Eurotrip 2014 | Australian Frequent Flyer
Australian Frequent Flyer

Welcome to Australia's leading independent Frequent Flyer and Travel Resource since 1998!
Our site contains tons of information that will improve your travel experience.

Joining AFF is fast, simple & absolutely free - register now and take immediate advantage of these great BENEFITS.

Once registered, this box will disappear. And you will see fewer advertisements :)

Login Now to remove this and all advertisements (GOLD and SILVER members)
Not a member? Register Now for free

Eurotrip 2014

Status
Not open for further replies.

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
I'm currently in the middle of a trip from Sydney to spend Christmas in Copenhagen. I'm flying in and out of France via Asia, and using trains in Europe. The ultimate destination is Copenhagen for Christmas, though the actual journeys are as important as the destinations. The trip is a holiday. My first trip report, hope it is ok.

Part One:
VA65, SYD-DPS
. 13 December, 2014, 12:25pm. Boeing 737-800

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Sydney. I arrived to find a very busy check in area, though there was virtually no wait in the business class/priority line. I was quickly called to the desk. My first destination today was Denpasar on VA65 en route to Jakarta. It was to be my first visit to either place, indeed my first time in Indonesia. It was also to be my first flight on a VA flight as a Velocity platinum. When I checked the previous evening my row had been empty, but luckily it occurred to me to ask the check in agent if anyone was next to me. “Yes” was the answer, and she immediately offered to find a seat with an empty spot beside it. I moved one row back, from 7D to 8D. She said she’d get the other seat blocked so no one could sit there. This worked out very nicely: empty seat beside me and an empty seat in front, so protection from recliners too. Only one thing impinged upon my platinum comfort during the flight. Actually two things: the knees of a very tall passenger behind me.
I was first on board, giving me plenty of time to sit and judge all the other passengers as they filed by. The hordes of drunken bogans I’d envisaged failed to materialise, their place taken by a happy crowd of holiday-makers eager to get to Bali.

Everyone was seated promptly and the plane left a few minutes early.

The flight, comfortable enough, was made by the fantastic cabin crew. They were happy, super-efficient, very friendly, and led by a funny CSM who worked lots of jokes into her announcements over the PA in a voice and delivery reminiscent of comedian Judith Lucy. Like Judith Lucy, some of the jokes were even funny. Within seconds of anyone pressing their call button one of the flight attendants was by their side. There was one hot meal service and another two or three drinks services during the flight. Meal choices were roast pork with gravy, peas and mash, or vegetarian pasta. I opted for the pork which was basic but tasty and tender.

We arrived ahead of time in Bali. As the CSM finished her final announcements she was given a round of applause. Normally I’d find that cringe-worthy, but in this case it was well-deserved. It had been a virtuoso performance.

We disembarked onto buses for a short ride to the terminal. Inside a vast, mostly empty space, were lines for the visa on arrival. They were not too long and I was at the front within maybe 20 minutes. I was only spending one night in Indonesia, but the agent denied that there was such a thing as a 7 day visa so I had to pay $35 USD for a thirty day single-entry visa.

The lines for immigration were much longer, but the lines were not all moving at the same speed. My very full line was being serviced by a single desk, whereas another was being serviced by four desks. Along with a few other impatient folk, I switched lines and was soon through. I’m not sure what my hurry really was, as I had six hours before my next flight, on Air Asia to Jakarta.

Luckily some time was killed when I was pulled aside for an extra bag search. The customs agent who did the searching was perhaps disappointed not to find anything untoward. The rubbish way he re-packed my case may have been an expression of his frustration.

Part 2
Air Asia QZ 7517 DPS-CGK
13 December, 2014, 10:55pm. Airbus A320

I was making my way from Sydney to Jakarta, via Denpasar. The first leg was on VA using points and pay. DPS to CGK was a domestic flight on Air Asia, so after retrieving my bag I walked over to the domestic terminal. The way was very clearly signposted and indoors or undercover the whole way. I dropped off my small suitcase at the Air Asia bag and then headed up the escalators to the domestic airside area. Just beyond the escalators is an airport tax desk where you must pay 75,000 Rupiah, which must be in local currency. That’s about $7.50.

I gather the whole terminal is new, and there was still some construction and fit-out work going on. But overall it was good-looking, clean, efficient and comfortable. There is a Sydney-style duty free maze to negotiate followed by a bright airy concourse lined on one side by shops and restaurants and on the other by the departure gates. There are excellent views of the apron and runways outside and also out over the water, depending on where you are. There are plenty of ATMs available and the shops were all open late. Several were still open when my flight left at 10:55pm.

