7th October 2018

Our itinerary today was to say 'Goodbye' to Amsterdam and travel south east by train to Nuremburg, which is pretty close to the centre of Germany. To achieve that it would have to be our longest day of travelling thus far, and how much time that would take would be determined by the route we took, how many stops we would make and how long we would give to each stopover. We had that flexibility thanks to our Eurail Passes which meant we didn't have to book in advance if we didn't want to, and could move around by train all day at whatever pace we set as we travelled.


Amsterdam Centraal station

The down side was that we were travelling with other passengers who had pre-booked seats, so we had to be prepared to take whatever seats were available. This proved to be a bit of a problem on our first train journey of the day as the "booking notification system" on the train was not working, so the only way to find out if a seat was booked was if someone showed up with a ticket. Not very satisfactory, but we got by, in spite of the trains being fuller than they were a few years ago when Stephen and Rona last travelled this way.


Cologne

We had a number of options for our first stopover, and after looking at what each possibile destination had to offer, we settled on Cologne, or as the Germans spell it, Koln, and made it our sole stop for the day. The weather forecast was "fine and sunny", so we knew we were in for a good day. The train we caught was the 6.37am ICE high speed train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, though we would only be travelling as far as Cologne, which took around two hours. It was dark when we left and we had been travelling for around an hour before it became light enough to see the countryside we were travelling through.

By this time we had crossed over the border into Germany and the reality of where we were hit home. This was a bit of a mind-blowing experience for Debbie and Steve, as neither of them had Germany on their "to do" list, nor had they ever thought they'd end up going there. They just looked at each other, and said somewhat incredulously, "We are in Germany".



The ICE train is a very fast train which travels at an average speed of 180km/hr, and the two-hour journey seemed to fly past. Before we knew it we were rounding up our luggage, climbing down onto the platform of Cologne station, then figuring out what we were going to do next. It took us a little while to orientate ourselves, work out when we needed to be back at the station for the next leg of the journey, then find somewhere for breakfast. Stephen and Rona had done this all before, but for Steve and Debbie it was a new experience and a bit of a culture shock.



After breakfast, we figured we needed to be on the 2pm train to Nuremburg. That gave us just under 3 hours, so we stored our bags in lockers, entered the old city centre, and were greeted by Cologne's most famous building - The Dom (basilica). This very old Gothic Cathedral in the centre of town is massive, very tall (all German cathedrals are), imposing, impressive and very dark (it could do with a good clean). We photographed it from just about every angle possible - the photo we selected for this travelogue is a view from near the river - before heading down to the Rhine River, which was lined with river cruise vessels.


Rhine River

We had a good look around the old city before heading back to the station for our train to Nuremburg. Our train did not leave from Central but from a station one stop down the line. Unfortunately, it took a while before anyone explained this to us, due in part to our inability to understand German, so the train we caught was an hour later than we had originally planned.


St Martins Benedictine Abbey church, Cologne

Our rail pass allowed us to travel First Class, so we opted for this, thinking it would make it easier to find a block of four seats together. Such was not to be. We quickly realised this is one of the busiest routes on Germany's rail network - there is an 8 carriage express train every hour plus slower, local trains all sharing the line - but we still ended up making the 3-hour jouney scattered throughout two carriages.


Waiting for the cafe to open so we could have lunch

In the early planning stages, Munich was to be our final destination for the day, but we would be arriving at the tail-end of Munich's Oktoberfest, which meant what little accommodation was available and it was priced much higher than we cared to pay. Nuremberg ended up being the perfect alternative. Our hotel was within walking distance of the railway station and adjcent to the main restaurant area. We dined at a newly fitted-out restaurant called "Frank Ness" and enjoyed some wonderful local cuisine. On the way to the restaurant we had passed an Aldi store, so we ducked in there after our meal to replenish our supplies for breakfast next day.

8th October 2018

Like the previous day, the weather forecast was "fine and sunny, with a top of 20 degrees". It would be another day of travelling, but not before a walk around Nuremburg which filled the morning's agenda. We would then make the three-hour train journey to Salzburg, Austria, in the afternoon.


Nuremburg

Stephen and Rona had been to Nuremburg before and knew what a beautiful place it was, but Steve and Debbie were still pleasantly surprised by what they saw - a mixture of both old and new buildings, all clean and shining, many with the "Hansel and Gretel" look which characterises the architecture of the Bavarian region of Germany. The whole of the older part of the city looked like a giant plaza, with bricked, non-tarred roads, and very few cars. There were probably more bikes than cars, but far less than Amsterdam.


Nuremburg Castle

After crossing the river which runs through the old town, we walked up, up, up the hill to Numerberg Castle, and admired the spectacular views of the city from this vantage point.


View from Nuremburg Castle

Our walk around the city took us beside the Pegnitz River, a tributary of the Danube, with its many different but always picturesque bridges, some with houses built on them. We enjoyed the beautiful river scenes, with weeping willows, strategically-placed outdoor cafes (there were so many outdoor eating places, market and food stalls), flowers, trees showing the beginnings of autumn with their golden falling leaves, walls covered in red ivy, and many churches throughout the city.







The number of people on the street grew as time went on, and after reaching the Nuremburg Opera House and Richard Wagner Plaza, it was time for lunch.


Debbie checks out the Nuremburg Opera House and Richard Wagner Plaza

Our attempt to find authentic German food was rewarded immediately ... we opted for Nuremburg sausages and sauerkraut. As the latter was onion-infested, Steve and Rona opted for fried potatoes instead. We finished the meal with another Nuremburg specialty, Elisen-Lebkuchen" - round gingerbread cakes on rice paper. Debbie found them a bit sweet, for Rona they were a little gingery, but for the two Steves they were just right.


Steve and Debbie decided 20 degrees was too hot to be wearing winter jackets, though Steve played it safe and kept his jumper on

It was soon time to go, so we headed back to the station to catch a train to Munich, where we transferred to another train to Salzburg. The journey was quite scenic - many grren fields, rollong hills, pretty little villages and as we neared Salzburg, the misty Eastern Alps formed a stunning backdrop. Our first glimpse of Salzburg was crossing the Salzach River and seeing the Altstadt (Old City) and Hohensalzburg Fortress behind it, filling us with great expectations for the next couple of days.



Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

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