Into the Alps (Part 1)

Last week, I disappeared for a little while. But rest assured. I have brought great experiences to share.

Succumbing to the craving for some mountains and snow, I decided to head south (yes, south), to where the majestic mountains met the white fluffy. Into the Alps, I went. Conveniently, I had also in my possession, an Austria-Germany rail pass with 3 days still unused, 2 weeks from its expiry.

It took two trains (both InterCity Express), and the better part of a day to get to Vienna, where I chose to host my overnight stays, from the NRW. Despite all that I’d heard about German efficiency and precision, 33 minutes proved to be not quite enough of a layover to change trains. As I watched the ICE 3 that brought me to Würzburg depart towards its final intermediate stop of Nuremberg before reaching Munich, 40 minutes behind schedule, an extra 2 hours had befallen into my hands. No love lost at this point, Würzburg had been on my bucket list for a day trip, I just needed to make a condensed one out of it.

As I wandered around the old center of this pretty hillside Bavarian city, I could not help being reminded of the reasons for my little grand getaway. Here are the tram tracks and the pedestrian-only central district. There, are the main cathedral, and market square not far from it. At some point before this trip, Western European cities started blending together and looking the same. I needed a different twist.

The next train was worth the wait. The express services from the North of Germany to Vienna turned out to be exclusively ICE-Ts, and this would be my first time stepping foot into one. Sometimes it’s good not to know everything. It wasn’t too busy in the early afternoon on a Tuesday, and I found a nice unreserved window seat with ease. Out with the wine and snacks I’d packed earlier, I let the Bavarian landscape fill my vision and mind.

Darkness had ensued by the time the train was in Passau. This is where the ÖBB crew would take over and bring it home. The final leg of the journey from Linz onward was a remarkably quick hour on the newly upgraded Westbahn. Gone were the windy rails through the woods and hills, came the tunnels that pierced through it all. (Not to worry, for those who enjoy a scenic ride at a leisurely pace, local trains still traversed the old alignments to serve the towns and villages en route). Though I wondered what kind of agreements the DB struck up with ÖBB, given that the ICE-T never broke 112 mph (180 km/h), considerably below the track speed (and coincidentally, its permitted maximum speed in service) of 143 mph (230 km/h).

Soon after 7 pm, we came to our final, and on-time stop in the beautifully modern Wien Hauptbahnhof. As I walked into the brisk November air towards my hotel after a short S-Bahn ride, I could feel the excitement for the early morning that awaited next slowly starting to simmer. (More to come).


Steve Boyko said…
Sounds like a great trip... looking forward to the next part!

We were in the Hauptbahnhof for a trip to Salzburg last fall. Good times!

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