There was still the matter of a six hour wait before my flight. It turns out that there is no Priority Pass lounge in the new domestic terminal. There is a Garuda/Sky Priority lounge and the TG pay lounge. TG, by the way, in this case is not Thai Airways, but a the company that owns the shops and restaurants in the terminal. I opted for the pay lounge, as I have no Skyteam status. It cost 110,000 Rupiah (about $11). Inside was a buffet of four hot items, a few salad things, various generic and local nibbles, fruit juices, sweets, tea/coffee, etc. And comfy chairs and cooler-than-the-terminal aircon.

The hot buffet dishes were fried fish (I think) with sweet and sour sauce, stir fried veggies, rice, and chicken. They were all ok, the veggies were very tasty. Soft drinks were limited to Coke or Sprite. No alcohol that I could see.

My flight was scheduled for 10:55pm and we boarded and left exactly on time. I was in the deluxe seats near the front of the Airbus. These are exactly the same as all the other seats except for a red cover over the headrest. But I did have a whole row to myself – lucky as the leg room was tiny, maybe even worse than Delta domestic in the USA. My ticket included a checked bag and I pre-ordered a snack for $4, fried rice with two satay skewers. It was served about 10 minutes after take off, and I had to have my boarding pass stamped with a receipt before they handed it over. The rice was awful, but the satays were tasty and moist despite looking old and dry.
The flight was uneventful and basic, getting me from A to B on time. It was a positioning flight for the next leg of my journey starting the following morning.

Arrival at CGK was quick, another short bus ride off a tarmac impressively crowded with all sorts of airlines. Within moments I was outside being hounded by the taxi touts while I waited for the free shuttle to the nearby Sheraton Bandara where I would rest for the night.

To follow:
CGK-KUL
KUL-CGD
CGD - Lyon by TGV.
May fly Berlin - Copenhagen, or may train. Undecided as yet, but leaning towards train as I've paid for a Eurail pass.
 
Last edited:

RB

Established Member
Joined
Nov 17, 2004
Messages
3,047
Looking forward to the rest of your report, particularly Copenhagen. Reassuring to know not all Aussies going to Bali are bogans:D
 

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Part 3.
MH 722 Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur
A “business promo” fare on Malaysian from Jakarta to Paris via KUL was cheaper than direct from KUL-CDG. Hence, I used VA points to get me as far as Bali, with a cheap connection on Air Asia to Jakarta.


I stayed overnight in Jakarta at the Sheraton Bandara, about 5 minutes by shuttle bus from the airport. It was nice, showing some signs of age, but still a good place to sleep with a very comfy bed. I chose this hotel in part for the convenience and in part because I get top SPG status that is triggered after my first Starwood stay thanks to a promotion from Business Traveller magazine. Looking forward to see if that actually comes through.


For some reason, which escapes me now, I booked a late flight out of CGK meaning that after a late checkout from the Sheraton I still had hours to wait until 6:45pm. The worst part is that in KUL I would have had access to the First Class lounge. Instead I had about 5 hours to kill at CGK. I was able to check in really early and walked around a bit and tried out a few lounges: The Pura Indah First Class Lounge, the Pura Indah Business Class Lounge, the Premier Lounge and the Mutiara Lounge. The Pura Indah lounges have the same food etc. The difference is the First lounge has more comfy chairs, is much smaller, has no windows and actually felt too closed-in after a while, and was less crowded. I was the only person in there for much of the time. The Pura Indah Business Class lounge is much bigger, brighter, and generally feels nicer though it certainly got crowded. Catering identical in each lounge. First class has a shower, don't think business does. Here is a photo of the first class lounge:

DSC00002b.jpg


Premier Lounge was about on par, ok food, better range of drinks. There was a VA member trying to get in, quite entitled to access AFAIK, but the lounge lady was refusing him entry. I got in with Priority Pass.


The Mutiara Lounge (I think that is the one), was dreadful. Don’t bother: tiny, nothing there but some lukewarm-cold trays of Salmonella, a couple of soft drinks and dirty. Avoid.
My flight to KUL was on an old-looking 737-800. Business Class is like VA domestic, except four rows, more comfortable seats but rubbish service. The FA’s were no good at all, service below VA or QF economy. There was a hot meal, though I can’t remember what I had. Nothing special. Nowhere to hang a jacket either, so you have to hang on to it or put it in the overheads. Clearly MH’s reputation for good service does not come from their international short-haul.


