Saturday, 12 January 2019

Deutschland Diaries: Die Bahn and other things railway

The train I am on is trundling into Agra station.  It's a cold January night and I have two blanket covered forms sleeping on the floor next to me as I type away. Perfect time to pick up a blog post from our Germany trip a year ago (I started it by uploading photos but never finished it)...

And so we fly back in time to January 2018 when the Lalitpur Eichers and their Oma went on a 1 month exploration of Germany.

During the amazing Deutschlandreise, the Eicher clan clocked in 2300 kms of German roads (including some serious autobahn coverage) in the reliable Black-Beauty of a VW Sharan which we were so kindly loaned for the trip.

But we also did a bit of train travel as well.

We started off with a bang... or maybe better put, a whizz of high speed.  Our dear friends in Frankfurt Barry and Steffi Hawthorne arranged for us to get a rail connection directly from Frankfurt airport.  And so early on a winter morning in Germany, we got into a sleek superfast ICE (intercity express) which can go upto 250 kms per hour.  That's just a little faster than the Nizammudin-Jabalpur express that I am currently on, click-clacking through the night between Agra and Gwalior!





The ICE train left us at the industrial city of Mannheim, where we were to taken an S-bahn - the regional train that wound along the Neckar river to the small town of Mosbach where our black-beauty was waiting for us.

Our first sunrise in Germany was at Mannheim station.


We had a small misunderstanding as the connecting S-bahn that we were to take was changed that day.  I walked up and down the platform and enquired in my rusty German about what had happened.  A helpful man told me that he too had 'missed' the other train and was going to go on the next S-bahn train.  It turns out that he was the ticket-collector and later he came and duly punched our tickets!

Staring out of the window at the winter landscape, we could not help noticing that every village or town we passed had the steeple of a church poking up prominently, and not a few had a fort or castle of some sort reared up above the town.



The S-Bahn is bright red like this train which we saw near ********** (photo taken from the car).

Yes the train was spotless (pretty much as expected).











And so, just a few hours after flying into Frankfurt, the Eichers were deep in the South German countryside, drinking coffee with our hosts at the OM base in Mosbach, marvelling that we were in a different world.

Germans love trains. 

Besides the swift sleek expresses, whispering across the countryside, there are many trains that are found at smaller scales.

The names "Marklin" and "Franklin" are well known to German hobbyists as they are the two main companies making model railways.

Here is the model railroad of Bernd, one of our relatives in Stuttgart.





We saw this amazing setup in his study.  A labour of love with hours of work going into detailing every small aspect of a scene.  The turn-table revolves, allowing locomotives of various vintages to move into their sheds.  Tiny figures are seen in this miniature world.  All is controlled from outside, with engines coming and going based on the servo commands given.

The hallway of his home has display cases showing racks of miniature trains - engines of different eras and countries, passenger and goods carriages.   Other cases show hundreds of small cars, in the same scale as the railways.  Calendars and books show where our rail enthusiast relative had gone on his precious vacations over the years...

Here is an antique steam engine and carriage which has been turned into a restaurant.  It is in the town of Geyer, deep in the Erzgebirge region of Saxony where my grandfather Willi Fischer hails from.



The restaurant is near a club where hobbyists from the area have converted an old station into a magical world of miniature railways...

The main display was an amazing miniature world of painstakingly detailed scenery, complete with towns and villages, linked by train tracks on which the model trains whizzed around.

Do you ever want to feel like a Gulliver?  Then make your way to your local model train club in Germany and feel what it means to be a giant!










After peering down at a church - complete with a tiny wedding party going into it - you might like to take in a working landscape, where a hill is being quarried out and a hard-working mountain railway is taking the ore down to an industrial town where the main express and goods lines pass by.














Tiny houses, roads with cars and lorries on them, meadows with tiny cows and people having picnics...  the attention to detail is astounding and must have taken the club members months of work to put together.

And of course, the main attractions are the trains themselves.   They whiz around traversing their varied landscapes, coming out of tunnels, climbing up inclines, all controlled from the centre of the their little world - by volunteers from the railway club who take turns to be the controller of this miniature planet.



And that control also extends to turning day into night!

Every 10 minutes or so, the lights go down in the hall, and a myriad lights start to shine in the tiny houses, streetlights, stations...  the trains whiz through the night scenes



You feel like you are in an airplane, coming into land and seeing a well-lit city open up under you.  complete with spacious well-lit stations...  And then you see a Gulliver looming over the scene in the background!




When you leave the railroad club, you are invited to have a snack at their own restaurant which is decorated with various historic railway memorabilia.  You can't help thinking that some of our stations here in India are living museums - and that what is put up for display at the club is still being used day in and day out!

For kids there is (of course) a large railroad set to play with!



Speaking of stations - our next main use of the die Bahn was towards the end of our stay when we spent 5 days taking in Berlin.

We saw a lot of stations there - some quite grand like at Berlin Alexanderplatz which is smack bang in the very centre of the grand city that Berlin is.



Our multiple rail trips in Berlin were a conscious choice.  Since there was so much to see, we decided against driving around unfamiliar streets and constantly having to use the 'Navi' to get us to where we wanted (and then trying to park our largish brute of a Black-Beauty). Instead we took day-tickets that allowed us to use local trains, underground trains and buses all over the city!

Needless to say we could see a lot from the comfort of the trains - and helpful guide maps such as on this "Berlin Bear" (the symbol of the city) showed us where to go and which connections to make.


I forget who the life-size Playmobile statue is representing - maybe a worker for the Berlin Underground?

The stations themselves were worth seeing - with many of them brilliantly decorated.  Here is one of the underground stations we passed through.  I think it was when we had to go to the Indian Embassy to sort out an OCI related issue for Mum.


My train has brought me to Gwalior station.  It's 10.28 PM and the automated announcement system is telling endlessly which train has just arrived (in this case our 22128 Nizammudin-Jabalpur Express).  A man is shouting 'cutlet, cutlet, cutlet' to get customers.  I am about to step over sleeping bodies to get a cup of tea before the train trundles me off to Lalitpur where I am due to arrive at 1.10 AM.

Die Bahn seems a world away now, but our dear Indian railways is a distant cousin nonetheless!

1 comment:

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