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GT-I Home > My trips > Czech > week one > week two

Austria, Prague, and German National Parks

Tuesday, may 15: Thanks to a strong tailwind, we arrived in Munich a half hour ahead of schedule, but that was negated by an excruciatingly long walk through the terminal to immigration. Also, thanks to the meager breakfast (yogurt and banaba bread) on United, I had to stop and get something to eat in the terminal, so I couldn't take advantage of the early arrival to catch an earlier train. I arrived in Freilassing on time at around 1:40 PM.

I have seen more Americans today than in my eight previous trips combined. when I was waiting to board the train at OstBahnhof, there was a group of about 20 Amercians on the platform, students from Suquehanna University and their advisor. They must have been using Bayern-Tickets,and he was dutifully explaining to them that they had to organize themselves in group of five and stay together. Later, as I looked for a WC, I passed them all standing around in 1st class compartments. The conductor was there and was apparently making them move to 2nd class.

After checking in at Hotel Rupertus, I found the PennyMarkt and bought a starter kit (SIM) for my netbook so I can get Internet access anywhere without needing Wifi. The Internet Cafe was around the corner, and he allowed me a wired connection to my own laptop, thus avoiding the keyboard quandry. However, the PennyMobil website was down for maintenance, so I couldn't get on to activate the SIM account. I sent a few emails and posted to the RS website. That's all I can do for now. I'll have to activate the account by phone tonight. Meanwhile, I'm still dependent on Internet Cafes. I think there will be one a few hundred meters from my hotel in Berchtesgaden, so I won't need the G3 connection for a few more days.

I'm feeling rather fuzzy (jetlag) so I go back to Rupertus for an hour and a half nap. That helps. Newly invigorated, I'm ready to attack the Internet access monster.

While I am eating dinner at Rupertus, a group of four Italians comes in to eat. Herr Chudoba doesn't speak Italian and their English is not very good, but somehow they manage to communicate. I've been patting myself on the back for being able to handle the language difference, but the Europeans face it all the time, and survive.

No pictures today.

As we were coming out of Rosenheim I looked south and saw a particularly dominating peak. With the antenna on the top, I thought it might be Wendelstein, which I visited in 2009. Then I saw the flat area near the top where the cog train stops. It is the Wendelstein. It's not that high (it would be underground in Denver), but it's pretty prominent here.

Wednesday, May 16: Note to Larry. May in the Alps in not summer.

Click here to see a larger image.Click here to see a larger image.
Today, I went to Hohenwerfen castle. The town of Werfen is up a long river valley from Salzburg. There are high mountains along the sides of the valley. Most of the time I could not see the mountains for the low-hanging clouds, but when I could, they were dusted with snow. There is still snow in the avalanche chutes.

There are cozy little towns every few km along the river, and the train stops at every one of them. If you had a €28 Einfach Raus Ticket, you could spend all day stopping at these towns and exploring. Who says you need a car.

Hohenwerfen castle emerges out of the mist. It sure dominates the valley. Would have been difficult to come down this valley from the south to attack Salzburg.

Thursday, May 17: Today was not the best day of my trip. It drizzled on and off all day.

When I planned this day, I had two objectives. One, check out Gästehaus Alpina. I stayed there once before, ten years ago. I like the location and price, but it's under new management. I needed to stay there again so I can recommend it.

Two, I wanted to take the Alpenstrasse as far out of Berchtesgaden as it goes. however, to day is Himmelfahrt, Ascension Day, a holiday in Catholic Bavaria. The buses I wanted did not run.

Now I've added a third. Get my Internet connection set up. When I bought the PennyMobil starter pack in Freilassing, I couldn't activate it online because the website was down for maintenance. All day Wednesday I was traveling and couldn't get to an Internet Cafe. Now, today, activating the account is my pressing objective. However, the town's Internet Cafe is closed for the holiday. I finally find the luxury hotel in town, Edelweiss, and they let me use their Wifi, for free! After some "challenges", I get it activated, then go back to my Gästehaus and set up the Webstück. I'm on. Took me two days, but I finally have Internet access.

I work late into the evening responding to emails, posting on Rick Steves, and looking up schedules on the web.

Friday, May 18: The weather has cleared up. I don't think I need my pullover today.

Today I'm going to go to Bad Reichenhall, then by bus to Inzell, where I pick up the Alpenstrasse. I need to make five connections today. The first, in Bad Reichenhall will be tight, The bus from Berchtesgaden arrives at 10:29; the bus to Inzell leaves Bad Reichenhall at 10:30. It will be tight. The driver of the first bus is supposed to use his radio if he's going to be late to notify the other driver he has a transfer and to wait, but I don't trust the system. There is a train 25 minutes earlier. It gets into Bad Reichenhall 30 minutes before the Inzell bus leaves. I'll have to kill a half hour, but missing the connection would totally screw up my schedule for the day. I take the train. I'm sitting at the bus stop in Bad Reichenhall waiting for the Inzell bus to arrive when the bus from Berchtesgaden arrives, 5 minutes early. Oh well, better safe than sorry.

RVO, the bus operator, sells a Tagesticket (all day pass) for all the buses on it's system for €9,50. But I want to take the train to Bad Reichenhall. In the Bahnhof I notice they offer a combination of the RVO Tagesticket and a pass for the train between Berchtesgaden and Salzburg for €12,-. That works; only €2,50 more.

So, I take the train to Bad Reichenhal and the bus to Inzell. In Inzell I expect a 6 minute connection, but the next bus never comes. It's not shown on the schedule board. When I planned this day a month ago, it was on the schedule, but now it's gone. The next bus is in 1½ hr. I wondered when I was going to have a chance to eat lunch; now I know. From Inzell I go to Reit im Winkl, then to Bernau.

