Note: I've gotten behind in by story. It's now Thursday. I'll come back and fill in the last few days, but I wanted to do today while it's fresh in my mind.
Tuesday, May 22: Today I traveled from Zwiesel to Prague. My Bayerischer Wald pass covered my travel to Bayerisch Eisenstein, on the Czech border. From there I used the Czech Rail ticket I bought yesterday in Bayerisch Eisenstein. My first change after Bayerisch Eisenstein was in Klatovy. When I got there, there was no track number listed for the train is was to get. I went up to the ticket counter and asked the woman behind the counter whether she wanted to speak English or Deutsch. She said, "Deutsch". I asked here for the platform number for my train, and she started to say something about a bus, but seemed at a loss for the right word. I offered "Schienen Ersatz Verkehr" (a substitute bus). Yes, that was it. They were working on track repair and would bus us to the next station.
Because of the substitute bus, we arrived in the Pilsen just as the connecting train was leaving. I was wondering where I would have lunch on the way; this is where. I had an hour for lunch. No one spoke English or German. I picked a sandwich by pointing. The price was given in front of the sandwiches so I know what to pay (I don't understand numbers spoken in Czech).
There are no numbers on the platforms, only in the connecting tunnel. Track 1 is accessible through the tunnel, track 2 is next to the station. Unusual.
The Czech Republic looks kind of run down. The rail coaches look like the ones I rode on German trains in the 80s, with no maintenance since.
I arrived in Prague and found the S-Bahn station. After a little "challange" with an unfamiliar ticket machine and coins, I got my ticket and found my way to Lida, my accommodation. The owner, Jan, is very gregarious and enthusiastic about his city. He immediately sits me down in the breakfast room for an orientation. He takes out a guidebook for the city and suggests sights I should see. Later, I return to the breakfast room and see the guidebook on the table. He's done another orientation.
Wednesday, May 23:
Thursday, May 24:
I'm in Bad Schandau. The B&B where I am staying is across the road from the Elbe River in a part of Bad Schandau called Postelwitz. The entrance to the two modern rooms they rent is in the back of the house, off a patio. From here the back yard goes steeply up a few hundred feet ending against one of the rock formations they have here, although you can hardly see the rocks through the trees. It's a warm day, but the patio is shady and a gentle breeze is cooling it.
I came up on an EC from Prague. The train started in Vienna and was headed for Berlin via Dresden. Despite the new, modern cars, the train has compartments, like in the old days. When I got on, I noticed that one of the first compartments had two unreserved seats, so I went in. My seat was in the middle; there was a guy in the seat next to me, by the window. I assumed he must have the reservation. There was one German girl across from me next to the aisle. A few minutes later three American girls came in and claimed the reserved seats. They are from a university in New England, on a school arranged tour. The guy was sitting in one of their reserved seats, by the window. Instead of moving to the other unreserved seat, he just got up and left.
The girls had apparently partied all night in Prague without sleeping so they all promptly went to sleep. I woke the girl next to me as we went by an old castle on the river. She was impressed.
Friday, May 25:
I've finally added some pictures (for May 16, sigh). I've just been too busy up until now, but I will try to put some more on tonight.
Today I went to Königstein. This area is dotted with rocky mesas. The Königstein fortress was built on the top of one of them. It benefits from vertical rock sides several hundred feet in height, which were then topped with a short wall. I can't imagine anyone climbing the sides, let alone climbing them under defensive fire. Much of the fortress was built by the 1600s and improved in later centuries. Compared to the walls, the gate was the weak point and had an intricate series of defenses that were also intimidating. Small wonder it was never attacked. It also had a 500 foot deep well to provide water, so it wasn't very susceptible to a siege, either.
Saturday, May 26:
Today I went into Dresden. It's a pretty city but very touristy and crowded. Everything (the Resisdence, the Opera, Zinger, Frauenkirche) is a short distance from the main station.
Sunday, May 27:
I was going to see the Bastei (Bastion) today. It's a bridge through a rock formation west of here. I've done so much walking. Today I'm just going to rest. I take the ferry into Bad Schandau, explore a little, then have a late lunch. One of the places I applied to for accommodations and was told ausgebucht
has a "Zimmer Frei" sign out. I think they rejected me because they only have double rooms and, on this busy holiday weekend (Pfingsten), they didn't want to rent it as a single.
Monday, May 28:
I'm on the train from Dresden to Hof. It's very crowded. Lot's of young people. The girl next to me is German. I remark that the train is very crowded. She agrees. It's a holiday.
She is going as far as Chemnitz. I hope that many on this train are, too. Maybe it will be less crowded after that.
The conductor comes by. I give him my Sparpreis ticket. He scans it and asks to see my Visa card, then stamps the date and train number on the ticket. No one checked my ticket during the half hour trip from Bad Schandau to Dresden. That was the express train that I had to take as a condition of the ticket. I could have taken the S-Bahn into Dresden instead, and it wouldn't have mattered.
We get to Chemnitz. Some people get off. Even more get on.
On the EC from Bad Schandau to Dresden, I once again sat in a coach with compartments. The reservation board said that all seats in the compartment were reserved from Prague to Dresden, but there were only two women in the compartment. So I sat down. No one else showed up. After a while the conductor came by and took one of the reservations off. Still five seats reserved and only two occupied. The car is marked on the outside for Czech Rail, but it is as new and modern as a German Rail EC.
I change trains in Hof for Freising, my last stop of the day. This train is even more crowded. It's a regional train (ALX), but it has compartments. Mine is full. By the end of the trip, there are people standing in the aisle. It's the end of a long holiday weekend and people are returning home to Munich.
I'm now in Freising, about to get ready for bed. I had dinner at Weihenstephen brewery. Sat in a shady courtyard.