My first attempt at a trip report: Germany via Singapore, direct out of Canberra

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Colin 2905

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Inspired by nonpop's awesome trip report (http://www.australianfrequentflyer....d-trip-photos/syd-xbkk-hel-bud-vie-74046.html), I thought I'd report on my recent trip to Germany, the primary purpose of which was to attend a Schiller concert.

WARNING: I'm not a foodie, and my budget was modest, so if you're looking for photos of luxury, this is not the thread for you. :D

Background

Mid last year, the trip was originally envisaged to be a RTW for both Mrs 2905 and I. She wanted to go to Groom Expo (a "dog thing") in Hershey PA, and I wanted to go to a Schiller concert in Germany. Planning was progressing well when a spanner was thrown in the works; a new development with Mrs 2905's medical condition meant that she wasn't going to be able to travel any appreciable distance any time soon (and still can't). So that plan was shelved. :(

Which brings me to Plan B. Singapore Airlines announced that they'd be flying in and out of Canberra, starting in September 2016, with fares to become available in January. Maybe I could still go to the concert, on my own, as a bog-standard return trip??? The SQ fares became available on the 25th of January. Playing around with dates that worked in well with concert dates, etc, I came up with a CBR - SIN - DUS return fare of $1256.60. After making doubly sure with Mrs 2905 that it was OK for me to go, I duly pounced. The trip was on!! (Well, Mk II of it.)


Planning my Itinerary

I'd been to Germany twice before, but they were just short side-trips from the UK, whilst Mrs 2905 was at Crufts (another "dog thing"). I have a cousin who moved to Germany some time ago, so I'd just caught up with her and her family for a day or so on each of those trips, and little more. This time I was going to spend 10 ~ 11 days in Germany, so I figured I'd see a bit more of the country.

Some guys that I used to work with had done a bit of a Euro road trip earlier this year, so I picked their brains. They mentioned a few places in Berlin that they'd found interesting, so that seemed like a good place to start. Being the capital, it seemed obligatory in any case. A good tip they gave me was to try and get on a free guided tour of the Bundestag building, but book way in advance. They only found that out when they got there, by which time it was well and truly too late. For the record, I booked my late September visit in mid July, and there was only one timeslot available over the three days that I'd be in Berlin.

I'd already had a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle in mind when I came across it in nonpop's trip report. I'm indeed grateful for those tips.

As a non-drinker, it only occurred to me that it would be Oktoberfest when I checked accommodation prices in Munich and they were around $400 per night for something basic. OK, let's skip Munich until another time.

Accommodation prices in Nuremberg seemed much more reasonable, a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle was still quite feasible from there, and there seemed to be a few things of interest to me to visit (such as the Deutsche Bahn musuem).

For the last couple of nights I figured I'd base myself somewhere within easy striking distance of DUS, for my 1150am flight. I was tossing up between Düsseldorf and Cologne, and went with Cologne in the end.

Now that I'd nailed down where I'd be staying and when, it was time to organise my rail travel. On my previous trips in Germany I'd purchased saver fares well in advance. This time around I compared the cost of doing the same thing vs. buying a German Rail Pass, and with the overall cost being only marginally more I went with the GRP for the added flexibility. For example, my first train trip was from Düsseldorf airport to Berlin. I could've bought a saver fare for €19, but had my flight been excessively delayed and I'd missed that particular train, I would've then been looking at more like €119 for a ticket on the day. No such problem with a GRP; just get on the next train. I did buy a saver fare for one trip though. One of the trip highlights was to be the train trip along the Rhine, and I booked it in first class, so as to increase my chances of getting a good view. Nuremberg - Frankfurt - Cologne (via Koblenz) was €45 (including seat reservation). Given that I'd be staying only a few hundred metres from the Nuremberg Hbf, I'd only have myself to blame if I missed that particular train. Speaking of seat reservations, given that I pretty much knew which trains I'd be travelling on, but had no idea how busy they'd be, I thought it prudent to reserve some seats. Reservations cost €4.50 each, but stopovers of up to 48 hours are permitted, so with a bit of creativity I was able to get two reservations for the price of one in most cases. ;)

So, with flights booked, concert tickets booked, hotels booked, a couple of guided tours booked and trains sorted, all that was left was to wait for the Big Day.


