Day 03 – Thu 08 Apr 2010 – The Rhine and the Moselle

Had an orange and a banana I bought last night for breakfast, then went across to station and ordered a coffee and some lemon cake. All done in my somewhat ragged German. But the girl seemed to understand what I said, and she replied she had given me two slices of cake as they were a bit small, which I understood perfectly okay. (Success!) Went back to my room, picked up a my bag then back to the station to validate my Eurail pass. Guy I spoke with didn’t understand English, but was able to do it all in German easily.

Caught the 0942 to Keil, with the intention of getting off at Koblenz. All of first class was already booked, so traveled in second class which is quite OK. Some early observations about Germans. They easily make eye contact and will happily engage with you in light conversation. Was asked directions by one guy in German. Understood him OK and able to reply. (Wanted to know if the train we were about to board stopped at Koblenz.)

Romanisches Theater station and ancient Roman ruins (Photo: Michiel1972)

Off on the train. First stop is Frankfurt Flughafen (airport). From there it goes into a tunnel as it accelerates, then through a construction area and into a forest. The high speed tracks to Koln branch off from us. They have concrete sleepers laid on a continuous concrete bed, rather than on ballast. Although we’re on the ‘slow’ tracks, we’re soon running very smoothly at 200 kph through outer suburbs and villages, and past the Opel factory. We cross the river into Mainz, which is picture perfect in spite of the quite dull weather. First station past there is Romanisches Theatre; and sure enough there are the ruins of a Roman theatre on our left. A group of young lads get on, all toting cases of beer and looking a bit rough, but all very well behaved.

A murky day, but still very impressive

Mountains start to come into view ahead. We pass through the village of Budenheim. There are lots of garden plots near the rail line, which is largely unfenced. As we near the Rhein (Rhine) the train starts turning into the river valley. Dull weather and haze makes it hard to photograph, but there are majestic hills rising above the river on both sides. It is rivetingly beautiful and everything I expected and more.

The same area on a good day (Photo: Fritz Geller-Grimm)

As we pass through Bacharach I keep thinking these can’t be real villages. They are just too like ‘fairy tale toy towns’. We are on the left bank of the river and there are roads and railways hugging both sides. Every time you turn a bend there is something special; the towns, the river, the huge barges and tourist boats, the castles and the vineyards.

 

It is literally gorge-eous

Arrived in Koblenz. The name is a corruption of the Latin for ‘confluence’ as it is where the Moselle and Rhein rivers join. It’s a largish town which has seamlessly blended the old with the new into a very attractive urban centre. The station has eight platforms (plus some stub platforms), several shops, and is very spick and span.

An unfair picture of Koblenz (actually a very nice town) near the station

Caught the 1140 regional train to Trier, up the Moselle Valley. It is a single deck, multi-class, saloon style train. A bit noisier than the impressively quiet ICEs, but still OK. Announcements now are only in German. The train is very lightly loaded, maybe with only about 10 in my carriage. I notice a lot of the small station platforms have lawn surfaces except at the edges. The platforms are low and you need to step up to the train.

We journey up the left bank of the Moselle river (again ‘wow’!). The houses have mostly 2 to 3 storeys with white or yellow stucco walls and steep slate roofs. The valley is not as deep as the Rhein, but still very pretty. Lots of quaint little villages, and lots of vineyards running up at impossible angles (up to 78 degrees according to the book).

The Moselle River Valley on a good day (Photo: Friedrich Petersdorff)

The general topography is a bit reminiscent of the Hawkesbury around Wisemans Ferry, but completely different geology and vegetation of course. Again there are no fences along the tracks except in the towns. We go through Bergen with vineyards on both sides of the track. There’s a set of locks on the river at Muden. A big tunnel after Cochem with a huge tunnel boring machine beside the tracks just as we come into Ediger-Eller. The little stations are basic; only just as good as they need to be. More locks just past Neef. The train is now on the right bank and heading for Bullay, where it ceases to follow the river.

Bullay is a good sized town with a modern 4 platform station. The line crosses the river then into a tunnel then along a very long multi-arched viaduct on the side of the valley. A line branches off while the main line goes through a tunnel and into a hilly forest. Train doing about 120 kph before slowing to stop at Bergel.

The bridge at Bullay with a local train (Photo: Holger Weinarndt)

Nice touch at Schweich station: two girls across the tracks are trying to get tickets out of the machine in time to catch the train. They wave at the driver who happily reassures them, waits for them to finish and make their way through the subway and onto the train.

Trier is a pleasant enough town. The large Hauptbahnhof has long platforms with northern and southern ends, where trains can use either end, and a set of points midway where they can turn back. Walked down through the Altstadt to the Black Gate from the Roman period. At this point the battery ran out in my camera, without a spare!

The Roman Black Gate in Trier (Photo: Public Domain)

Like all German towns Trier feels like a much larger city, but again people and not cars rule the streets. Again noticed people have very little apprehension about, or fear of, each other (not at all like the UK). Also very respectful. Vielen Dank! Dankeshon and Bitte Schon seem to flow freely from everyone all of the time.

Dress is casual, much like Oz in winter; perhaps a little neater. Nobody really notices ‘odd people’ either; so if someone looks a little strange, it’s no big deal. Caught a double deck RE (Regional Express) back. It makes only a couple of stops to Koblenz. It has a control cab on the carriage up front, but is powered by an electric locomotive pushing at the rear. The first class upper deck has three abreast seating. Deutsche Bahn (railway) staff are always smartly dressed and friendly. They don’t act like ‘railway’ people as I’ve known them. Weather getting gloomier on way back. Overcast with light rain.

At Koblenz there is only a 10 minute wait for a connecting RE to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof from platform 109 (a stub at the end of platform 9). This time our route is on the other side of the Rhein on an older single deck train. Lots of four-storey flats are beside the line out of Koblenz. Virtually all have backyards with obvious living spaces for common use. Also see lots of playgrounds with see-saws, slides and swings, and a lot of sandpits for kids.

This train has a guard on this line whereas most in Germany are driver only operation.  Maybe that’s because this side of the Rhein seems to be using an older form of rail safe-working that’s a bit more manpower intensive. Train goes to Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof terminal platform then heads back out in the opposite direction to Frankfurt at 1725.

Had something to eat and a bit of nap once back at the hotel. Went for a walk at about 11 PM through the nearby red light district of the city. Not as intimidating as I expected. A couple of streets have a lot of sex venues with girls ‘advertising’ out the front, but nothing really too startling. Away from the main area, there was one very attractive girl working outside the station who was much more subtle in her manner of operation.

And, no, I didn’t. 

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