The flight left about 40 minutes late and was late into KUL, further eating into my lounge time there.
 
Last edited:

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Part 4
MH KUL-CDG, First Class.



I had a discount business class ticket but got sucked into the paid upgrade. On MH you can bid for an upgrade just like on VA. I’d never flown First before, so thought I may as well try it out. It still worked out cheaper than the flexi Y fares I saw, but was an extravagance.


One immediate benefit was that I got access to the First Class lounge in Kuala Lumpur. A drawback was that I missed lots of it by leaving Jakarta late and by the delayed incoming flight. The lounge was very nice, though with limited hot food – you have to walk through to the Business lounge for that or go to the a la carte dining room. I did the latter and had a nice second dinner (the first being on the flight from CGK). I had soup and some snapper, both excellent. All the food on the menu was western. I didn’t drink anything, but they seemed to have a big wine list, and a bar in the Business Lounge.


The flight was called in the lounge, but by the time I got to the gate I was the last person to board Paris-bound A380. I did enjoy the fixed smile on the FA at the door change to a bigger welcoming grin as she read my boarding pass, greeted me by name, parted the curtains and led me to the left up to my seat: 1A. A succession of cabin crew came and introduced themselves and shook my hand.


The seat was roomy and comfy, though firm and not pillowy like the business class seats on a Singapore A380. There was a huge screen with a controller in the armrest. It all worked perfectly. Carry on bags went under the bench in front with still more than enough leg room left over. The footrest was actually mostly out of reach of my feet. There was a little closet for hanging cloths and a bit of room for storing other things too, like the big amenities kit that arrived in a glossy clothes boutique-style bag emblazoned with “Malaysia First” on it. I don’t know if they have his and hers amenities kits, but I definitely got a hers (I’m not a she). It had all sorts of lotions in it plus a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, lip balm, a bottle of had sanitizer that looked useful but turned out to be anti-bacterial lotion, and a lovely big folding hair brush with a vanity mirror built into the handle. I din’t find all this until well into the flight. The bathroom was well stocked with amenties more useful to me, so no problem.

View of screen in first class seat:
DSC00004b.jpg


I got a fruit juice as my welcome drink, no alcohol on the ground, not that I really drink anyway. They also took my order for what would be my third dinner. I’d forgotten to use the pre-ordering service, so had to pick from the menu. I had an Asian noodle dish as a main, with salad and excellent satays as starters. Fruit for dessert. I can’t remember whether there was even any other dessert or cheese on the menu. In any case, it was all tasty enough but no better than Singapore business class food. Except perhaps the satays which were delicious, a mix of chicken and beef with a giant bowl of sauce on the side. I also relented and had a glass of French claret with dinner. It tasted good to me, but I rarely drink.


After dinner I watched a movie before having the bed made up as I changed into the nice pyjamas they provided. I was pleased to find that both the pyjamas and slippers fit me. I normally have great trouble sleeping on planes, even on good lie flat seats. This time, maybe as I was tired, I slept about 6 hours and woke up feeling really refreshed. When I woke up they took my order for breakfast and were in a bit of a hurry to bring it to me even though there were still about 4 hours of flying left.


For breakfast I had cereal, a pastry, and roti with chicken curry which was very good. Also some fruit and I drank their “signature drink”, the name of which I have forgotten, but it is a mix of tea and juice, and was delicious. No special coffee. In fact I recall that “Nescafe” was one of the special coffee items on the menu.


There service was pretty good, but not really proactive or as attentive as I would have expected. Especially as there was only one other passenger flying first class. At one stage I pressed the call button and no one came for ages, though several FAs walked past, so I pressed it again. The service was no better than SQ or VA business class, or VA premium economy come to think of it. I have no doubt that it is far from being the best first class in the sky. I definitely wouldn’t pay full retail for it, and maybe not even anything extra again. I’m flying back in business so will be able to compare.


A curious thing is that at various times random people were brought into the first cabin for meals and I don’t know what else. An economy passenger even snuck through to use the bathroom at one stage. The FAs only noticed as he left, and immediately went in and cleaned the bathroom, a funny touch.