Closer to the Big Day

Five days before departure, SQ tempts me with, "Get extra legroom for USD 75 on your upcoming flight on SQ 338". Oh, what the heck. Might as well see what's available coming back on SQ337 as well, even though they didn't mention it. Oh look! There's one exit row seat left on it as well. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. As an added bonus, there's now a bulkhead row seat available (gratis) on the CBR - SIN leg. Thanks, I'll have that too.

Three days before departure, I'm made redundant. Great timing (not); I would've much preferred to enjoy my holiday in ignorant bliss.


The Big Day

SQ sends me a text message, advising me to arrive early due to possible industrial action by Border Force. The flight was scheduled to leave at 11.30pm, with check-in counters opening three hours prior, at 8.30pm. When I arrived around 8.25pm, the check-in counters were already open. I'd already checked in via the app, but I still had a suitcase to get rid of. The woman handling my check-in must've been new to this. She had to get some assistance from one of her colleagues due to a couple of things that seemed to throw her; that I'd be sitting in an exit row on the SIN - DUS leg, and that I'd requested special meals (non seafood). Once that was sorted, it was off to go through domestic screening. No dramas. Make my way towards international screening. Dramas. The doors wouldn't open, and there were few signs of life. Fortunately the lady on the desk in the Virgin lounge noticed my dilemma and came out to explain; international screening doesn't open until two hours before departure. At this stage, it was only about 8.40pm. I wandered back down the stairs and waited, soon to be joined by many others discovering the same thing. A little while later someone came down to announce that they'd be opening up soon, so at least we didn't have to wait until 9.30pm. It was a bit after 9pm, from memory. Once open, international screening was also a breeze. First time I've encountered a body scanner though (I don't travel much).

Mrs 2905 had wondered what the Duty Free section was like, so I was going to take a photo to send her. Having been accosted for taking photos before (in a supermarket in Zürich, but that's another story), I thought I should seek permission first. Dude said no. So no photo of the Canberra Airport Duty Free I'm afraid, but if you were to imagine what Duty Free would look like if it was shoe-horned inside a 7-11 store, something like that.

I bought myself a new smartphone recently, so figured that I might as well make a TRS claim. I'd filled out the claim using the TRS app (on said smartphone), but it was all for nought; even though they have a scanner at the TRS counter, they couldn't get it to work. To cut a long story short, they had several goes at entering it via their terminal and swiping my credit card, but gave up in the end and got me to fill out a paper-based form, for which I provided bank account details instead. Funny thing is that the refund appeared in my credit card account a few days later, so their terminal-based entry obviously worked, even if it didn't appear to.

I didn't think to get a photo of the 777-200ER, so the first photo is.......

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.... which was my attempt to convey to my family how much legroom a bulkhead seat gave me. (BTW, I've resized the photos a lot, to make them more bandwidth friendly.)

The next couple of photos are of the Y menu, not that it applied to me, since I was "non seafood".......

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The flight itself was non-eventful. I was seated in 31D and for the first couple of hours 31E remained empty :). We were then joined by someone whose IFE wasn't working :(. I tried to sleep, but as usual, I'd be lucky if what I got totalled any more than ten minutes.

Next stop, Singapore.
 

Colin 2905

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So I arrived in Singapore feeling completely stuffed due to lack of sleep. A bed in a transit hotel was sounding very appealing at this point, so I followed the signs until I found one, and asked about availability. They didn't have anything until another two hours (plus), but I took it. I killed the intervening time by wandering around all three terminals, just looking around mostly. This was my first time in SIN. I went and got my CDV's and some local currency with my trusty Citibank Plus card. This was the first time I'd ever seen a Citibank ATM.....

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..... and it was out of order. (To be fair though, it was working again a few minutes later.)

Took this photo to send back home, as I tried to describe Changi Airport.....

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The only other photo that I took in Singapore on the way over was of a squat toilet, but I don't think you want to see that.

