Results tagged “Trains” from Europe 2016

Gosh it all seems like so long ago, but it was only a couple of days.

The hotel in Brussels was decent enough. Cool enough room temperature (although still not cool enough to use the doona, so it went), hard bed and really good block out curtains meant a fairly good sleep. Breakfast was relatively small for such a big hotel.

Security outside the terminal was a bit silly. The directed some people through the bag checks but not others. ??? Weird. So got inside and confirmed that Brussels airport is very un user friendly. Because we were a bit early, there was no sign saying where Etihad checkins were, so we went to their little booth up the back to find out. They were on the end, but turns out it was the first day they'd used that section since the attacks a while back, so they were having *issues* - with the printing of boarding passes. So checkin took three quarters of an hour :( Then another half an hour to get through security and passport control.

We had an A330 for the first flight, but had been separated by the travel agent. So we asked at checkin if mum could get a window seat, which she could, which was good. Turns out we both had empty seats next to us. Go figure.

I watched Ratatouille first up which I hadn't seen in ages. Then I watched Rocky, which I'd never actually seen before. There were a few things that annoyed me about it, like how Adrian was clearly uncomfortable being in his house but he pushed on anyway. If it'd had been me I would have been out of there. Same with the fight with his manager. "Oh I hate you, no I really I don't can you be my manager". Whatevs. Didn't have time for a third movie, so watched the first half of Frozen.

At Abu Dhabi we parked way away from the terminal so needed a bus to the terminal. Which went around and around and took ages. By the time we got through security it was basically time to board our next flight. Luckily the gate was near the security end, didn't have to walk alllll the way down the terminal. But. We did need to go to the toilet, so had to walk alllll the way down the terminal. Ok not quite, but it was a long way and we were getting a bit stressed. Not that we should have been stressed, we sat on the plane for like an hour before we started moving.

So our second plane was an A380. And of course our seats were booked by a travel agent. So they were pretty bad - over the wing :( At least it wasn't too bad a flight to be stuck over the wing. Take off to the west at Abu Dhabi, but at night. Then over the Indian Ocean for the night. For the day we were flying over Australia, but there's really not a huge amount to see. Night time by the time we got to Sydney. That's the only time a better seat would have mattered, as we came in from the north and had Sydney on our left so that was nice. Could see it a bit over the top of the engines. The GPS had issues keeping on track. But the A380s are definitely a lot quieter than A330s. Or maybe that's just because we were in front of the engines instead of behind them.

The screens are also huge and bright on the A380s. Which makes them great for watching movies. The problem is you can see everyone else's as well. Which isn't really a problem unless you're trying to sleep and the lights flash in your face (Stu knows how much *that* annoys me). I had restless legs for the whole first half of the flight. Blerf. Watched The Martian first up. I'd been putting off watching this since I'd been hoping to see it on a bigger screen (Stu and EffanC watched it without me on their big screen and I'd been grumpy about it ever since). On the A380 screen it was perfectly adequate. Pretty decent movie too. Next I watched Eddie the Eagle which was just a lovely movie. Then I watched That Sugar Film - a documentary by an Australian guy looking into what effects processed sugar has on people's bodies. Quite interesting. Started to watch Rio 2, but was getting quite tired (it was about 3am Europe time). Finally my legs relaxed and I dozed for an hour or so. But then mum started fussing around and my gps lost its way and mum put on a movie which started flashing in my eyes (even with the eye patches on) so gave up on any more sleep. Finished watching Rio 2. Pretty silly movie.

If I don't get sick from that flight it'll be a miracle. The plane was full of sick people, including one behind and one beside us. Blerf.

Disembarked, picked up all my whiskey, breezed through immigration, and quickly through customs as well. Then trained it back to mum's, got to her place a bit after 8pm Sydney time, midday Europe time. I decided I wanted to go home and see the sweetie. The 7-Eleven at Sutherland was closed, as was a chunk of the M1 so had to use the Old Princes Highway. Got petrol at Sutton Forest, and got some food at The Scottish Restaurant there too, which helped keep me awake. Got home around midnight.

