Shauna Bickley

This Time Last Year… Rail trip

Posted on Saturday 29th August 2020 by Shauna Bickley

Our time in Europe was sadly coming to an end, but in planning our trip we decided to finish with a final fun tour of places old and new to us in Europe. As we had never travelled on the Eurostar that was something else to add into the mix, and so we created a rail trip through Germany to Berlin (I hate to add age-revealing information, but the last time we were in Berlin there was a wall), then to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, the last three of which were new to us. From Budapest we travelled back through Germany to Cologne and Koblenz. Both Cologne and Koblenz were favourite places of ours and while we were there we took a day cruise along the Rhine to Rudesheim. There are many beautiful towns along the river but Rudesheim is a particular favourite of ours, and we have many happy memories of stopping off in the area for a few days at the end of our holidays.

The whole trip was amazing — all completed by rail, except for the Rhine day cruise, of course, and introduced us to some beautiful cities.

Berlin was a vastly changed city and especially walking through the Brandenburg Gate and viewing it from both sides. The C&A shot was an amusing one for me as I was surprised to see the store. I remember shopping in C&A as a child and teenager and thought the store had closed completely, but it is still around in various cities in Europe. And how could I neglect the cakes — still as wonderful as I remember.

We did a walking tour around parts of Berlin with an excellent tour guide, and had lots of fun using the S-Bahn where our rusty German came in very useful. The KaDeWe was a fun visit one morning. It is, apparently, the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods. A fabulous place to visit, after I recovered from the shock of looking at some of the price tags.

On our train journey from Berlin to Prague we were in a compartment, which is the first one I’ve travelled in other than on preservation railways. Prior to this trip we’ve never been keen on taking guided tours but as we were only in most places for two or three days we decided it was probably the best way of seeing the most during our time in each place.

Prague’s old Town Square is beautiful with colourful buildings and Gothic churches and the medieval clock. Further out there is more of a mix of old and new. Our hotel was in a newer area, but Prague like many cities is built on a river, Vltava, and I loved our early morning walks into the Old Town crossing the river.

The next stop on our tour was Vienna. This time our hotel was only a short ten-minute walk from the railway station and was in a very new area of Vienna. Fortunately we weren’t far from the Belvedere Palace and gardens (below) which was a lovely way to get to the older, central part of Vienna. As with the other cities we had visited on this part of our travels, old churches, cathedrals and palaces played a bit part. The opera house in the middle of town (below) was lovely, but what amazed me with many of the palaces in Vienna was the sheer scale of them. They are huge.

A case in point being the Schonbrunn Palace. The first image below is the view as you approach the entrance, and the middle photo is actually a side view of the palace. As I said, it’s enormous. The gardens are beautiful but it would probably take days to tour around all of them. The final image below is with the palace behind and looking towards fountains.

The thing I loved most in the palace gardens was this covered arch and pathway around one of the gardens. I quite fancy the idea of creating one of these!

Our hotel in Budapest was only a few minutes’ walk from the River Danube with a view across the river to the Liberty Statue and Citadel on the top of Gellert Hill. The old town is lovely with lots going on in and around the mostly pedestrianised area.

Like most tourists we crossed the river several times on different bridges, but especially using the cast iron suspension bridge, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. Evening is a great time to visit as the bridges, the Liberty Statue and many of the buildings are illuminated.

Note: The last part of our trip is on the next post.

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