I'd booked a six-hour slot at the transit hotel in T3, but only slept for an hour or two at the most. Still, it gave me an opportunity to shower, shave and freshen up and at least look human again. By this stage it was mid afternoon, and I still had several more hours to kill before my 11.30pm flight to DUS. I ditched my carry-on bag at Left Baggage for a few SGD's and cleared immigration. No queues, almost too easy. Found the M1 counter where I'd planned to buy a local SIM card, but they only had the SGD30 ones, not the one for SGD15 that I wanted. I figured fine, I'll find an M1 shop in the city, where I was headed anyway. Got the MRT into the city, no problems. Found an M1 store without too much hassle, got the SIM card that I wanted, and headed back out into the crowded heat and humidity again. By this stage I didn't feel much like wandering any more, so I found the nearest MRT station and headed back to the airport.... in what must've been rush hour, since it was standing room only, and barely that.

I'd already checked earlier in the day that the Veloce lounge access that comes with the ANZ Black card was currently useless in SIN, so I made my way to the SATS Premier lounge in T3 and used up one of my two free Priority Pass visits that comes with the Citibank Signature card. Had another shower and shave and a bite to eat, and just chilled until it was time to make my way to the gate.

Another non-eventful flight, but this time with way more legroom. Once again, stuff-all sleep. I might've got some sleep, had they not woken me up to feed me just as I was dozing off.

Next Stop, Düsseldorf.
 

Colin 2905

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Nothing much to say about DUS really. I wasn't able to get the SIM card that I wanted at the airport (seems to be a recurring theme), so I just roamed with my AU SIM until I got to Berlin. There was a Vodafone shop across the road from my hotel, and the very helpful guy there was able to sell me what I wanted and set it up.

My tour of the Bundestag building was that evening. Here's a few photos.....

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More later. I should've gone to bed ages ago (my body clock is still out of whack.)
 

Colin 2905

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More photos in and around Berlin, starting with the obligatory Brandenburg Gate......

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Fernsehturm (TV tower) and views from. Pity it was overcast......

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Colin 2905

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I vitiated the DDR Museum, which I found quite interesting, but this was the only photo I took (Doh!)......

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A few shots from the Große Tiergarten. Very tranquil; I could've easily spent more time there.....

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There are numerous ticket options for visitors getting around Berlin. I went with the Berlin Welcome Card, and since I'd paid the extra to include zone C, off I went to Potsdam.

The first thing that struck me as I left Potsdam Hbf was the sheer number of bicycles parked there. This photo only captures a fraction of them......

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Hopped aboard one of the "Old Fritz" sightseeing bus tours......

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(It would seem that there's lots of restoration work being done, pretty much everywhere.)
 

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Back to Berlin for an obligatory photo of a remaining section of the Berlin Wall.....

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Checkpoint Charlie wasn't far away, but it was so tacky in my opinion that I didn't even bother with a photo of it.

Some other random photos.....

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(Yep, Charlottenburg Palace, and yet more restoration work.)

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And as I waited for my train that would take me to my next destination, I was glad that I'd reserved a seat.....

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Next stop, the concert!
 

Colin 2905

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My cousin lives in Braunschweig, and since they'd accepted my offer to shout them tickets to the Schiller concert, the logical one to go to was in Hanover. It was also a Friday night, which spared them from having to rise early the following morning to go to work.

The venue was the Swiss Life Hall. Not as big as I'd imagined, but still good.....

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The following day we went for a drive to Harz and had a look around Blankenburg Castle......

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Colin 2905

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The next day it was back on an ICE, and off to Nuremberg. I squeezed in a visit to the Deutsche Bahn museum that afternoon, since it was going to the closed the following day.....

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The following day was the Tag der Deutschen Einheit Public Holiday and many things were closed, but there was still plenty to see in the Altstadt, such as the Imperial Castle at the top of the hill.....

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Colin 2905

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Whilst still based in Nuremberg I did a day trip by train to Füssen, then a short local bus ride to Hohenschwangau to see those legendary castles. Like nonpop, I had booked my tours well in advance, so collecting my tickets was a trivial matter. The queue to buy tickets on the day was extremely long, and it was just a weekday.....

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Photography isn't permitted inside the castles, but it was OK to take a photo through the open window.
 

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I cheated, and took the bus up the hill to Neuschwanstein......

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Once again, no photos allowed inside the castle, but we were allowed to take one of the bridge, which is now open......

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Colin 2905

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Some photos from the bridge. Firstly, don't drop your 'phone / camera over the side, or that's probably the last you'll ever see of it......

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Nearly done. I'll post the rest a bit later.
 
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