So all in all a pretty good trip. Saw lots of great scenery and had good weather for most of it. The biggest stresses were all the people. Not that I didn't get along with anyone, there were just so many (on the last tour at least) which just makes everything a bit stressful. Looking forward to a bit less stress at home, not really looking forward to going back to the dramas going on at work :)

Sleep and breakfast, rinse and repeat.

After breakfast, around 9am, we headed out. We wandered down to the fortress, expecting to have to pay to go in and possibly you do to go in the buildings, but you can walk all around the grounds for free which was pretty cool. We wandered around for three quarters of an hour and there's some great views of the city.

Then we headed up to the Historical Museum, because our tickets for the viking ship museum covered it. Didn't really spend all that much time there.

Then back to the hotel to sort out our bags and get ourselves ready. We'd done 10000 steps before lunch time!

The hotel was in a super convenient location - right on top of the station. So getting to the trains was super easy. We went and got some tickets for the regular train, not the airport express, because it's like half the price to do it that way. The train got up to 200 km/h for most of the trip and took about the same amount of time as the airport express anyway. And it had free wifi :)

Got to the airport and checked in. Check in and bag drop was all electronic and super easy, didn't have to interact with any humans at all. Oslo airport is generally quite user friendly. There's plenty of shops in the terminal too to look at while waiting. I finished up yesterday's photo sorting then grabbed a slice of pizza for lunch. Then mum and I went through all of her photos that I'd scanned recently and labelled what we could.

Our plane was about half an hour late leaving, I forget the reason why.  Technical difficulties I think. Took off to the south and saw Oslo as we flew over it. Then over the Netherlands - pretty sure I saw Schipol and Rotterdam but really need to see the gps track to be sure. Rain as we arrived in Brussels.

Brussels airport is *not* very user friendly. We wanted to see about our flights tomorrow, but we first had to try and figure out which terminal it would likely go from. After wandering around trying to find anything useful, but failing, we thought we'd just go check in to the hotel and dump our bags then come back and try again. Even trying to get out of the airport to get to the hotel (which is conveniently just across the road from the terminal we came out of) was a drama. I couldn't even see emergency exit signs anywhere. We ended up asking someone how to get out of the damned terminal! Fail fail fail.

So checked into the hotel (it was about 19:40 by this point and we were tired and hungry). Had a look at the restaurant downstairs, but it looked expensive and uninspiring, so we went back to the airport. Because of the bombings a while back, security is pretty intense. There's no car pickups/dropoffs outside the terminal anymore - people have to use the parking garages for that. Not even any taxis.  They must go somewhere, but don't know where. So the road between the terminal and the hotel is pedestrian only, with a security tent setup for access to the terminal, and a *lot* of heavily armed soldiers and police. Apparently from tomorrow the split terminal checkins are merging back into the one. Or something. Also apparently only passengers are allowed into the terminals at the moment - no visitors or people saying goodbye. Not that they actually checked that when we went back in so whatevs.

Anyway, found something to eat (just some pasta), then back to the hotel.

Slept reasonably well again last night. Taking the doona out of its cover certainly does seem to work. I just have this weird mental block against doing it, because that's not How Things Should Be Done.

Decent breakfast again. 7:30 out the door.

Long driving day today. Past lots of fjords.

But.

The seat rotation has put us on the wrong side of the coach to see them. As we're driving south, all the fjords are on the right, and we're on the left of the coach pretty much until the end of the trip. So this sux epically.

But what's worse is that the lucky people on the right side of the coach are WASTING IT!!!! We're in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and many of the people with the right side window seats were sleeping or reading or playing on their tablets. Why even bother doing this tour people?? If these people don't care about looking at the scenery they should swap with people that do (read: me). As it was I was hanging over people trying to see out the windows for the morning and get photos where possible. It was the most frustrating and then depressing morning so far. I. Hate. People. A lot.

Had a photo stop in Gildetun up on the side of a moutnain, a morning pitstop in Storslett and a lunch pitstop in Nordkjosbotn.

