Europe Trip 2010: Day 6, Train from Dresden to Munich

On Day 6 of our European adventure Teisha’s conference ended and we set sail for Munich, bidding farewell to Dresden. We mostly just saw some scenic German countryside and got to see much of the malls that are actually train stations. And we learned to appreciate more how frugal Germans are about using energy, and how many “alternative energy” sources they pursue! As usual, all of the Day 6 photos are online, but read on for details accompanying the pictures!

We started the day with more amazing food at our hotel buffet; not only delicious meats (Teisha’s has developed a real taste for pickled herring, the small purple thing in the top left), but also very tasty fruits (we’ve had some especially amazing pears here).


Teisha had to get a picture of herself next to her poster. The night before, she stood by it tirelessly for three hours answering questions and getting ideas from others at the conference – it’s one of the best reasons for a grad student to go to such a conference. And after listening to talks all morning and getting a quick lunch, Teisha was done with her conference and we started on our journey to our next German destination: Munich.


Before leaving the conference, Andrew had to make sure to get some pictures of the escalators. Why the escalators, you ask? Well, because they’re amazing – they usually go very slowly, until someone steps onto them and then they immediately speed up to a “normal” speed. Since the conference, we’ve seen these escalators all over Germany… And it just makes sense. Why should an escalator be using the same amount of energy when it’s not even being used? I’ve only seen escalators that do this in the U.S. at one major events center (at a conference in San Fran) – they should really be everywhere…


Bidding farewell to the conference, we took a nearby, quick tram ride to the major train station (a “hauptbahnhof”). The train stations are amazing. Inside it has a variety of stores from food stands, restaurants, and shops or convenience stores. For all major German cities nearby, they have a train arriving about every hour. The train yard, where the trains arrive, had huge, reinforced domes and was very peaceful to wait in. The schedules were also clearly displayed and easy to figure out.


For every train that would pull into its given docking lane, there were even “maps” laying out what “car” would line up with what part of the platform, so you’d know exactly where to stand and board for your car before it even arrived!


To get to Munich we first caught a train to Leipzig, and from there caught a train to Munich. The seats were quite roomy and we even had a folding-out table to use (but we were in “first class” because it was the only way to completely ensure we had a seat). On our way to Leipzig, still in the area around Dresden, there were a number of rather decrepit, abandoned buildings, often next to rather new ones. Funnily, we passed the conference building we were just in. Passing something that looked like a carnival but was completely empty, we headed over the Elbe river and stopped at just a few other stations before arriving in Leipzig.


Outside of Dresden on the way to Leipzig, we saw some beautiful German countryside. There were many wheat fields, some fields with young corn, and at least one field with tons of beautiful sunflowers. Little villages, usually with a central church, were scattered off in the distance from the train, here and there. We also passed over or near tons of rivers and streams– it’s a very well-irrigated country.


And while we didn’t see too many houses with backyards in Dresden, we saw many houses with nice yards (and often flower gardens) further in the country between Dresden and Leipzig.


Also, the Germans are all about “alternative energy.” There were a ton of wind turbines all over the country! We saw some very huge ones off in the distance. Also often in “little” villages there would be several houses with entire roofs covered by solar panels. And later (on our way to Munich) we saw what we thought was a nuclear power plant …

Somehow our train to Leipzig became (surprisingly) delayed and was about 20 minutes late arriving to Leipzig, meaning we missed our very short (4 minute) connection for our train to Munich. Luckily, this was quite easy to solve – there was another train heading to Munich in less than an hour, and all we had to do was explore the Leipzig train station waiting for the next Munich train. I love the transportation here.

The Leipzig train station was huge, basically a 3-story mall. We didn’t explore the shops too much, but did enjoy a Nutella crepe from a crepe stand and a huge cup of fruit from a fruit stand (yes, Germany has tons of wonderful fresh fruit all over!).


And then we caught our (on-time) train from Leipzig to Munich. The train from Dresden to Leipzig was only about an hour long, not giving us too much time to settle in, but the train from Leipzig to Munich was about 5 hours, giving us plenty of time to get comfortable. We worked on our laptops and played some games on our new iPad (it has been a lot of fun for this trip!). Along the way, we saw more little villages and mostly thick, beautiful, green forests and some farm fields. And what we think was a nuclear plant off in the distance…


Getting into the Munich train station about 9PM, the train station was bustling! Again, it was like a mall where trains happened to arrive.


Our hotel was only about a block from the station, so a nice easy walk. We were rather disappointed with our hotel, Hotel Europaischer Hof, but it was all we could find when booking only a few weeks in advance and at a reasonable price (about 85 Euro a night). The staff was fine and the room functional, but a little small, with no air conditioning, a tiny shower, curtains that hardly blocked any light, and right by a very, very noisy street (I had to use earplugs to sleep well). The worst part was the heat because it probably never got below 85 to 90F in that room (plus high humidity), due to the heat wave, making it quite hard to sleep in (or to want to hang out in at all). And we had problems setting up the internet… but it eventually got fixed. But, as we say, the hotel room is just a place to sleep in – the rest of the time you’re supposed to be exploring the area, right? So we threw down our stuff and went out into the city to check things out, even though it was about 10PM by then.


We headed towards the tourist center of town, called Marienplatz (any “platz” literally means a “plaza,” but really is a “square”), which is just a little under a mile from our hotel. Along the way, we saw some neat scenes.

We passed Karlsplatz, a square with a huge water fountain constantly spraying water towards the center, surrounded by big shops. Lots of people were enjoying the mist on this hot night. Right by the Karlsplatz is Karl’s Gate – this used to be a main gate to the center city (and going out from the gate was a wall surrounding the city, but this wall has become a road circling the inner city).


From Karl’s Gate to Marienplatz, there’s basically a wide pedestrian mall with people wandering it all the time. Even this late, there were still many musicians out on the street performing. We saw a really good group who did classical songs with a re-mixed modern twist. The lead singer/violinist was what really got the audience – he shouted out to people to sing along to the classical songs, and, of course, spoke only in English. (There’s much more English here in Munich than Dresden, as it’s more of a tourist town.)


And then we made it to Marienplatz, and it was quite worth the walk. We were tired and weren’t quite sure what to expect when we turned the corner and saw the amazing “New Town Hall” (built in the late 1800s) (which, due to fires, is actually older than the re-built “Old Town Hall” next to it). Although New Town Hall is an impressive building with neat architecture and sculptures, it’s really famous because of its Glockenspiel clock. We could see the several figurines, in the center of the building near the top, but didn’t see them move until the next day (they only do their dance 3 times a day).


Lastly, we realized we needed dinner! We’ve actually seen a lot of Italian restaurants in Germany and we were so tired we finally gave into eating at one of them, splitting a 12” Hawaiian pizza (which, sadly, wasn’t as good as the one I had in the Philadelphia airport the week before!). We were quite grateful that we had an indoor table, as it started completely pouring 5 minutes after we sat down! Despite the heat, we even saw hail for a minute.


Overall, it was a good, relaxing day of travel. Stay tuned for what we actually did once in Munich – tasty food, beer we actually drank (for those of you who know us, you’ll understand what a big thing that is!), and so many awesome museums!

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