Another holiday with Great Rail Journey’s. A bit more cultural this one if you want to think of it in those terms.
Started Tuesday 20th June with trip down to London with 2 rail journeys that ran to timetable. Found London much warmer than back home in North Berwick. Managed a long walk before evening meal.
Wednesday 21st, as it was an early Eurostar to Brussels it meant early breakfast and into St Pancras for 7.20 am. Met up with a Mrs Louise Smith who got on at Ebbsfleet. Alexander – the tour manager introduced us – this is the same tour manager I’ve had previously. Arrived at hotel (NH Koln Altstadt) in Cologne around 5 pm and I went for a walk before evening meal. I much prefer the hotel to the normal one the company uses. Not as big or corporate.
Following day Thursday 22nd June was another day of travel and another early start. Almost missed breakfast, didn’t wake up until 6.30 am, we had to be out of hotel by 7.15! The train taking us to Munich was supposed to be leaving at 07.55 but it was 15 minutes late, so much for German Rail efficiency. It takes 4 and one half hours for that journey. Time to kill at Munich station then onto Austrian Rail for journey to Vienna. That was over 4 hours and arrived 10-15 minutes late. The hotel we stayed in (Hotel Falkensteiner Margreten) was away from the main city centre but very nice. The room has a walk in shower with space age type controls.
Friday 23rd June was a tour of the city after a tour round Schonbrunn Palace. We were taken on a tour round the inside then had 30 minutes in the grounds before getting back on the coach for a tour round the city. We were dropped off and continued on foot to walk round some of the bits that were tricky for the coach. Had lunch in the city with Alexander and a couple of others then walked around for a bit, took a trip along the river bank then single tram journey back to the hotel for the evening.
Saturday 24th June was a river cruise along the Wachau valley section of the Danube. The excursion started with a coach trip to the town of Melk where we had plenty of time to walk around, have a coffee, admire the views and the monastery where a wedding was scheduled to take place as we left. The coach transferred us to the bottom of town onto the river where we could board a river boat to take us to Krems. It was another warm day and the little breeze helped cool us down. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the river cruise on the Rhine last year. The heat seemed to affect most of the group as they didn’t want to walk into Krems and we just took the coach back into Vienna. The driver took us back via a different route and gave us an unofficial tour of the city including bits we hadn’t been to before. That included the Old Danube section where a week-end festival was taking place.
Sunday was a free day and after breakfast I took the underground to Schonbrunn to spend a couple of hours wandering around the grounds and admiring the views from the hill. Then back on the underground into the city centre, walked around the museums area and had lunch at Landtmann Cafe. Shortly after I finished the very nice meal (yet another apple strudel) it started to rain. A number of people started to take shelter under awnings and in shop doorways but I just walked – it wasn’t that heavy – to Schwedenplaz to pick up the U4 underground back to the hotel. There was a bit of thunder after I got back and the rain got heavier. I must have got the timing right.
Monday 26th June was travel to Salzburg day. The first train of the day took us to Leoben on the Semmering Railway. It was a long, slow climb to the top at Semmering twisting and turning with some excellent views but, tricky to photograph – didn’t bother. Then onto another service into Salzburg using old re-conditioned carriages. Slow and meandering through the valleys. After checking into the hotel (NH Salzburg City)I took a quick walk around town to stretch my legs. Had a text message session with Louise – my nutrionist and agreed appointment after I get back.
Salzburg, Tuesday, morning was a guided tour round the key parts of the town for 2 hours with a local guide – he needs new shoes! After that we were free to do what we wanted for the rest of the day. Salzburg is called Mozart Central. So, I wandered round for a few hours, taking photos, grabbed some food to eat by the river Salz. Then back to hotel for evening meal and chatted to some people at other tables.
Wednesday – The Sound of Music day! A tour by coach of some of the places used in filming that musical. Some of the places visited were composited to appear as the same place (the main house). The grounds and gardens at Hellbrun especially. The trip then continued onto St Gilgen in Salzkammergut but we stopped at Red Bull HQ on the way so that you could see the bulls. Had the chance to walk round St Gilgen which is on Lake Wolfgangsee. Then back on the coach for the trip round to St Wolfgang where there was more time for walking round and grabbing coffee/lunch if you wanted. There was the option for going back to St Gilgen by coach or by boat across the lake. Needles to say the majority wanted to boat trip. From St Gilgen we stopped off at Mondsee for 90 minutes or so. Then back to Salzburg with the music and some of the group singing along.
Two days of travel back home on Thursday and Friday. First from Salzburg to Munich then Munich to Koln where we stayed at the Maritim. The following day there was time for an early morning walk round bits of Koln as we didn’t leave until 11 am. Journey Koln to Brussels ran late owing to a death on the high speed line, then the Eurostar arrived late into St Pancras. Both trains in the UK ran to timetable though so got home about 10.30 pm. With the time difference that was 13 hours of travel.