After that the weather closed in and made visibility pretty poor, and we were going over the mountains not next to the fjords so I ended up having a bit of a snooze.

Had a toilet pitstop in Bjerkvik.

Late in the afternoon we ended up back on the border in Riksgransen in Sweden to take beautiful train trip down from the border along one of the fjords and into Narvik. Very pretty, although it was very grey and dreary. Can see how it would be even more spectacular on a good day. At least I got a good window seat for it.

In Narvik the coach disappeared to the service entrance to unload our bags, so we gave up on the idea of bringing our own bags up. Went up the 16th floor to get some photos, then went for a wander to find some dinner. Ended up at the Italian restaurant with another couple which was nice, but the serving sizes were *huge*! Oops. I just keep getting fatter and fatter....

Today was meant to be a rest day. I think I did more walking today than any other day so far. *checks pedometer*. Yep, most by far. So I have beer. By myself for now but hopefully others will be down soon.

We also got great value out of a Munich daily transport ticket.

But backing up a little. Slept reasonably well. With the window wide open it was possible to sleep under the doona which was nice.

Breakfast was ok, although the choices were very limited - no salad stuff or bread rolls.

Spent a bit of time after breakfast sorting myself out, although it would have been better if I'd had internet #grunt

Heading out, the hotel is near the end of the #16 tram line. So we hopped on that (we just missed one while we were getting our daily tickets), thinking we'd be able to catch it allllll the way through the city to the other side at Romanplatz.

Except.

This IDIOT WOMAN DRIVER blithley turned left in front of our tram. Tram skidded to a halt but we still smashed into her car. Noone on the tram was hurt (the driver called out straight away), and she was lucky enough to be hit in the rear left door not the rear front door otherwise she'd likely have been hurt. But of course that meant we had to get off the tram with no idea what to do next. Turns out everyone else was walking down to a nearby bus stop. We followed, and jumped on the bus (#154). Only then did we find out where it was going. Turns out just one stop down was the end of the Arabella Park U-bahn line (U4), so got onto that to head into the city. I think it actually beat the tram in terms of time as the trams are pretty slow.

From HBF it was the #17 tram to Schloss Nymphenburg.

We hadn't really thought about going into the palace, but since we were there and it was only 6 EUR to get into just the palace bit, and you could take photos, we decided to go in. It was pretty spectacular. Wandered the grounds for a bit as well before heading out. On the way out we passed eight other people from our tour that were on their way in!

Took the #17 tram back to the HBF, then an S-train to Marienplatz.

Coming out of Marienplatz we looked up and went up the first tower we could see that had people up it. Turns out it was the tower of the Rathaus, and you actually go up by lift not stairs! Pretty good view from the top, although the view from St Peter's would probably have been a little better.

By this point I was tired and hungry and low blood sugar, and you don't want to talk to me when I'm at that point. We went into the Ratskeller because we saw we could just get an appetiser (rosti and sauerkraut) rather than a huge meal (I really did want the pork knuckle but it was 1:30pm and mum didn't want to eat that much food so I sadly forewent the deliciousness). At least the Ratskeller had free wifi.

Next we went for a walk so I could find a post office to send a bunch of paperwork home so I wouldn't have to cart it around for the next part of our trip. On the way found a cute store selling Bavarian traditional dress. They weren't expensive either. Considered buying some (I'd totally fill out a beer wench outfit ;) ).

Walked up past the cathedral and went in briefly. Then down to the Hofbrauhaus to have a look and recreate one of dad's funeral photos from when he was there in 2009.

By this time it was 4:45pm and I was already past the point of wanting to stop and just sit down and have a beer. But we took a tram #19 from Maximillian Strasse to Max II Denkmal, then a tram #18 up to the museum to watch the surfers.

Then another tram #18 back down to Lehel U-bahn station, a train to HBF and another train up to Konigsplatz so mum could see the Tor (it looked pretty cool in the afternoon light).

