Today I took the train from Innsbruck, Austria, to Fussen, Germany. If you look at these two places on a map, they are only a little over 60 km apart as the crow flies. However, by train it's a bit further. Actually, it's quite a bit further since the only route between these two places is via Munich. The total trip ended up being about 300 km, which took nearly 4.5 hours to do.
On the leg to Munich we made about half a dozen scheduled stops and few unscheduled ones to wait for freight traffic to go by. Those extra stops meant we arrived in Munich a little over 20 minutes late. That gave me very little time to catch the train to Fussen, but I made it with about 2 minutes to spare.
Along the way I shared my first class cabin with a young high school kid. He got on at our first stop and stayed until one stop before the border with Germany. His English wasn't that good but we got talking anyway. He explained to me that he was on his way home from school. He and several other students ride these trains a lot to attend technically oriented schools. Each town focuses on a different area, so the town they go to depends on their interest. This young fellow was attending a school that focuses on Engineering and computers. I never got around to asking him what grade he was in, but I suspect he was in about grade 9. He indicated that he was hoping to go to England to finish his high school years. He snowboards in the winter and mountain bikes and rock climbs in the summer - he pointed out one of their rock climbing areas as we passed it on the train.
The leg from Munich to Fussen was the ultimate of milk runs. We spent more time stopping than we did moving. I'm sure we stopped at places that weren't even marked as train stops. At one point I was looking to see if there might be handle or button like there is on some buses to indicate to the engineer that you want to get off, because it didn't seem obvious to me how he knew when to stop.
This train was quite different than others in that it didn't go that fast and the tracks were often quite close to houses. It also didn't have air conditioning, so I spent the trip with the window wide open and a good part of it standing up looking out the window taking in the scenery. Most of the trip was spent passing through rural areas with lots of farming and forestry activity.
This is the Orient Express. It left Innsbruck just before my train arrived.
Just a shot of some busy tracks, but by no means the busiest I've seen. I decided to show this because as I looked at them I couldn't help but think how amazing the rail system is here in Europe. There are so many rail lines, going so many directions, and crossing or converging in so many places that it's just amazing how the trains to get to where they are going and most of the time exactly on schedule.
On the leg to Fussen, you could tell a lot of people along that line work in Munich as there are plenty of these "park and ride" places for bikes all along the way.
This is the conductor on our train from Munich to Fussen. At least I think that's the correct name for him. He and the Engineer sure earned their money today with all the stops we did. At each stop he stands be the train until all the people have gotten on or off the train, then he blows his whistle to signal to the Engineer it's ok to go. If anybody boards the train he will walk through the train after it has gotten underway to check the tickets of the new arrivals. At most stops you don't have much time, maybe 2 or 3 minutes, to get on or off the train so you need to be at the station on time or you have to know when you stop is coming up. This applies to tiny little places as well as larger centers like Innsbruck.
If you look closely you will see the Engineer up in the front of the train with his head out of the window waiting for the conductor to blow his whistle.
Here's a few pictures to show you just how close we got to some houses.
Here we are starting to get close to Fussen and the Alps again.
A street in Fussen. Fussen is just a small place just north of the Austrian border, but due to Mad Ludwig's Castle the place gets overrun by tourists during the day. I didn't arrive until about 5:00 pm, so I missed a good part of the crowd. However, a ton of people were waiting at the station to board my train for their trip back to Munich.
This is the Fussen Castle.
This is St Mang Basilica right next to the castle.
A couple more pictures of the castle. What appears to be decorative stone work is just painted on.
Another shot of the Basilica.
Inside the Basilica.
A shot of the sunset. The Fussen Castle is in the right of the photo but mostly hidden behind the trees.
The cold I had over the last couple days is basically gone now, so I'm ready to tackle this hills tomorrow to get a good look at Mad Ludwig's Castle.