We arrived at Paris CDG on time. I had to use the toilet when we landed,. I didn’t realize that everyone on the lower deck was to disembark via the front door, and were kept waiting by me…sorry everyone. Immigration was crowded and a bit disorganised, but didn’t take more than about 20 minutes. My bag was already on the carousel as I walked out, which was nice though I once again had several hours to kill before my next connection which was the TGV train to Lyon.
 

medhead

Suspended
Joined
Feb 13, 2008
Messages
20,288
Flights
My Map
Glad to read about your MH A380 experience. i'm doing that flight in business early in 2015. Do you mind sharing the cost of the upgrade? Was it via the bidding process, or paid in the lounge?
 

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Glad to read about your MH A380 experience. i'm doing that flight in business early in 2015. Do you mind sharing the cost of the upgrade? Was it via the bidding process, or paid in the lounge?
I did it via the bidding process a couple of days before, but you can also do it at the lounge. The minimum the online system would allow was $1600 for that flight, but was more for the return leg so it obviously varies. It seems a lot, and it is, but the return flight including that is still just over $4000. I don't think I'd do it again and will be interested to see how business compares. You may be able to bid less at the lounge.
 

medhead

Suspended
Joined
Feb 13, 2008
Messages
20,288
Flights
My Map
I did it via the bidding process a couple of days before, but you can also do it at the lounge. The minimum the online system would allow was $1600 for that flight, but was more for the return leg so it obviously varies. It seems a lot, and it is, but the return flight including that is still just over $4000. I don't think I'd do it again and will be interested to see how business compares. You may be able to bid less at the lounge.
The lounge has set prices depending on the day of the week. Someone has mentioned a price around here and I think it was pretty similar to $1600. But don't quote me as I can't exactly remember the price.

Just double checked MYR5000 - pretty much $1650.
 
Last edited:

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Part 4
TGV 5028 from CDG-Lyon Part Dieu station;
Lyon – Zurich by regional train.


On arriving at CGD I had about 6 ½ hours to wait before my train to Lyon. I had no desire to rush into the city – I’ve been before, albeit fifteen years ago, and have seen the big sights and otherwise just have an abiding memory of pushy New York – esque people, crowds, aggressive beggars, and pickpockets. No thanks. I was going to overnight in Lyon as I’d never been, and to avoid Paris.


I whiled away the hours by exploring Charles De Gaul airport and immediate surrounds. There is a left luggage room where you can leave bags for 7 euro/oiece up to 6 hours. It is in Terminal 2 near the TGV station, on the top level where you first get to on leaving the inter-terminal shuttle. They scan it all in an x-ray machine when you check it in.
I’ve read many complaints about how awful CDG is, but I found it pleasant and the architecture of Terminals 2 and 3 fascinating. I loved the place. T1 is for LCCs and is a dump, basically a big shed with nothing of interest. I also went for a walk outside terminal 2. There is a non-descript business park, a few hotels including the Hilton, and some carparks and closed roads that give a good view of the runways and planes. The old Concorde on a pedestal is next to one of these carparks.


There is free wifi in the airport terminals plus plenty of power points and even a bicycle-powered recharging station. There are some good places to buy food and an a la carte brasserie near the Air France Sky Priority check in area. There are a few other shops, but most of the duty free places are airside. The Sheraton Hotel lobby is inside the terminal. The Hilton is a very very short walk outside and the Ibis is next to the Termnal 1 shuttle stop. The Ibis was advertising day-use rooms for a few hours starting from something pretty cheap like 14 Euros.
My train arrived and left on time. I sat on the lower deck of a TGV Duplex in first class. It was comfortable and quick. It got up to a great speed over several long stretches, and after about 2 hours I was in Lyon. I walked about 20 minutes to my hotel, the Carlton. It was over the Rhone river from the station, and was very nice with a small but excellent room. The closest hotel to the station in Lyon seemed to be the Athena. The Best Western that claims to be at the station is not, it is a fair way away.


After an enjoyable evening and morning taking in some of the sights, I pfaffed around too long in the morning and was running late for my next train, so got a taxi to the station. Once I arrived at the station of course I remembered all the things I’d left in the safe in my room, including my passport. Haven’t done that before, and won’t again. I had to change to a later train and kill some more time in Lyon, which turned out to be a great thing as I saw some more nice places and got to visit the famous Paul Bocuse food market where I bought lunch.