Got the train back to HBF and I was wondering where I could get a beer in a beer garden. But I didn't know of any places. Got out at Odeonsplatz and took some photos but I was feeling tired and grumpy so just got back on the train and went to Max Weber Platz. I saw a Hofbrauhaus on the map and thought to go for that but mum suggested a tiny little place just before we'd gotten there. So we stopped there but rude German guy pushed in in front of me to get a drink and the atmosphere just wasn't right so had a quick beer then left. And walked right past the Hofbrauhaus that I'd been wanting to go to - doh!!

By this time it was 18:00 so took a tram #16 back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel I downloaded photos and tried to log what we did today, before going in for the final group dinner. The waitress we got tonight was super grumpy about *everything* which just added to the woes of this hotel.

Sadly, yet again, I couldn't be with the sweetie on our anniversary today :(

Slept well for the first half of the night, but woke up to pee and had pretty broken sleep after that.

Breakfast was much the same today as yesterday (but they had bacon today!)

We were given the morning off to do what we liked. Except it was raining.

We decided to go to the Checkpoint Charlie museum first, since it opened at 9am and it was raining. I wish I'd done a bit more research, because if I had, I probably wouldn't have gone. I was expecting a lot more about the history of the wall and the escape attempts, and there was a little bit of that. But most of the museum is just a rabbit warren of rooms *covered* in text and some photos. And most of it has nothing to do with the wall. There was an awful lot about world politics.  There was stuff on Ronald Reagan. There was stuff on prisoners in North Korea. There was even some stuff on Picasso and art.

!?

It was the most confusing and disorganised museum I've ever been to. Really didn't enjoy much of it at all. As we came out we found maps which *may* have helped cut down the confusion.

So we'd gotten to the museum by an M29 bus. We bought all day tickets (7EUR) so we could hop on and off without having to stress about tickets. The bus stop where we got on sold tickets, although they only worked with coins and credit cards, although it wouldn't take mum's credit card so she had to buy hers on the bus (I didn't have enough coinage for both tickets). After the museum, we decided to take trains to Alexanderplatz. Getting to Friedrichstrasse was easy enough, but Friedrichstrasse is a huge, confusing, and very badly signed station. We got quite confused about where to go to get a train to Alexanderplatz and ended up asking someone.

At Alexanderplatz we walked out of the station and looked up. Good news! We could see the tower. Which meant we'd be able to see out of it. So went and lined up at the first security checkpoint to get into the building. Because it had been raining the queue was very short - only a few people in front of us. Inside we took one look at the queue to buy tickets, and went over to the vending machines to get them. Went straight in :) (after passing another security check). It was mostly cloudy, but quite clear, and the sun started to peek through. Took photos out of every window to make a panorama. It'll be interesting to compare photos from this trip to the ones I took last time to see what sort of construction has happened in the past eight years. We also ran into several groups of people from the tour who had the same idea as us. They couldn't get into the Reichstag dome because there were no available tickets til 6pm!

Next we headed back down to find the chocolate shop Robert and Winsome had told us about. And continued to get frustrated with the public transport system here. Specifically signage for people that need to figure out where to go. Or, as the case may be, the complete lack of it. Some stations had at least a board that had the stations on the line it was on. But others didn't. And very few of them have an overall network map so you can figure out which line you have to be on and which direction to go. *Eventually* found the right train at Alexanderplatz and went to Statdmitte, where we found the chocolate shop right outside the train station entrance.

The chocolate shop is pretty amazing. It's got all these huge models made out of chocolate, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Fernsehturm, and even the Titanic and an A380! I bought myself a small sample of chockies to try.

Then back to the hotel. Train from Stadtmitte to Halesches Tor to change trains (and a long walk rivalling the Paris metro to change trains) for a train to Uhlandstrasse.

Only had a very brief stop at the hotel, then we were on the coach, heading out to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. It was only a small camp in the scheme of things, and not a lot is left, but it was quite interesting, and pretty sad.

Finally back to the hotel. Got some stuff done before dinner (nice again as always) and finished up after dinner. Time to wash hair.

