A standing ticket costs only €17.60, on the other hand.

Krefeld v Ingolstadt

Krefeld v Ingolstadt

Good (basic) food and beer are part of the fun at German games, and I enjoyed my Bratwurst and Pilsener before the game. Then I enjoyed Currywurst and more Pilsener at the second break. The beer was not as good as in Ingolstadt, needless to say, but compared to the chemical cocktail you would get in a British arena, it was nectar. Food and drink are also much cheaper than in a British arena, which makes up for the higher ticket prices.

Ice Hockey Accessories

Ice Hockey Accessories

It was a close game, with Ingolstadt edging it 2:1. I was happy. The locals were not.

As for the rest of the city, my experience is limited to the taxi ride from the city centre to the arena (about 2 miles) and the walk back. My impression was of affluent, leafy suburbs contrasting with a slightly grimy inner city. That description to apply to so many cities, of course. The architecture was very different to what I am used to from Bavaria.

I suspect they do not get many visitors - around the station I could not find any visitor information either in general, or - what I was looking for - public transport routes and how to buy tickets.

Posted by IainT 00:21 Archived in Germany Tagged germany sport ice_hockey köln krefeld Comments (0)

Köln

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View Krefeld on IainT's travel map.

Ice Hockey Accessories

Ice Hockey Accessories

The Sunday of my F*ck Brexit travels brought an early start to catch the 08.32 DB Bahn ICE to Köln. Getting a hotel near the station in Brussels was a good decision.

In September 1970 I went on an InterRail trip to Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and France with 5 school friends. We had all left high school that summer. Our first train journey outside the UK was from Ostende to Köln. As we entered Germany there was some discussion about whether we had to change trains in Aachen. When we got there, I was volunteered to get off and ask.

I did. It was a through train.

DB Bahn ICE

DB Bahn ICE

By the time I turned around, it was leaving - with my bag and (useless) friends on it. The station staff were very helpful and put me on the next train via Mönchengladbach. I was reunited with my rucksack and my (useless) friends at the youth hostel in Köln.

October in Krefeld

October in Krefeld

Well, Sunday morning’s train to Köln via Aachen was less eventful. I did think of getting off at Aachen to take a train to Köln via Mönchengladbach just for old times’ sake, but the ICE was too fast and comfortable.

Köln Hbf

Köln Hbf

Just like during my brief stop in Berlin last month, it felt strange to be back in Germany. It was like a second home for 6 years, and I loved it. Of course that was Bavaria. Berlin and Köln are so different. But it is still Germany.

It brought back a lot of memories, but they just have to be tackled head on.

Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Köln

Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Köln

Some of the memories are also from that 1970 holiday, and those 5 friends. I still see one of them occasionally. Another lives in South Africa, but we see each other if he is back in Scotland. One emigrated to Canada after he got his medical degree. Another to Kuwait, although I think he lives in England now (probably a Brexit fan). The last one died of lung cancer in his 50s.

As for 2019 Köln, well they are still working on the Dom…

Fog on the Rhein

Fog on the Rhein

No, joking apart, I did not have a lot of time in the city - just enough for a walk around the city centre before heading back to Brussels on a Monday lunchtime Thalys. The Rhein is a major feature obviously, perhaps second to the Dom. It was foggy when I was there.

Krefeld v Ingolstadt

Krefeld v Ingolstadt

Most of my time was taken up by an afternoon trip to Krefeld to see an ice hockey game.

Posted by IainT 19:07 Archived in Germany Tagged trains germany transport ice_hockey köln brexit Comments (0)

Berlin, Again

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Brandenburger Tor

Brandenburger Tor

My September holiday has started!

And so far, so good.

Very good, to be honest. Ryanair has transported me safely to Berlin - and the flight was 20 minutes early!

I am in the airport hotel at Schönefeld overnight. It is very good too, and right beside the railway station - city centre 30 minutes. The hotel even gave me a free 24 hour travel card. It is the Intercity Hotel (one good turn deserves another).

Branding

Branding

I had time for a couple of hours in the city before it started to get dark. The train took me the Friedrichstrasse to wander around Under den Linden, the Brandenburger Tor and Reichstag.

A Memory

A Memory

The last time I used Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse was May 1990. The DDR had opened its borders but was still a separate state. Foreigners still had to use an official border crossing, while locals walked through holes in the wall. I had to pay for a visa and convert the mandatory minimum of hard currency into useless Ostmarks.

It all seems quite unreal now.

I was there for a legal conference. The start of the Single Market in 1992 was the topic.

Yes, unreal now.

The conference was held in the Reichstag - the West German Government was still in Bonn.

Reichstag

Reichstag

Very unreal.

My only other visit to Berlin was in February 2003, taking my son for a wee trip during his school’s mid term break. He would have been 10 years old.

One highlight was going to see Eisbären Berlin playing ice hockey. The team plays in a big fancy arena now, with average crowds of over 12,000, but back then the venue was the Wellblechpalast in Hohenschönhausen - one of the eastern suburbs.

S Bahn & D Bahn

S Bahn & D Bahn

Wellblechpalast translates as “corrugated iron palace”, and it was 40 years old even then. Eisbären grew out of Dynamo Berlin - the East German police and secret service sports club.

Currywurst & Bier

Currywurst & Bier

Yes, good to be back and it is a shame it is just an overnight stay.

Posted by IainT 13:02 Archived in Germany Tagged trains food germany berlin flights ice_hockey airlines brexit Comments (0)

Trains, Planes & Automobiles

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My first trip to Bavaria in 2017.

Remarkably, all the travel went according to plan!

This trip involved 2 cars, a bus, a plane and 2 trains. It gave plenty of scope for problems.

Stagecoach

Stagecoach

My son drove me to the local park & ride to catch the 07:35 bus to Edinburgh Airport. It’s free because I’m over 60, so why pay (say) £30 for airport parking? In any event, driving would have involved the grim Edinburgh rush hour but the bus whizzes past the jams using the bus lane! Quicker, stress free and no cost.

On Time

On Time

Time for breakfast at the airport before EasyJet’s 10:25 to Munich. The flight arrived about 10 minutes late, but in view of the Edinburgh weather (a bit foggy and frosty) that was OK. They had to get the plane’s wings de-iced before take off and that doesn’t happen often in Scotland.

Waiting

Waiting

£64 return for this flight this time. That’s a bargain.

Munich Airport

Munich Airport

Usually I’m collected at Munich Airport and then it’s a 50 minute drive to my destination (near Ingolstadt). On this occasion the arrival time meant I had to get the train. 45 minutes on the S-Bahn into the Hauptbahnhof and then 70 minutes on a Nürnberg bound “regional express”. All very comfortable and civilised compared to a typical British train experience.

15:29 to Nürnberg

15:29 to Nürnberg

DB offers a Bayern ticket which gives unlimited travel within the state after 9am. €25 for 1 person. A good deal even at today’s exchange rate.
I could have bought a ticket for €19 which would have been a quicker journey (an ICE to Ingolstadt) but - like comparable British tickets - if you miss the train you have to buy a new ticket. It doesn’t matter which airline you use, you can never be certain you’ll arrive on time.

I’ll end with a question. Why is flying so often stressful and taking the train often relaxing?

Posted by IainT 02:19 Archived in Germany Tagged trains germany bavaria gaimersheim nürnberg ingolstadt Comments (0)

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