Missing the train didn’t really matter, as I bought a Eurail pass and could get on any train except a TGC or overnight sleeper without a reservation. It is a good flexible way to travel. The first train took me over the Swiss border to Geneva. I needed some Swiss Francs so in the short wait for my next train to Zurich I went to find an ATM. It turns out that, at Geneva station at least, it isn’t just the Swiss bank accounts that are secret, but the banks too. There were photo machines everywhere, but no ATMS. Back on the next train without Swiss currency meant I couldn’t take advantage of the trolley bar service. Oh well, I survived. Early evening and I was in Zurich, looking pretty magical around Banhofstrasse all done up in masses of Christmas lights.


Two days later and I’d be on the train from Zurich to Vienna, via Innsbruck.


Part 5
Zurich – Vienna, via Innsbruck.


8:40am Eurocity train, first class. Nice seats, quiet carriage, and tray service from the bistro car if you want it. Coming out of Zurich and all the way to Innsbruck there is beautiful scenery. Lake Zurich, snow-capped peaks beyond, green fields, and archetypal Swiss houses. As the train approached Innsbruck it went over a high pass where snow lay on the ground and frosted the pine trees that marched beside the railway line and up the slopes of the Alps until they gave way at the tree line to a barren, stony landscape of towering cliffs, rock falls, and ice. Magnificent. I sat in an observation car that had extra-large windows for an even better view.


I decided to stop for two hours in Innsbruck rather than taking the immediate connection, and I’m glad I did! Whichever way I turned, huge mountains formed the backdrop. Near the station is the old medieval part of the city, and it is lovely. It was very Christmassy, all decorated and alive with happy people and good atmosphere.


I filled in the time walking around and taking photos. There were lockers at the station big enough for my suitcase and carry-on bag. It cost about 2.80 Euros, and I think you get 24 hours for that. A ready supply of coins is important it seems in the places I’ve been. Lockers and toilets all tend to need them.
The train to Vienna was an Austrian Railways high-speed Railjet service. Again I was in a 1st class car, although these trains have a higher and more expensive class called “business class”. There is even a curtain between it and regular 1st class!


There are other similarities between the Railjet and a plane. The seats are like a leather cross between ‘plane seats and racing-style car seats. They were firm but not uncomfortable. Leg room was ample, though would be less so if someone was seated opposite you (Many seats are in pairs or 4s facing each other over a fixed table. On the bulkhead there was a screen that cycled between current speed (225km/h was the fastest I saw), timetable information, and a map showing our current position. There was free wifi on board as well as constant mobile reception. I can see real advantages for a business traveller using these trains over flying – centre of town to centre of town, stay in touch and online constantly, plenty of space to work, plenty of refreshments available, and clean high quality facilities. Certainly a much better proposition than the dire trains we get in Australia.




Part 6: Vienna to Nuremberg
DB ICE 228, 4.5 hours.


I stayed in Vienna the Hilton at Landstrasse. It was very nice. Check in was quick and I was upgraded couresty of my HHonors Gold via VA. I got a room with a great view over the city and access to the good executive lounge.


I had a day free in Vienna for some sightseeing, so looked at a few things that interested me, including the vast Zentralfiedhof cemetery which my (somewhat unreliable) Lonely Planet guide says hold a couple of million bodies, more than live in the city. I also took a tram to the Danube and went for a walk along Donauinsel, the long island in the middle of the river. It is all parkland and cycle paths, and makes for a very pleasant stroll. From there I took the underground to Stephensplatz, in the middle of the old area where most of the big tourist sights are including St Stephens cathedral, the Hofburg with its many museums, and many, many shops. One of the many Christmas markets was also there. I took the opportunity there to see how Austrian gluhwein compares to Swiss, and to make a mental note for future comparisons in Germany. Hard to say which is better, more extensive investigation is required.


I bought a 24 hour public transport ticket to get around. It cost 7.20 Euro and was valid for all trams, buses and underground trains. You can also buy a much more expensive and heavily-advertised “Vienna Card” that does the same thing plus gives you discount s on entry to many museums. I didn’t plan to visit any museums, so no point. No idea if it would really be worth it otherwise: maybe if you were going to pay to go into a lot of places.


Like Zurich, Vienna was very pretty at night with all the Christmas lights. Must say that I found people there rather pushy, and cyclists seemed to be very aggressive. That sort of carry-on is pretty boring, really. Oh well, good luck to them.


