It's Heating Up
Trip Start Dec 04, 2004
37Trip End Feb 24, 2005
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Getting back to where I left you, on our last full day in Düsseldorf, we were travlleing to Dortmund via Wuppertal using the "Happy Weekend" ticket to travel on regional trains. Wuppertal was more mountainous than I had thought. The whole town is long and stretched out along the valley, with only a little development up the slopes. We were in town to ride the Wuppertal monorail, the oldest still operating monorail in the world, having openned in 1901. The ride was scenic, travelling over the river through the middle of the town. It was also more than your average exciting monorail ride as it's a suspended system, running with a steel wheel (with flanges on both sides) on a steel rail, swinging around the corners and at the stations
We followed the crowds out of the crampt Dortmund Hbf up the street to the mall, which had several Weinhartsmarkts stretched down it. There were masses of people here to enjoy the festivities, curiously none of the shops were open, as it was a Sunday. This also meant that the tourist office was also shut, on a Sunday! As if any tourists would come on a Sunday or public holiday! How naive of us to even THINK that! The main Christmas market there did have some cool unique qualities, like lots of strings of lights leading from stalls up to the top of the church and some different decorations. Since Dortmund was shut, we had lunch before walking through several malls and streets to explore the town back to the Hauptbahnhof.
Back in Düsseldorf we went to a net cafe so I could update the blog and we could find a cinema ('kino' in German) that was showing films in their original English version. We found the only place in town and caught the tram in a tunnel, before making its way to the street (the freaky U-bahn) to the cinema. We caught the 5:30pm session of Ocean's 12, which we both enjoyed.
Charles harassin me to get off now.
Update this entry more later.
UPDATED 22/12/04 - 15:50:
Our final morning in Düsseldorf was spent having a sleep-in and relaxing start to the day before checking out of our hotel, leaving our bags at the reception and catching an RE (covered by the Eurail pass that we were going to use that afternoon anyway) out to the the airport. Charles thought it would be interesting to visit this new facility, that even has 2 specilised viewing decks that we had to pay to have access to. I was happy for this as planes aren`t bad, and the tickets included rides on the airport`s new `SkyTrain´. We saw planes taking off, landing, taxiing, being de-iced (something new to me) and various airport vehicles from the viewing decks - 1 is at the train station building where passengers change to the `SkyTrain´ to get to the terminal and the other is in the terminal itself). The monorail is a new (openned late 2002) system built by Siemens. It is suspended, with the running gear inside the box running rail. It was pretty cool, fully automated and with much less swinging than Wuppertal, which also meant it was less exciting.
Brunch was bought from a cheap cafe in the airport as Charles and I relaxed before catching an almost full InterCity train for the 5 minute trip back into Düsseldorf itself.
We collected our bags from the hotel and made our way to the platform to wait for our ICE (3rd generation) to arrive from Dortmund. We were worried it might be late as earlier in the day we noted that several ICE trains were around 90 minutes late!
The train arrived on time (ok, it was 2 mins late, but that`s not bad!) and we settled down to sample the comfort and joy that is InterCityExpress travel. This trip was our fastest so far, we travelled on Germany`s newest and fastest high speed line, down the western part of the country to Frankfurt airport. We reached 300km/h, overtaking the silly cars on the autobahn that were crawling through the fog cautiously. Snow was noted still lying around under the shadow of a bridge in Köln, showing they had received some, but not Düsseldorf. We also reached speeds of 280km/h on another high speed track just before Stuttgart.
Charles decided it was too cold to go catching the S-bahn and looking for a hotel thus he insisted that we take a taxi. I was fine with this as long as he paid for it, which he agreed to, so we were delivered to our hotel easily in the -1°C temperatures.
The hotel here isn`t bad, for the money we paid. If I had paid full normal prices I would feel ripped off. We each have our own beds and the room is spacious. Breakfast is good, but not as good as Dresden.
As in Düsseldorf, we used our first day in Stuttgart to explore the city and see what it had to offer. This meant a quick S-bahn ride to the Hbf, where we changed to the U-bahn. Stuttgart has taken the "trams that go into a tunnel in the CBD" concept to the extreme. The U-bahn platforms underground are half raised and half curb height, so they can accomodate the newer "trains" and the old trams that also run through. The tram/U-bahn network is even dual gauge in some parts because the old curb height steps tram vehicles run on a narrow gauge (about 1m wide I think), but all the others run on normal standard gauge! We were travelling on one of the older trams, as we zig-zagged our way up the hill overlooking the town. As our altitude increased, it became obvious that it had snowed during the evening here. By the time we reached our destination at the end of the line (the top of the hill), we could see the whole town and how much snow there was up a bit higher. As our hotel was in the center of town, there was little to no snow, but up here we were visiting the town`s 150m high tower, which was surrounded by woodland, all covered in snow. It was a really majestic experience, one tends to forget how mystic snow coverred woods can be. I had fun shaking the snow off several branches whilst walking from the station to the tower.
The tower offered great views of Stuttgart, we managed to pull our hands out of our pockets to use the camera and record the experience despite the literally freezing conditions (-2°C), luckily there wasn`t much of a wind, so windchill was minimal. Surprisingly the tower was built in the 1950s, it certainly has aged well, and the admission was the cheapest of any tower we have encountered thus far.
We returned to town on the scenic tram, lapping up the enchanting snow-covered surroundings. Lunch was nice cheap asian (like Han`s Cafe) at the Hbf, where we did some research for today`s travels to Karlsruhe and Heidelburg.
We returned to the hotel to use the internet (all the places in town are charing upwards of 4.50 euros per hour! That is except for this one I`m at now, which we found today, which is only 2 euros), and to make further plans for our stay here.
We rested until the evening when we had dinner near the hotel, then walked around the corner to the S-bahn station to travel out to the suburbs. We were out to go to Corso Cinema, which is an independent operation (reminiscient of Cinema Paradiso in Perth, excpet smaller) that shows only original version films, whether they be English, French or anything else.
We decided to see The Incredibles as the other movie we want to see (Phantom of the Opera) wasn`t on until after 9pm. This was a surprisingly interesting movie, better than I thought, with lots of gags that set the audience going. It was a good experience as it was with a large english speaking crowd, in a full cinema (it was only small), it kind of felt special and in a way `underground´ as it was a small little cinema and english speaking is definately a minority thing.