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Posts tagged ‘RailEurope’

Across the land with German Rail (March 2011)

“Quer durch das Land, mit der Deutschen Bahn”

Sunday, March 20, 2011.

My birthday trip in Germany is about to end. For the last couple of days, I’ve been in the capital Berlin to see a few friends. Now, I’ve got to go all the way back across the country to Frankfurt Central Station, and from the city center to the airport to catch my evening Iberia-flight to Madrid. As I’ve done this cross-country trip so many times before, I’m not worried at all about finding my way.

After a very late night (of processing photos and catching up on e-mail messages), I drag myself to Berlin Central Station in time to catch the late-morning InterCity-Express (ICE) train to Frankfurt am Main. With their train schedules online, I’ve had for weeks information from Deutsche Bahn about specific trains I can take on any given day, and from which departure platform I need to be to catch any of those trains.

To arrive in Frankfurt with time to spare, I’ve chosen ICE 599, departing Berlin Central Station from platform 13 at 1134am. Stops include Berlin-Spandau, Braunschweig, Hildesheim, Göttingen, Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, Fulda, and Hanau. I’ve been using a RailEurope German Rail pass in first-class for the extra room, less crowded cars, and a quieter environment in which to relax.

On this sunny Sunday afternoon, I realize I’m marking the start of northern spring with a cross-section view of a very green and hilly part of the land. This route really does cut through the heart of the country.

The tracks wind their way through the landscape – in and out of tunnels, over bridges, along river valleys. There are meadows, rolling hills, pretty little towns, and several wind farms. There’s a lot of greenery out that train window.

I feel at ease and “at home” in this country. Even though I don’t live here any more, frequent trips have left their imprint – the trains, the cities, the stations, and the scenery – they all feel as familiar to me today as they did eight years ago.

The hours pass comfortably, the scenery keeps company, and thoughts of my departure are brought forward, closer to becoming real.

Over the public address system, an announcement is made, as the train is about to arrive in Frankfurt.

… In wenigen Minuten erreichen wir Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof. Wir verabschieden uns von allen Reisenden und wünschen Ihnen noch eine schöne Weiterfahrt. Sehnk juu vohr träwelink vif Deutsche Bahn: goodbye!

From Frankfurt Central Station, there are some options to reach Frankfurt International Airport.

You can take a taxi from the city centre, but that’ll set you back at least 30 Euros – I’ve had to do this a number of times for an early morning flight out from Frankfurt.

You can seek out the green-‘S’ signage for the S-Bahn (city suburban rail), head downstairs, and take the S-Bahn route S8 or S9 westbound from the centre to the airport.

Yet another alternative is found at ground-level within Frankfurt Central Station. You can look for another InterCity-Express train with a stop at the airport, or you can march straight onto platform 20, where regional train RE80 departs for Koblenz and makes a stop at the airport. On the platform is a display showing a map of airport terminals 1 and 2, as well as a listing of airlines serving the airport.

With my Germany rail-pass, I don’t pay an extra cent, I don’t have to stand in line, and I don’t have to search for a ticket-machine. On a given day stamped in my rail-pass, I can travel during that day on any Deutsche Bahn train throughout the country, including any city’s S-Bahn.

The one-way fare on the train between Frankfurt Central Station and the airport is about 4 Euros. Without a rail-pass, I would have had to purchase a ticket from one of the vending machines throughout the station. With the trip lasting 10 to 15 minutes, S-Bahn and regional trains stop at the airport’s regional train station (Regionalbahnhof), next to Terminal 1.

I’ve made my way across the airport to Terminal 2 for my Iberia flight, and I’m now standing in one of the many concourses, waiting in line to go through passport control. Over four hours ago, I was on the other side of the country, having said goodbyes to friends and to familiar landmarks in the capital city of Berlin.

Yet another trip with German Rail: Sept-Oct 2011.


Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. This post is on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-lZ.

iPhone apps and camera kit : travelling in Germany (early-2011)

In this past couple of years, I’ve discovered my ability to overcome a number of self-imposed boundaries and to visit some places which I once found challenging.  It’s been healthier to write about what I’ve come to enjoy and love, even if the daily challenge has been a struggle against the confusing, the illogical, or the idiotic.

Germany is a country with diverse topography, great scenery, and varied urban settings. The country is also where I would like to photograph some more, from the beaches of the North Sea coast to the twist and turns of the Rhein river to the gentle hills in the Harz, from the arty hustle and bustle in the capital city of Berlin to the party hardy in Köln to the majestic castles at the foot of the Bavarian Alps.

Typically, I have to cover a decent amount of distance across Germany on any given “tour” to visit and catch up with friends and/or to take in photographic opportunities.  Instead of taking intranational flights, I’m a big fan of the train, and I use RailEurope’s German rail-pass, if I have multiple cities to visit on multiple dates.  I often go with the 4- or 5-day pass, and if you do your own pricing on the bahn.de website, you’ll see that “biting the bullet” with a pass is much cheaper than buying point-to-point fares within the country. I wrote a series of posts about German Rail, with the most recent post here.