I took a 6:44am train from Wien Hauptbanhof (Central station) bound for Nuremburg in Germany, a 4.5 hour journey on high-speed ICE train. Just before 9:30 we passed through Passau on the border. There some men who I guess were plain-clothes immigration agents boarded the train and did a sweep through after it left the station. By the time they got to my carriage, the last on the train, they had a small group of young men with them who I assume they had caught without the correct visa. They also asked to see the passports of “ethnic-looking” people in my carriage. At the next stop, Plattling, they took their captives off the train.


I arrived in Nuremberg with plenty of time to look around the old city, which is right outside the station. There were big crowds of football fans milling about and sometimes bursting into chants or a kind of singing. Nearly all of them seemed to be drinking and there were police with riot gear watching them closely. The local team was playing that afternoon, a nil-al draw it turned out.


I left my luggage in a locker at the station and spent the afternoon seeing the sights, including the famous Christmas market. In the evening I took a short train ride to the Hilton, a bit out of town near a convention centre, the football stadium and the old Nazi rally grounds. The football stadium itself was a Nazi facility in the 1930s, the “Hitler Youth” stadium.


The Nuremberg Hilton is nothing special and I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay there again. It was obviously some other brand at some stage and is pretty shabby. There is no executive lounge and the free wifi (for Gold HHonors) is rubbish – 250MB limit, a huge chunk of which is used up by the splash screen you get once you log in. In Numrenberg I’d probably stay at one of the hotels in town if I go back. The breakfast at the Hilton was excellent, the only redeeming feature really. Beside that it is just ok.


Next stop, Berlin.
 

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Part 7 White Christmas in Copenhagen & Danish Railways chaos

From Nuremberg I took a high-speed ICE train to Berlin where I overnighted before continuing on to Copenhagen via Hamburg. I used my layover in Berlin to see some of the sights and stayed at the Hilton. It was excellent and had a good, if very crowded, lounge. Very good wi-fi in the room too.

Ane ICE train passes by at Nuremburg Frankenstadt station. In the background behind the graffiti you can just make out a wall that is part of the old Nazi rally grounds:

ICE at Nuremberg.jpg

I changed trains at Hamburg to an ICE train that was operated by DSB, Danish Railways. It was instantly less organised than the German railways. Two trains pulled into the same platform, but it wasn’t clear to anyone which train was going to Copenhagen. One was terminating, the other was continuing and crowds of people with luggage were going first here then there trying to find out where to go. I took a seat in the first class section in the first car. There was a lot of pfaffing around and the train left 10 minutes late. People were wandering up and down the train trying to find seats. After a little while a big family including a constantly-crying baby came into our little area and sat for about 10 minutes before moving back down the train again. Then, about 20 minutes after the train left Hamburg a woman came and said I was in her seat, and had a ticket showing it was reserved. There are little panels above each seat to show whether it has been reserved or not, and from which stop to where. None of them in my carriage were lit up, indicating a vacant seat – which is why I sat where I did. Anyway, no problem, of course I moved. About half an hour later, suddenly all the panels lit up now showing that every single seat was reserved. Luckily no one else turned up to claim my spot. With a Eurail pass you don’t have to reserve a seat on most trains, and there is a small supplement to pay if you do. For this leg I had not reserved, nor for most of my train journeys.

Inside a first class compartment on board a German ICE train. Carriages are a mix of compartments and open sections:

First class compartment.jpg

The train to Copenhagen from Hamburg goes onto a ferry between Puttgarden and Rodby, the sea border between Germany and Denmark. The train drives into the truck deck and everyone must leave the train for the 45-minute crossing.

I got into Copenhagen in the early evening and took a taxi to my hotel. I booked a 1 bedroom serviced apartment for my four nights in Copenhagen. It is more comfortable, means I can self-cater, and there is a washing machine. I stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel in Oesterport, two stops form Central station on the S train (normal above-ground trains as opposed to U or subway, and for which the Eurail pass is valid). It is a little out of town in a quiet area, but is good and transport is easy or it is a 15-20 minute walk to downtown.

I did some sightseeing on my first free day including a visit to the Tivoli gardens in the evening to see the Christmas lights and market. I also tried some gløgg, the Danish mulled wine to see how it compared to the other gluhwein I’d sampled along the way. Actually, either it was too sweet or I was getting sick of the stuff. My second day was Christmas Eve, which is when Danes celebrate Christmas, have their special meal and give gifts. It is a public holiday and almost everything was closed, like Australia on Christmas day, but even quieter. I used the day to do a train trip into nearby Sweden, though Malmo to Helsinborg. From there it is a 20 minute ferry crossing back to Denmark and another train from Helsingor (location of the castle featured in Hamlet) back to Copenhagen. Denmark really is very small.

