Tuesday 11 June 2013

Home to Russia: Part 1

Day one of what is only the first part of a longer trip starts well but ends a bit on the flaky side.

All starts well when my daughter picks me to take me to Stratford upon Avon to catch the first of many trains. We share a coffee at the station and then I'm really off. I've done quite a bit of research putting this trip together but I try not too over prepare.

When I get to Marylebone Station I have to take the tube to St Pancras Station... there is no tube station called St Pancras! Where the hell is it? I can not remember now how I determined that it is next to Kings Cross station but with that information in hand the journey is simple. The upgraded St Pancras International Station is certainly an impressive blend of the old and the new.

From Trans-Europe 2013
Boarding reminds me of Japan with all the car numbers marked on the platform and my Eurostar train (EST 9140) leaves right on time! A comfortable, uneventful journey. The emergence from the channel tunnel announces that we are passing through northern France though the subtly different landscape and steeply sloped roofs of some farm buildings are another clue that we've left England.

The architecture of Lille Station is truly spectacular, this is not in Englad! We arrive at Bruxelles-Midi Eurostar terminal on time and 20 minutes is plenty to change platform to catch the next train to Köln. This time it is a comfortable ICE train but after about an hour a we come to a stop. We are eventually informed that there is something on the track, what we aren't told, and we are delayed for about 45 minutes. good news: I don't have to make a connection. The efficient Deutsche Bahn do have updated connection info for those that are making connections!

We arrive in Köln (Cologne) late, which contributes to my second example of not "over-preparing". I leave the station and head off in a roughly northwest direction towards my hotel only half a kilometer from the station. Cannot seem to find it, haven't got a map, spiral around figuring it's got be here somewhere. Ask a couple of folks and they've never heard of Ursula Platz. I figure that I must have messed up and start working my way back in the direction of the station when I find someone who does know where Ursula Platz is.

Boy have I screwed up! It is on the other side of the station, I have actually walked south east from the station, 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Back to the station, leave from the other side and I'm at my hotel in less than 10 minutes.

If we'd arrived on time, i.e. before sunset, I probably would not have made this stupid mistake. Still, never hurts to get a warning to be more careful.

A day in Cologne

From Trans-Europe 2013
I am not in a desperate hurry to get to Russia otherwise I would have flown. I allowed myself just the one day in Cologne for a look around.

I spent most of the day in the Altstadt (Old Town) though I did venture across the Rhine for a while. As a teenager I had passed through Cologne and changed trains at the Central Station, I vaguely recall seeing the famous Cathedral and now know that those recollections are valid, Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) towers above the station.

Nothing other than the churches of the Old Town caused me to get out my camera but I did enjoy tramping the streets and frequenting various cafes and bars.

I really enjoy a good English ale, there are many of them but there are also some poor beers on offer in some establishments. In Germany I have never has a poor beer, lager is different in style but when you get a good one it is really good. Needless to say I did try a couple in the time I spent here.

36 hours after arriving it is time to move on again...

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