Saturday morning I mostly finished packing and organising, and headed for Sydney around 10am. I didn't manage to get any music to listen to put onto my phone, so didn't end up listening to anything.

When I got to mum's, we went down for the village trivia afternoon. We did quite well in the three question rounds (actually we won that part of the scoring), but did really badly in the filler round which let us down so we came second.

Then we got ourselves ready and went and caught the five o'clock train from Kirrawee and caught the train out to the airport.

Checked in (the Etihad signage was a bit bad and it was sending economy to the business class checkin.. fail!!), did the automatic machine thingie for immigration then through security. Had a wander through the duty free store and stocked up on some whiskeys. Then went and found something to eat for a light dinner (since dinner on the plane wasn't going to be for a while), and finally found some of the others travelling together with us.

We had an A380 for the first flight. I still think they're ugly and overrated. And this time I couldn't get a strong enough GPS signal. I finally got it by going to an exit door which gets a lot closer to the sky. But it struggled to maintain a lock. Very frustrating.  So missed out on any sort of GPS track for most of the trip.  The planes so have internet and mobile reception though, so was able to SMS the sweetie from over the Indian ocean and over India :)

I had some pasta for dinner, but didn't eat quite all of it. Watched Slumdog Millionaire which was pretty good. At midnight I attempted to doze. In fact attempted to doze for the next seven hours. I don't really know how successful I was. But the time did feel shorter than seven hours, so probably did get a bit of sleep. Then I watched The Heat (pretty silly), while having breakfast, followed by Star Wars The Force Awakens. But unlike Qantas, they don't allow you to play movies right up to the gate, so missed the end. At least, unlike Qantas, Etihad have pretty good quality screens to watch things on.

At Abu Dhabi we wandered through the security check for transfers, then wandered up to the pretty circular terminal to hang out for a couple of hours before the next flight. We looked around the shops, then had some Scottish Restaurant for our next meal (breakfast had been a few hours ago, and it was still a few more hours til our next one).

Our next flight was an Air Berlin A330.

I finished watching Star Wars. Brunch was a choice between chicken rolls and cheese rolls, so I had a cheese one.

Then I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I didn't think I'd seen, but part way through I realised I had. Oops.

I got spun out by all the snow on the mountains of Iran and Turkey (they fastidiously avoided Iraqi and Syrian airspace). Flew over Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, but they were all covered in clouds and couldn't see anything.

I tried watch Maze Runner, but it was too dark to see it (a lot of people had their windows open and it was very bright). So watched The Incredibles instead.

"Dinner", although lunch time Berlin time, was a chicken and veggies thing.

So got to Berlin and parked out on the tarmac and took a bus to the terminal which is always cool. Took ages to get through passport control though - too many people all at once (it was totally deserted after we got through). I suppose most flights there are "domestic" (EU) flights, so they probably don't deal with huge numbers of international flights - they all tend to go to Frankfurt etc I'm guessing.

Met up with the tour guide (Roberto) and our bags were taken to the coach. It was pretty cold, I think they said 6C, but I didn't find it unpleasant. Got driven straight to our hotel.

Hotel is nice enough. Although has the european "all or nothing" setup with the doonas, and we couldn't get the air conditioning to get cold. We dumped our stuff. I had a shower. After forty hours since my last shower, it felt great.  Also reorganised our bags from flying mode to ground mode.

Then we headed out for a wander. Mum wanted to find a Deutsche Bank cause she can withdraw with less fees. We ended up half way to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, so wandered down there to have a look. Last time we couldn't go in and they were repairing the mosaics on the floors. Now you can go in and it's quite beautiful inside.  Because the hotel was so hot I didn't think to take a jumper.  It was pretty cold in the wind and everyone was all rugged up.  I think I was the only crazy person in a tshirt :)  But didn't get very cold.

Came back to the hotel and had some dinner - a delicious soup, some pork and some nice chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce.

Then to bed. Went to bed around 9pm I think and pretty much passed out. Woke up to pee (and all hot and sweaty cause the room was so hot), then back to sleep (with no doona at all) till quarter to seven. Epic win!