For the whole time I had been in Europe the weather, while chilly, was actually milder than I’d expected. Certainly no snow anywhere nor any sign of it. But, before I turned in late on Christmas Eve I checked the forecast and for Christmas morning in Copenhagen: “heavy snow”. Sure enough next morning snow was falling, a white Christmas. It fell for a couple of hours and then the day cleared up. It was cold enough that it all lay on the ground until I left on Boxing Day.

From Copenhagen I returned to Hamburg for a night, this time cross-country via Kolding in Denmark and Flensburg, the northernmost city in Germany. There was more confusion courtesy of Danish Railways. The train from Copenhagen consisted of several sections all heading to different destinations. The different parts all arrived at the platform separately before being connected. Once again crowds of people were running up and down the platform, trying to find the right bit. It was written on the station indicator board which cars where heading where, so I boarded and took a seat. The panels showed that every single seat was reserved, but there was only one other person in my section. Noone else ever did turn up.

Noone ever checked my ticket on the Danish leg of this trip, but an hour or so into the journey one of the train attendents told me I was in the wrong section for Flensburg and would need to move. After a while I did and asked her exactly where I should go. She got a look on her face like she had a terrible toothache, and said “next one, 21 and 22”. I made my way down the train into the “next one” which was a second class car, and not 21 or 22, that smelt like stagnant water and had indicators saying it was bound for somewhere else. I kept moving forward into car 21 at the front of the train, another nearly deserted first class section. It had information panels on the bulkhead clearly saying “To Esbjerg” (ie not Flensburg). The few people seated were all going to Esbjerg and told me, when I asked them if this was going to Flensburg, that I was in the wrong car and would need to move back. Anyway, half an hour later an announcement came over the PA in Danish which made all the Esbjerg-bound passengers leap to their feet, grab their belongings and leave. As they passed one told me in broken English that I had been right and was lucky.

At Kolding the train was split up and the various bits went their separate ways. Three stops before Flensburg a train attendant asked me where I was going. And told me that this train was no longer going all the way to Flensburg but would be stopping one station short of there: “to Flensburg has just been cancelled. There will be a bus, don’t worry”. Everyone got out at Padborg a little town just on the Danish side of the border before Flensburg. About 14 of us walked to a deserted bus stop outside the station and waited for a bus the train guard said would arrive in 20 minutes. That time passed and of course no sign of any bus. Lively conversation among the Danes and a couple of phone calls, but no sign of anger. One of them went back into the station and then came running out calling everyone back in. Waiting at the platform was another train bound for Flensburg and then Hamburg – my destination. We all boarded this new train which was very full. I found a seat in the first class section but, as usual, every seat was shown as being reserved. At Flensburg loads of people got on including the person who had booked the seat I was in, so I moved over the aisle to the last vacant spot that said it was reserved, but luckily no one else turned up.

Overnight layover in Hamburg, followed by Basel, Paris and then the long flight(s) back to Sydney.
 
Last edited:

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Copenhagen Central station, DSB 1st lounge shaped like a train (closed for Xmas) Danish 1st Class, and self-serve (instant) coffee bar in 1st class:

Copenhagen central.jpg DSB lounge.jpg DSB 1st class.jpg DSB 1st class2.jpg

And a live weather report from Frankfurt (currently en route to Basel, loving the wi-fi on the train): It's snowing.
Snow in Frankfurt.jpg
 

codash1099

Established Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2006
Messages
2,844
Qantas
Platinum
Flights
My Map
Vinomofo is the best wine deals site on the planet. Good wines, real people and epic deals, without all the bowties and bs.

Recommended by the Australian Frequent Flyer

DynastyWarrior

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2015
Messages
14
Thanks heaps for this! Making me more and more excited for the Eurotrip I am planning in late 2015. What city was your favourite? And who had the best beer? haha
 

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Thanks heaps for this! Making me more and more excited for the Eurotrip I am planning in late 2015. What city was your favourite? And who had the best beer? haha
I especially enjoyed Zurich, Lyon and Copenhagen. I was in Copenhagen for Christmas, so probably enjoyed more beer there than anywhere else...but you find great beer, wine and food everywhere.

Still need to update with a couple more cities and flights.
 

24601

Member
Joined
Sep 27, 2014
Messages
441
Part 8.The ICE 73 to Basel.