I wasn't sure about doing the Alpenstrasse, but I'm glad it did it. It's lovely. At first we go through Alpine farmland - farm houses with white plastered living quarters on one end, with flowerladen balconies, and the other end a rustic wooden barn. Soon the scenery changes to wooded Alpine foothills with no farms. To the south rugged, rocky peaks still have snow.

Click here to see a larger image.
Hotel in Reit im Winkl

I change buses in Reit im Winkl, kind of an Estes Park with Baverian architecture. There are a lot of tourist in the town - small wonder. I never hear any English. I think Reit im Winkl is largely "undiscovered" by American guide books. I'd like to come back sometime.

From Reit im Winkl, the Alpenstrasse leads down to Bernau, in the Chiemsee region. Now the land is flat and not so forested. Here I change buses for Aschau. It's not very far to Aschau. From Aschau Bahnhof, I take the bus out to the castle, Hohenaschau. Originally, I had planned to spend three hours at the castle. You can only see the inside with an guided tour, and they are only earlier in the day. I hadn't expected to get inside, but I had thought I could get up to the castle and take some pictures. Now, wiht the delay in Inzell, I'll only have less than an hour. I don't want to chance climbing the hill to get close and miss my bus. I content myself with some pictures from the base of the hill. It's a perfect place for a castle. The sides of the hill are very steep. It would have been difficult to get up to the castle, let alone carry up offensive weapons to breech the wall.

Eventually my bus comes, and I ride the short distance into Frasdorf where I'll stay for the night.

Saturday, May 19:
Click here to see a larger image.
Alps from the Alpenstrasse

This morning at breakfast, they had cereal on the buffet, but no milk and no utensils for dishing out the cereal. When I said something to the young (20 something) woman working breakfast, she obvioustly knew by my accent and the fact that I struggled a little with German (I didn't know offhand the word for "cereal"), that German was not my first language, but she said nothing. I asked her if you could speak English, and she said "no" - in German. Not the first young person I've encountered over here that doesn't speak English. I took the bus to Rosenheim. I almost missed my train. We sat at a rail crossing for several minutes before a RailJet came by in one direction. When the gates didn't go up, we sat for another five minutes before a second RailJet went by in the opposite direction.

Today there were more farmhouse/barn combos. I'm really glad I decided to do the Alpenstrasse - lots of scenic towns.

When I got to Munich the Hbf was really busy, and I heard a lot of shouting from the other side of the station. When I got over there, there was a hugh crowd, a pep rally for the München Bayern Fussbol team which played for the European championship in Munich tonight (they lost). I had planned to have lunch in the Hbf on the way to Zwiesel, but with it noisy and packed, I just found the next train and left early. I stopped instead in Landshut for a sandwich.

Every picture I've found on the Internet of Zwiesel Bahnhof has shown it in the rain, but today is sunny. Lucky, I guess. Apparently it rains a lot in the Bayerischer Wald. On Tuesday, in Werfen, and Wednesday, in Berchtesgaden, I wore my pullover under the light summer jacket I took, because I was chilly. Today, I didn't wear either. Lesson: wear layers.

Surprise! Pension Heidi in Zwiesel is run by a British expatriot and his Russian wife so, unfortunately, we end up speaking mostly English.

Sunday, May 20: A beautiful, clear sunny day in the Bavarian Woods.

Today, I took the train and bus to the National Park Center in Lusen. The big attraction here is the "free roam" animal park. I guess it is a big deal for European because large wild animals are not often seen here. The animals in the park are not totally free roam. They are in enclosures, albeit large (for the most part) penned in areas. Maybe too big. I see no lynx or wolves, just areas in which they are supposed to be. Same for beavers and bison. There are two elk in a pen. I've seen freer roaming elk in Estes Park.

All in all, not a very rewarding day.

My host said it was maybe because it was such a warm day (30 deg C). Perhaps they were back in the woods to keep cool.

Monday, May 21: I took the train up to Bayerisch Eisenstein today to get my ticket for Prague.

Bayerisch Eisenstein is on the border with the Czech Republic. In fact, the train station spans the border with one half in each country. In the Czech half they have some pictures. One from 1900 shows a bustling station, with lots of trains. Then there are pictures of the station in 1950, right after the border was closed, with barriers across the tracks and Soviet soldiers guarding the barriers. Aparently, for the next 40 years, no trains crossed the border there, and the station was left in disrepair. The picture from about the time the Wall came down shows a grassy field where the tracks had been.
Click here to see a larger image.Click here to see a larger image.

There is a ticket counter for Czech Rail in the Czech side of the station. I asked the women at the counter if she wanted to speak English. She offered, "Deutsch". So I used German to buy my ticket in the Czech Republic.

I then took the train back into Germany and the other freeroam animal park, which is just one stop from Bayerisch Eisenstein. Same result. I saw hardly any animals. A sign said the lynx had escaped. I finally did see some wolves. At least I think they were wolves, or maybe just shaggy German Shepherds. They were a long distance away.
See the wolves?
I don't either.
Click here to see a larger image.

With the kurtax you pay to stay in the Bayerischer Wald, you get a pass for use of the trains and buses in the Wald. The Wald ticket is valid for the trains, not only on the German side, but to the towns of Zelezna Ruda and Spicak. Several German trains per day go all the way to Spicak. Other connections require a change in Bayerisch Eisenstein. Somewhere I saw that it said you could buy the ticket on the train from the Czech conductor. I wonder if that applies to all Czech trains. I plan to find out more about that tomorrow as it has an impact for travel on the regional trains from Munich and Nüernberg to Prague. Those trains cross the border without the opportunity to get off an buy a ticket to Prague (if you are using a Bayern-Ticket to the border. If you can't buy a ticket on the train, it would produce a logistics problem.

My report continues here with Week two.