Funicular Fun

Trip Start Dec 04, 2004
Trip End Feb 24, 2005

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Flag of Germany  ,
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Today was an earlier start for us as we wanted to catch the 9am train out of the Hbf to Karlsruhe. This was our first IRE (InterRegioExpress), it appeared to be a slightly older/not as well equiped EC. The trip was about 55 minutes, it was good to see the scenery change, even though that meant no snow at all by the time we reached our destination. Don`t think it wasn`t cold though, again we had another -2C day!
Karlsruhe is another charming little city. It is of course famous in a rail sense because of its S-bahn tram system. The local S-bahn vehicles are light rail/trams that travel along the streets in the center of town, as a normal tram does, but then go on their own reserves further out and some even end up on the DB network in the suburbs! At the Hbf some of the S-bahn lines leave from the street out the front, whilst others leave from the platforms inside the complex! It is truly bizare, yet cool in a way because it`s special; a truly un-Australian way to solve the problem of creating a transit system through the center of town. Karlsruhe also has normal tram lines, that have normal trams on them and operate as normal trams, no conventional rail running.
We caught the S-bahn out to the suburb of Durlauch, which we had passed on the way in to the Hbf from Stuttgart. From the station here we walked the 1.5km to the funicular station, as we are too tight-arsed to buy tickets to catch the tram there. It was a windy day, so the wind-chill quickly made sure we forgot that our ears and noses existed. Our reward for our walk - "Funicular only operates Fri, Sat, Sun"!!! Dissapointed to say the least (this looks as though it would`ve been our steepest funicular yet, and it was snowy up the top by the looks of things) we walked back to the station, walking down the pedestrian malls with their cobbled streets with the trams passing by, which all made it quite pleasant (even though we were slowly freezing), certainly very different from anything back home. At least we could see one of the cars through the glass waiting at the station.
We caught a different S-bahn line back into the center of town, this time via the streets, where we visited the Christmas Markets (not too big or exciting, yet still charming and vibrant) and the Castle. The castle was very impressive, though more of a place. It`s one of the bigger ones on our visited list, we took time to explore the gardens, even though the 'kleine zug' was closed for its winter break.

UPDATE - 27/12/04
Lunch was had before catching an S-bahn tram back into the main station to catch our normal, heavy rail only s-bahn train out to Heildelberg.
At the station, we bought our local public transport authority day tickets and hopped on the bus that would take us through the town to the foot of the mountain, where we could board the funicular to take us to the castle.
Upon arrival at the base station what did we find but a sign saying that the funicular (which would've been the longtest for us so far) was closed for work, showing nice concept drawings of what it will look like with the new cars etc. That's 2 funiculars closed in one day, not very good going. We wandered around and soaked up the stereotypical architecture before making it back to the Hbf for an ICE (3rd generation) direct to Stuttgart. Of course we didn't spend money on seat reservations, and as the train terminated in Stuttgart it was really empty when it arrived. Charles and I managed to get a seat in the front 3 rows of the train, behind the driver (who is seperated only by glass), which are tiered so that everyone can see out the front as the train goes along. Charles did get a little worried as the driver used his mobile phone whilst driving.

Our last day in Stuttgart we explored more of what this city had to offer for itself.
The Christmas Market in Stuttgart does have something that really gives it a benefit over all the others. It has a live mini steam railway, a temporary set-up, which isn't a first. This one is better as it is a nice big figure of 8, with thousands of little electric model trains running around, all different scales, in the cold inside the loop. The freezing temperatures helped to make the steam effects way better too.
Before the heading out to the English cinema in the suburbs again for the 4pm session of the Phantom of the Opera, we headed out on the U bahn tram to see other parts of the mountainous areas of Stuttgart.
Closer in to the city center, at Marienplatz there is a very cool rack tram system which we rode up to the top of the mountain, where there were more houses and a shopping/comercial district. There were several stops along the way, servicing various housing areas. The tram was the narrow gauge of the older u-bahn trams in the city. Once at the bottom again, we travelled further on the u-bahn to a more remote suburb where there was a funicular. This was a very old, fully restored system with the original wooden cars. We creaked our way up the mountain, offering a nice, natural setting with some snow and ice around to explore. There was a cemetry up here, and many flower shops and overpriced cafes, yet we could've been 50km away from the rest of the world.
Back at the valley again, the U-bahn took us further to the cinema. Because of our early arrival, we went to the large underground shopping centre for lunch and then visited some supermarkets to stock up with cheap drinks and some other supplies that are uneconomical to purchase elsewhere.
The movie was significantly more empty than the Incredibles, but it was really great. It was quite powerful at times and showed Charles and I where all those famous songs we'ld played our heard had come from. It's interesting knowing the story now after all these years of being told it's great etc.

Tom Pacy
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