A Travellerspoint blog

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)

Brussels - Travel Tips

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When in Brussels...

When in Brussels...

I flew to and from Brussels (from Edinburgh) with Brussels Airlines (the successor to Sabena, for those who can remember before 9-11). The cost was £104 return, with hand luggage only. Both flights left a little late, but arrived more or less on time.

Otherwise, they were pretty good. Perhaps I have rose tinted spectacles of course, as Sabena was a favourite.

I used the SNCB airport trains to travel to and from the city centre. It is important to know which station you want to use in the city - Centrale (close to Grand Place), Midi (where many Thalys trains arrive and depart) or Nord. The train costs €8.90 each way to any of those stations, and runs about every 20 minutes with a journey time of about 20 minutes.

SNCB Cool

SNCB Cool

Over the years I have stayed in so many Brussels hotels it makes my head spin, but like most cities, location is important. For this trip I wanted a place in the city centre and close to one of the railway stations. I fixed on something near Gare Centrale as I know there are lots of places to eat around there.

When it came to price and value for money, the Novotel was the one I chose. I am in their loyalty programme, so that usually gives a 10% discount. It was their hotel at rue du Marché Aux Herbes, 100 metres from the Gare Centrale. The room cost me €127, without breakfast.

Novotel

Novotel

Breakfast was going to cost €22. I found it difficult to imagine what kind of breakfast is worth that much, especially as I would be out of the hotel for 8am to catch a train. I opted for 2 croissants from a nearby bakery.

Dinner on the evening I arrived was quick, cheap and easy - a small tray at an Exki close to the hotel.

Posted by IainT 11:18 Archived in Belgium Tagged trains restaurants transport belgium flights brussels airlines brexit Comments (0)

Krefeld

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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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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)

Brussels

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Galeries Royales

Galeries Royales

Back at the end of March I took a trip to Dublin and Belfast to celebrate my freedom of movement while I still could, ahead of the UK’s promised crash out of the EU. As an aside, the Brits who drool over a hard or no deal Brexit should be locked up for their own safety.

Well, April arrived without a Brexit. Next deadline - the end of October (but it looks as if that has been postponed as well).

This time I decided on Köln as my destination, via Brussels and - dare I say it - Krefeld.

Revisiting Brussels is always great for me. It is like going to visit an old friend. For several years during the 90s I visited the city regularly. I was on the management board of a multinational joint venture based in Brussels, and also had lobbying to do - mostly at the EU Commission.

Brussels Dawn

Brussels Dawn

The whole journey there was just like an attack of déja vu. Brussels Airlines to Brussels - it used to be Sabena until the 9-11 economic shock killed it off. The SNCB train from the airport to Gare Centrale. The short walk to my hotel.

SNCB Airport (semi) Express

SNCB Airport (semi) Express

Just opposite the station are 4 modern hotels built around a square - Ibis, Hilton, Carrefour de L’Europe and a Novotel. Until now I had stayed in 3 out of 4, and this time I stayed in the Novotel to make up the full set.

Novotel

Novotel

Usually it would have been outside my budget but Brussels hotels are often full all week and then quieter at weekends, so cheaper deals come up. I knew I was unlikely to need their breakfast with an 8.30 train to catch in the morning, and at €22 it was going to be easy to find a sensible alternative.

Fast (Green) Food

Fast (Green) Food

Between getting to the hotel about 8pm and that early morning train, I had little time to do more than eat and sleep, but just being in those familiar places was really enjoyable.

Posted by IainT 10:56 Archived in Belgium Tagged belgium brussels brexit Comments (0)

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