Tag Archives: trains

Berlin Part One

On the way to Berlin, the night had crept thickly over the landscape and I could barely see anything outside. The city lights were a welcome guest to my bored eyes, and I was excited to be at the end of what felt like my longest leg so far.

 

Arrival

The second I stepped off the train, I was reminded that Germany was the powerhouse of the EU. Berlin Hauptbahnhof is simply amazing! With 5 levels, 54 escalators, 6 panoramic elevators, a 1,800 m² solar roof, the station forms fitting testament to Germany’s industrial or economic might. Trains whizz above and below you with their tracks floating on almost invisible structural supports. It all looked like something from a set of a futuristic space hub. The stations that I had seen before either centred around an outdoor or indoor design. This station took both to a whole other  level and them combined them!

Putting my bags away

Not only was this station the most brilliant I’d seen thus far, but it’s surroundings were no less impressive. I knew my nightly accommodations were close by, but couldn’t have imagined that it was effectively attached to the station! The Meininger Hotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof was exemplary in every way and was my favourite accommodation thus far. It was a pity I only stayed for a single night though. The company’s website poses the question, “so what exactly is the difference between a hostel and a hotel?” and showed me that there can be as little difference as the company chooses to emphasize. I will give details during my hostel/accommodation post series. But I will say that I paid the price of an upscale hostel and received the service given at a regular hotel, in addition to proximity to the centre of things as much as many a 4-star property.

Don’t forget, more photos are included in my Facebook fan page gallery(click here)

 

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Headed to Berlin!

 

Leaving Cologne, I was a bit upset with the difference between the long-distance trains I had so far used on the Continent with those I had used in Britain. The one I had used to travel to Cologne from Amsterdam didn’t have a charger port for my computer, and now the one I am using to get to Berlin only has one. (I know #first-world-problems right?)

I had paid for a train reservation online before I left London for the trip connecting Berlin and Cologne. I had overslept in Amsterdam, however, and missed the two early morning connections to Berlin. Because the train to Berlin from Cologne is over 4.5 hours, the time I planned to spend in Berlin would have been devoted to after-dark activities. This meant that in order for the time in Cologne to be worthwhile, I had to leave on a later train than the one I had previously reserved.

Headed to Berlin 3 hours off schedule, I hoped for the best!

 

Amsterdam

Holland vs. Netherlands

When I called my credit card company and had them authorize my card for international purchase, I had to list every country I wanted to use it in. When it came to this northern European state, I took a pause, as I was accustomed to the use of either name given in the section heading. Well, for the credit card company, for future courtesies abroad, and for my own personal increase, I decided to do a bit of research. Typing in Holland in many fact-finding web sites will redirect you to the page for the Netherlands, but there has to be a difference right? Well, the answer is both yes and noHolland properly refers to the geographic region presently occupied by two western Dutch coastal provinces: North Holland and South Holland. The word is commonly used as a pars pro toto (a term describing a concept called by the name of one of its lesser parts), with this region of the Netherlands, being used to refer to the whole.

Dutch in other provinces, understandably, do not like this designation, and as far as possible, the country should be referred to as the Netherlands when visiting. The Netherlands is notable in that Amsterdam is established by the constitution as the country’s capital. However, Den Haag (The Hague) playing host to the parliament, government, supreme court, and embassies and international organization headquarters,  is the seat of government.

Pedestrianism

One of the things that will immediately strike you is the amount of road space dedicated to bicyclists. Check out the upcoming video post!

The Coffeeshops

You will definitely see many coffeeshops (written as one word in Dutch) in the Netherlands. Although it is illegal to sell the drug in the country, they are licensed to sell cannabis in small quantities to consumers without fear of legal reprimand. They must, however, operate within limits (e.g. they cannot sell to persons under the age of 18).  As recently as April of this year however, the ban of the sale of such products to foreigners has been upheld by Dutch courts.

 
Link to Facebook gallery for more photos

The Street Names

The streets in Amsterdam were often confusing to find on a map. Asking for directions was also a chore, seeing as I had no idea at first how to pronounce the German Eszett (“ß”). Hint: It’s pronounced like a long or double s. Even when words looked simple enough, like the street sign pictured in the gallery, the locals weren’t able to understand me.

The XXX Symbol

This symbol that you will see emblazoned across many a street or sign has nothing to do red light districts or the sort. What appear to be x‘s are actually Saint Andrew’s Crosses like those that appear in the coat of arms of Amsterdam and on the Amsterdam official Flag. There are different theories as to their meaning, but one says that they were derived from the coat of arms of a noble whose estate once covered a large part of the city.

Heineken

As you may or may not know, Heineken, one of the most awesome beers ever brewed [not an endorsement] is Dutch. In Amsterdam, the old brewery has been transformed into the Heineken Experience, a great tourist attraction that I was unable to visit due to my short stay in the city.

Airports, Seaports, Train stations: Wien Westbahnhof, Vienna, Austria (Background)

One of the most exciting places to visit while traveling is usually the first place you leave and the first place you arrive at at both the start and end of the trip. Modern airports, seaports, and train stations are designed to mesmerize and to entertain visitors. They do this not only to keep visitors occupied, but to make sure that they spend their last dime before leaving the host country. The website’s background is currently a photo of the Wien Westbahnhof in Vienna, Austria. It is one of the two train stations I will be visiting on my travel through Austria.

Tip 1

Remember that if you were to get lost, maps are only as helpful as they are legible. It is important that you learn the endonyms for places you plan to visit.The German Wien is the endonym for Vienna and Bahnhof translates to station in English. German is sometimes fun for English speakers because of the common linguistic heritage. Hence, the west in Wien Westbahnhof means just that, west or western.

Tip 2

If you are going backpacking through Europe, do not assume in planning (as I once did) that your destination train station to a country will be the one you will use to leave that country for another. This will occur twice on my trip, In Vienna, Austria and in Paris, France. Below is a small gallery of photos of the Wien Westbahnhof and Bahnhof Wien-Meidling and some interesting places near both that I plan to visit. By these stations I will enter Austria (Österreich) from the Czech Republic and leave for Italy (Italia).

Nearby Locations

  • Schloss Schönbrunn
    Schönbrunner Schlossstraße, Wien
    1130
  • Naschmarkt
    Wienzeile 1, Wien 1040
  • Stephansdom
    Stephansplatz, Wien 1010
  • Museumsquartier
    Museumsplatz 1, Wien 1070
  • Prater
    Prater, Wien
  • Hundertwasserhaus
    Löwengasse 43, Wien 1030
  • Belvedere
    Prinz-Eugen-Straße 27, Wien 1030
  • Hofburg
    Michaelerplatz 1, Wien 1010
  • Staatsoper
    Opernring 2, Wien 1010
  • Ringstraße
    Wien 1010