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Entries about train travel

Freiburg The Green Capital Of Black Forest

A Big Town In Germany

sunny 33 °C

In April 2006 we went to Freiburg for the first time. My wife, myself and our son Alexander, who at that time was living in Basel (switzerland) travelled by train. He had been to Freiburg many times and was enamored of the city and wanted very much that we go there together. We went by train and were there in one hour. I think it is about 45-50 kilometers from Basel to Freiburg by train.

Freiburg is known for its world famous university. But Freiburg is also known for its cherry & chocolate cakes, Kaas Patzle (noodles covered with cheese), trout and asparagus and cukoo clocks. As a young boy I had read German history and culture but when it came to knowing anything about Schwarzwald ( Black Forest), I had always imagined it to be really a black forest, dense and cold and shrouded in dank fog and rain. A place where sun's rays never penetrated the forest.

The tribes which inhibited this part of Germany, the Rhine Valley, were constantly at war with Rome and refused to accept the rule of Roman empire. Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius failed to bring the tribes under control of Rome. His brother Gaius, fatther of brutal Caligula had gained the title of Germanicus for bringing some German tribes under control but I think it was a Roman General named Varus, who had fought them before, had lost three Roman Eagles ( Heralds with Eagles embossed on banners and shields and poles) carried by Roman soldiers in war. This was a great shame for Rome as without conquering German tribes, they could not march on to England. Although two Eagles were eventually recovered by Rome, the third was lost for ever. I suspect that the Eagle on German flag is that same Eagle. I have to do some research on the subject, but this is what I remeber from my school days.

Freiburg is the capital of Black Forest, a verdant city indeed. The day we went there, it was sunny and very warm. I would say a hot day. The city was full of visitors. We came out of the railway station and crossed the road and were in the city. We bought some baguettes at the corner supermarket as we were hungry. Then we entered the city center. The street which leads to the center is long and narrow, shops and restaurants on both sides and a narrow canal "Buttergasse" running in the middle of the street. This canal, we found out later, runs through the whole city. Imagine a stream of cold clear water running through a city, a rare sight nowadays. I just slipped off my shoes and sat down with my feet in the running water. What a refreshing feeling it was, it uplifted my spirits.

As we progressed towards the center, we came to a plaza, with restaurants and people sitting in the sunshine, eating and drinking. I had the feeling I was in Malaga or in Paris on a summer's day. The place was full of teeming visitors, young and old and when we reached the center, we saw street musicians playing, a young girl painting and another juggling dumb bells in her hands. The shops were full of people and so were places selling food. A wide variety of good food on display.

We plunged in the lanes and squares of the city. We first went to the Muenster Platz and the flower and fruit market and took some photos of Muenster Cathedral. There was a marriage ceremony taking place so we went to Augustin Platz, then to Colombin Park. Every body was eating ice cream so our son took us to a restaurant which is famous for fresh fruit juices and ice cream. Next to it was a Japanese antique shop with a wonderful collection of Japanese art. Later we went back to the Muenster Platz and bought some fruit. The wedding party was still there, bride and bridegroom were on the verge of emerging outside when it started to rain. But it did not last long and things brightened up.

Freiburg being a university town, was full of students. It is full of historic monuments, museaums, plazas and streets and full of fast food shops, bars and restaurants. We found that the price of food and drink was not expensive, comparing the prices in other German cities.

From the city center you take a Tram to Guensterstal and take a Cable Car tour of the surrounding mountains and the deep valley in the middle of Schauinsland mountains. A breathtaking trip, favorite with hikers, mountain bikers and skiers in winter. We sat down on the terrace of a restaurant and I had one and then another glass of Weiss Beer, the thick dusky white beer made from wheat.

By the time we were back in the city, we were hungry and tired and our son suggested we go and eat pizza. But my wife and me were keen on eating fish, so went in a restaurant and had grilled trout and potatoe salad. Our son had noodles baked with cheese. The nearest thing to eating a pizza. Also we wanted to eat the food for which Freiburg is famous.

We liked Freiburg very much and on a later date when I visited my son in Basel, we went to this fabulous city once again. In all I have been there three times.

Posted by The Islander 06:31 Archived in Germany Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

Surat Thani to Hua Hin

Thailand The Fabled Country

sunny 30 °C

Trains in Malaysia and in Thailand are new, comfortable and clean. Not like in India where trains are old, smelly and dirty. Our carriage was full, most of the passengers sleeping. We got two upper births and when the conductor came and fixed up the beds, we also went to sleep. In Thailand most people travel by train and it is necessary to make prior reservations if you are traveling long distance. I had told the conductor (who spoke no English) to please wake us up when we reached Hua Hin and he understood and told us in Thai that he will do so. However, when we were nearing our destination, I found that he had tied both the connecting doors with a rope and was fast asleep, blocking the way. I shook him, he grunted angrily and turned on his side and went to sleep. I shook him again and he started shouting. To my amazement I smelled alcohol on his breath. He turned and again went to sleep. There was no way to open the entrance door so I shoved him in his back and in a loud voice told him to get up. He got up abruptly, untied the door and shouting, lurched past us and went on walking to the other end of the carriage. Probably to find some other place to slumber.

From Surat Thani I had telephoned Pattana Guest House and was told that the hotel was full. And that they closed the hotel at 22hrs. I phoned Fulay and Au-Sa Guest Houses(all recommended by Lonely Planet Guide) but was told that they were full. We reached Hua Hin at two O'clock at night, it was raining and I phoned two more hotels but nobody answered the phone. Telephone booths were full of mosquitoes who had a feast night, biting my legs and hands and face. So I came out of the station and saw a taxi standing. The driver got out of the cab and I asked him if he could take us to a medium class hotel/hostel. He spoke English and told me that it will cost me Bht.100. I went back in the station and asked the ticket clerk how far was the city center. He told me it was 600 meters and we could walk. But it was raining and we were tired and agreed to pay Bht.100 for the taxi ride. It too five minutes to reach the beach. He took us to two hotels/hostels, both were closed. At last he entered one near the water front and woke up the receptionist. A friendly Nepali guy. The room was OK with a shower to share, rate was Bht.350 for the double bed. So we stayed the night there, in Ananthara Guest House. To its left is the Fishing Pier.

Early the next morning we got ready and went out to look for a better accommodation near the beach. The morning was bright and sunny and very warm. No trace of the rain of the night before. We started strolling and saw many guest houses on the water front. Pattaya Guest House, Memory, Fulay (all recommended in Lonely Planet Guide). We entered one and saw small rooms either with attached shower or to share. The rates were Bht. 600 to Bht. 1100. So we decided to have breakfast first and then continue our search.

After a leisurely breakfast, we continued strolling, window shopping and reached Hilton Hua Hin. At the end of the street you turn left and reach the beach, you turn right on damnern Kasem Road which takes you back to the train station. We turned in one of the back streets which were full of Irish Pubs, Nepali Tailors (standing outside their shops and inviting you to enter their shops) food stalls. We passed the Wat Hua Hin (temple) and in Soi Selakam street saw a large sign like a school black board "Jing's Guest House" (family friendly and you can inspect the rooms).
So we entered a patio with a small bar and three friendly Thai girls behind it. One of the girls got up and showed us a double bed room at Bht.600 per night. The room was clean (in fact the whole place was clean) with attached bathroom. Then she showed us another much larger room with T.V., fridge and bathroom and a door which opened to an inner patio. It had air conditioning too. The bed was king size with a wardrobe. The rate was Bht.900 but when we told her that we will stay for two or three days, she accepted Bht.700 per night. We stayed in Hua Hin four days.

Posted by The Islander 15:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

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