Here, I provide a few details about my favourite travel apps and my photography travel-kit.

Brandenburger Tor Brandenburg Gate Berlin

TRAVEL APPS

On my third-generation iPod Touch (iPT), these were some of the applications most useful for my travel; some are subject to modest charges upon purchase from the iTunes Store.

* Tripit – an excellent trip organizer.  You can enter all of your trip information with as much detail as you like, and retrieving the details is a real breeze to examine on a mobile device.

* Currency Converter – USD to EUR, for example, but you can also input an arbitrary amount (e.g., 50 US dollars) to determine the corresponding amount in another currency (e.g., Euros).  Recently I’ve been tracking simultaneously the US dollar, Chilean peso, Euro, Swiss franc, UK pound, Czech koruna (crown), Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, and the New Zealand dollar.

berlin.de – native city-guide application based on the Berlin city’s tourism webpage. I also used the following city-guide apps for Hamburg, Köln, and München.

* DB Navigator (German) – Deutsche Bahn’s application in English provides train schedules and point-to-point planning for routes within Germany. Using the words “Hauptbahnhof” (“Hbf”, central train station) and “Flughafen” (airport) helps.

* Evernote – available on my Mac and my iPT, I can edit notes on any of the two, and sync changes automatically (with wireless access).

* Fahrinfo Berlin – transit information in Berlin (English, too) for details about bus, tram, U-Bahn, and S-Bahn throughout the metropolitan capital region.  Please keep in mind that native applications also exist for Frankfurt am Main’s RMV transit authority and Munich’s MVV transit authority.  As always, your kilometrage may vary with usage.

Foursquare – this helps me to keep track of some of the places I’ve visited, even though its use is more limited to finding free wireless access; see also below.

* FRA Airport (FRAport) – app by the Frankfurt Airport Authority to provide flight information and about what’s at the airport.

* GoodReader – PDF reader. I copied all of my travel documents in pdf to native storage on the iPT, and I often use GoodReader to check up on a couple of numbers, dates, or times within those documents.

* HRS – a hotel-search website.  You can order your search by “number of stars”, average nightly rate, or proximity to city centre, airport, or nearest train stations.  In the last few years, I’ve noticed that the parent company has been more aggressive in their marketing campaigns throughout Europe.

* LEO – native German-to-English, English-to-German dictionary, when I’m constantly confused by “separable verbs” … which are reflexive … come with prepositions … and you have to know the correct case to go along with the (in)direct object (e.g., sich anpassen an, accusative).

* Living Earth HD – world-clock with live updates to local time, local weather, and sunrise/sunset for any number of specified cities in a compact format

* VelaClock – world-clock application for sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times, as well as daily times for astronomical-, civil-, nautical-twilight, dusk and dawn.  If the places you require are not included, you can add your own by latitude and longitude. I will freely admit VelaClock satisfies the inner astronomy-geek. Combining this app with Apple’s Weather app for up-to-the-minute updates and forecasts helps with planning photography shoots at potential sites.

I’d like an Apple portable-internet device with both wireless *and* mobile-access capabilities, with pay-as-you-go domestic mobile-access packages without the need for a long-term contract and international roaming charges. But it’s obvious there’s a limited market for this capability, and Apple certainly does not want to cannibalize its popular and successful iPhone product-line.

CAMERA

Since 2008, I’ve been using a Canon EOS450D (“Rebel XSi” in North America) which at the time of purchase was packaged with their EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens.  Despite the cheap plastic construction, the “kit lens” is light, versatile, and a great walk-around all-purpose lens for travel. I’ve also added the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Photos I’ve taken with all three lens can be found here.

For my 2010 Weihnachtstour (Christmas tour) series on my blog, I mostly used the 50mm prime.  Although the 50mm is “effectively” 80mm on Canon’s 1.6-times cropped-sensor, the wide-aperture in low-light settings has been a lot of fun to use, as you can see from many of the photos in the Christmas & winter in Europe set.

All three lenses have the same 58mm filter-thread size, which means I need only one set of filters.  I now have a 2-stop (4x) polarizing filter, a 3-stop (8x) neutral-density filter, and an 8-point star-filter. I’ve been using the latter quite liberally in many of my recent night-time shots.  I’m still on the lookout for a 2- or 3-stop graduated neutral-density filter.

To carry camera, three lenses, filters, and a growing collection of SD-cards, I use a Tamrac 5768 Velocity 8x sling-pak pouch, which is easy to open, as the top-cover opens from the body out.  As well, I can bring out or take away elements (e.g., lens, filter) without removing the pouch or putting the pouch on the ground.  Other members of the Velocity series are described here.

CLOSING

With this post, I’ve provided a sample of the electronic and photographic tools which I use on travel, specifically for trips to Germany.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned above. Posted initially on Posterous on 3 Jan 2011. Now on Fotoeins Fotopress (fotoeins.com) and last updated on 22 Oct 2011.

Koeln Cologne Rhein river
On the river Rhine, south of Kölner Südbrücke, Köln, Germany – 27 Sept 2009

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