Czech Me Out

Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
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Trip End Feb 24, 2008


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Friday, January 4, 2008

Yes, I know you're really loving the title of this blog entry but I can't take the credit. They sell T-shirts with this appallingly corny (crap-tastic even?) slogan on them all over Prague but I thought that since I left the Czech Republic today it would be appropriate.

We suffered delays before we even left the hotel this morning. The one and only lift that services the hotel in the residential and office building decided it was going to malfunction after breakfast and was thus incapable of leaving the reception. We were subsequently granted permission to use one of the less glamorous regular building lifts and an extra flight of stairs to get back to the room to finish packing and get ready to check out. Happily the lift decided it wanted to function properly for our departure and so we got down, not to the Metro, but to the tram stop as planned.

During our travels in Prague I had discovered that our favourite tram route 12 ran as far as Prague Holesovice station, our point of departure today, and so we chose this fun and scenic trip over the 2 leg Metro trip that we had employed to get to the hotel on our arrival. Unfortunately our tram was one of the 90's era sets so I am yet to ride one of the few new all low floor Skoda trams that we see running around every now and then. Bummer.

Before our all Czech Railways EuroCity arrived we witnessed a SuperCity Pendolino service depart for Vienna, bringing back our happy memories from our arrival. Our train had come from Vienna and was continuing as far as Binz, past Straslund in Germany but for some reason the buffet was not ready to serve us when we boarded so the parents had to delay their usual train-boarding caffene hit. The railways should consider free coffees on boarding for 1st class passengers, Mum and Dad would love it!

Our warm drinks were served to our seat as part of the 1st class service and we enjoyed them as we travelled down the river valley to Germany. Some sloppy halts and a longer than necessary crew change in the Czech Republic delayed our train so we arrived in Dresden some 7 minutes late. Normally this isn't such a big deal but with our connecting ICE (Electric tilting version) leaving only 9 minutes after our scheduled arrival we were anxious about this connection. Thankfully the DB staff had held the ICE, aware that several passengers were connecting, so we did have to time to get onboard although we did have to walk through the train from the Bistro to our seats in the front car.

I can't over-emphasise how much we all love the InterCityExpress trains and the service one receives onboard, especially in 1st class. Our yummy Nuremburger Wurst mit Kartofelsalat (potato salad) lunch was delivered to our seats along with some good Warsteiner beer (finally!). We dined with real crockery around our table as we tilted into the curves and hurtled through the countryside very smoothly at 200km/h - extremely civilised. As if this wasn't enough, after our meals were completed and cleared away DB provided us with free chocolates! This appears to be a regular ICE 1st class perk and they weren't just cheapo Cadbury, we're talking really good chocolate cabinet stuff here, mmmmmmmm... We all agreed that it was such a shame that our ICE leg was so short, we want more!

Our next change, in Leipzig, was more generous at 25 minutes and that hadn't been diminished because our ICE had made up time from the late departure to arrive smack-bang on time. The station in Leipzig is a fantastic grand terminus, featuring soaring masonary arches and high ceilings. I can't wait to spend more time in and around this complex when I stay in Leipzig with Belinda later this month.

The IC onward to Halle was formed by an arriving and terminating service and was still thus being cleaned and turned around when we boarded, about 5 minutes before departure. The trip was a short 24 minutes so we sat down and had to get up again almost straight away!

An unavoidable problem with our trip is the 1 hour connection at Halle. Unfortunately there is no DB Lounge at this moderately large station (we have access with our 1st class Eurail passes) so we spent our time in the warm food court having a bite of afternoon tea. The Regional Express Harz Express that would take us to today's destination of Wernigerode was starting at Halle so we were able to board 15 minutes before the departure time. The service was operated by more modern, adTranz variants of the tilting triebwagens on which we had travelled from Nuremburg to Cheb.

The Harz Express was just that, tilting to speed along the single track diesel line on it's journey toward Hannover. It is sad to compare that a regional train on a single track diesel branch averages 140km/h, to provide a great level of service but the Prospector, the flagship passenger train at home, in somewhat similar circumstances runs a timetable averaging just 100km/h.

Night had fallen by the time we arrived in Wernigerode so we grabbed a taxi to our hotel. La Rustica in Wernigerode is a nice wooden building, with a restaurant on the ground floor and rooms in 3 stories above that. It's great staying here as the floors creak all the time, there are wooden uprights through the middle of my room and it just generally has this great charm about it. Thankfully I'm in a separate room to my parents so no more snoring!

Dinner was in the restaurant downstairs which gave us some great local tucker and fantastic home-made tiramisu for desert. Today has been about great travel and great food: great times.

Tomorrow we hit the Brockenbahn for a steam-hauled trip up to the Brocken mountain which should be fantastic, seeya then.


PS. I never finished the story of Charles and his flight misadventures. For those of you who were wondering he was reunited with his bags, a few hours before he flew onward from Toronto to New York! I guess he may need to revisit Toronto at some stage to see everything he missed.
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