In Hamburg I stayed at the Sofitel, a last-minute decision. In fact it was only that morning that I even decided to stop in Hamburg. All I knew was that I had to start making my way south in order to be in Paris by the evening of 28 December, as I had recently booked a room at the CDG airport Hilton with my flight leaving the morning of the 29[SUP]th[/SUP]. I looked at a few options, including Flensburg. In the end the availability of last-minute cheap 5-star rooms in Hamburg had swayed me.

The Sofitel is centrally located, easy to get to by train, and a nice hotel. The room was average European size (that is, not huge), but comfortable, spotlessly clean, and in excellent condition. It is very French and the staff speak to you in French by default. In a drawer in the bedside table was not a bible, but a bottle of red wine. Check in was very quick and check out was ok too, though they tried to make me pay again for the prepaid room. That was easily sorted out and I was soon on my way through the morning darkness (at 8 am). I booked the room through Agoda as I get Velocity points for the room, and there was a +500 points promotion running too. Booking via the Velocity Agoda website is slightly to a lot more expensive than the regular Agoda site, so worth checking both to see if there is too big a difference to make it worthwhile.

I paid for breakfast at the hotel; it cost $2 more for a “room plus breakfast”. It was good and a wide selection. Wish I’d had more time.

I was taking a few final photos outside Hamburg station when I suddenly thought “hang on, what was I here for?”. Then a glance at my watch and “oh bugger, the train!” I raced to the platform moments before the train pulled in and then had a long trek to the far end to my car. After the previous day’s full train I had reserved a seat online before I went to bed. To reserve or not reserve is a gamble that can add excitement and sometimes pay off. With a Eurail pass you don’t have to reserve a seat on most trains, but then you are not guaranteed a seat. Hamburg to Basel is a long trip, about 7.5 hours, so I didn’t want to risk it. You pay a small supplement on all but TGV and night trains to reserve a seat with a Eurail pass. Both times I did it it cost 4 Euro. I also had to do it on the TGV I took, and that cost a lot, about $70 AUD from memory. It is very difficult and a bit prohibitive to use TGVs with a Eurail pass. The only website I could find that permitted seat reservations without also buying a ticket was the German DB site. The DB rail site is a brilliant tool for looking up trains all over Europe; their search engine covers all networks, not just Germany. But you can only reserve seats through DB on train journeys starting in Germany, and can only reserve a seat without a ticket on journeys entirely within Germany. This day I was going from Germany to Switzerland, but no problem, I just reserved my seat from Hamburg to Karlsruhe near the border. It turned out that the train had tons of empty seats anyway and I had a 6-seat compartment to myself almost the whole way. Unfortunately the time I wasn't alone I shared it with a man who was continually coughing alarmingly.

Morning coffee served at my seat on DB ICE 73:

DB coffee.jpg

The journey was very pleasant with great scenery the whole way and coffee served at my seat. I had my own food leftover from Christmas so didn’t use the restaurant car. The train passed through a magical (to me) snowscape as we approached Frankfurt, big fluffy flakes falling romantically from the sky. Not so romantic for all the motorists trapped on the mountain highways in nearby Switzerland, of course. But I was in a train.

Snowy views from the train:
Snowscape.jpg Frankfurt.jpg

Arrival at Basel was about 3pm leaving a bit of time for a walk around the medieval town. My hotel was the Hilton, just over the road from the station.

Basel Hilton.jpg Basel.jpg

Check in quick and easy, no formal recognition of gold status and no upgrade. Had access to the Lounge because of the type of room I was in, not sure about status. It was very small, pretty basic, and crowded with people who came across to me a busy being noisily self-important: “so do you want to go to Paris tomorrow?” “Oh darling, let’s do Moscow instead..”
 

medhead

Suspended
Joined
Feb 13, 2008
Messages
20,288
Flights
My Map
The TGV reservation was reasonable back in 2007, a handful of euro. Good to know it has gone up considerably since then. I think at that time TGV, Thalys and some spanish trains required reservations. Also probably the Austrian trains. We were shocked at the Spanish reservation fee, of the order of A$50 to A$70. But we were pleasantly surprised to receive full in seat meal service from a trolley, including pre-meal drink, in first class. It was also a decent meal, at least qantas domestic business class standard probably a bit better.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Community Statistics

Threads
86,292
Messages
2,079,000
Members
53,688
Latest member
Sherm
Top