The Anonymous Widower

Would I Go Back To Croatia?

The answer has to be Yes!

If I went back for a few days, I think, I’d fly to one city before spending a few days there. I would then travel to another city, spend a few days there before flying home.

As airlines fly to Dubrovnik, Pula, Split, Zagreb and a few other places, there are a lot of choices of route.

My preferred route, might be.

  • Fly to Duibrovnik and spend 2-3 days.
  •  Take the ferry to Split and spend 2-3 days.
  • Take the train to Zagreb and spend a day before flying home.

There are certainly lots of possibilities.

My other recommendations would be.

  • Plan your trips in Dubrovnik the day before.
  • Stay in a hotel with a lift in Dubrovnik.
  • Stay in a hotel in Diocletian’s Palace in Split.
  • Take the train between Split and Zagreb in First Class in good weather.
  • If you’re coeliac like me, take plenty of snacks or eat fruit.

Plan the journey well and you’ll enjoy it.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Gluten Free Food In Croatia

Croatia is not as easy as Poland, as that country and some others in Eastern Europe, who were under Soviet domination, developed skills to cook without flour, as it was expensive.

Croatian cooking seems to use a lot of flour and breadcrumbs, but then Serbia was and probably still is a massive produce of wheat.

But I found no problems in either Split or Dubrovnik, armed as I was with a gluten free restaurant card in Croatian. These are some pictures of the food I ate.

I even found some gluten-free beer from Aberdeen in a vegetarian restaurant called Nishta.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , | 5 Comments

Brussels Station Has Got A Whole Lot Worse!

I think in future, if I have the choice of Eurostar terminals in Europe, I won’t be choosing Brussels!

I arrived in Brussels with about three hours to waste before my train to London left.

So I thought, I’d perhaps take a Metro train somewhere sensible and have coffee and breakfast. There’s nothing in the station that is gluten-free, so forget that one!

But they’ve changed the ticketing on the Metro and it looks like you need to use an Oyster-style ticket. I don’t do those sorts of things, as usually ou have to load a lot mopre money than the ticket and when you go back, you of course forget the card.

Why can’t these places allowed a contactless bankcard as a ticket like London?

So I thought, I’d go to the Tourist Office upstairs and complain! But that has been closed.

I tried the guy doing the train information for Belgian Railways and he couldn’t help. He also told me, he was fed up with the situation.

The Tourist Office is some distance away and you need to use the Metro.

So only go through Brussels, if you don’t want to use the Metro, get advice from the Tourist Office or eat something that is gluten-free.

I couldn’t even find a McDonalds, where I could buy some gluten-free chips.

If Brussels station is going to go downhill like this, the sooner, that Cologne is a Eurostar destination the better.

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Disappointing Cologne

Cologne and its station disappointed me.

I was hungry and the hotel wasn’t exactly brimming with gluten-free food options. Or guests for that matter.

In fact, the whole city centre was dead.

Was everybody tucked up in bed watching the vEurovision Song Contest or because of the attacks in the city centre in the New Year, does everybody not go there any more.

In the end, I got supper in an Argentinian steak house, where the food was a lot better than the service.

In the morning, I didn’t have a ticket, so I arrived at the station a bit early, only to find that the machines didn’t seem to see the ticket I wanted and the ticket office wasn’t open.

It was a repeat of the customer service of the night before.

There are a couple of things to note in the pictures.

  • I had to go through all the rigmarole of getting a number to buy a ticket.
  • I had masses of paper for my ticket compared to what I get in the UK.
  • Comfortable seats were thin on the ground.
  • There was a smoking area on the platform.
  • Lots of trains seemed to be locomotive-hauled.

Eventually, I arrived in Brussels with plenty of time to spare.

But surely the biggest disappointment about Cologne is why the Germans haven’t developed it as a gateway for Cross-Channel passengers.

Consider.

  • Cologne has very good connections to major German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, which are much better than those from Brussels or Paris.
  • A lot of visitors to Germany from the UK, may be going to Cologne anyway, so why force them to change trains in Brussels?
  • According to the Demographics of Cologne, the city has around a million inhabitants and is in a region of three million.
  • Cologne is about the same size as Birmingham, Glasgow or Liverpool/Manchester, so it could probably sustain a direct service.
  • If you need to waste an hour or so in Cologne, whilst changing trains, you are by the cathedral and the Rhine.
  • Cologne to London by train must be around four hours, which must be very competitive with flying.
  • A Sleeper train between London and Cologne would probably work. I’d use it!

I think the Germans can’t be bothered, as they’d have more passengers to cater for, who knew about customer service.

I know there’s the problem of Customs and Immigration, but if Deutsche Bahn were serious about running a service, I’m sure the problems are solvable.

I’ve been through small airports where excellent, efficient and probably very thorough systems had been setup to encourage traffic.

The problem could of course be the UK Border Force, who in my experience don’t seem to be the best in the world.

But then, the world needs to develop fast, efficient, automatic border checks, that I’m certain if we got right, would actually discourage illegal immigration.

As it is, we set up such weak checks, that they encourage criminals to encourage and fleece, those that might want to come to countries, where work might be available.

 

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Karlsruhe To Cologne

A lot of this section was along the side of the River Rhine, as rhe pictures show.

The train was running on the West Rhine Railway, which  is described in Wikipedia like this.

The West Rhine railway (German: Linke Rheinstrecke, literally ‘left (bank of the) Rhine route’) is a famously picturesque, double-track electrified railway line running for 185 km from Cologne via Bonn, Koblenz, and Bingen to Mainz. It is situated close to the western (left) bank of the river Rhine and mostly aligned to allow 160 km/h operation between Cologne and Koblenz and between Bingen and Mainz. Line speed between Koblenz and Bingen is restricted by themeandering nature of the Rhine.

It is effectively a 100 mph line, like say the Great Eastern Main Line between London and Norwich.

It is certainly one of those lines where you might pay the extra to go in First and make sure you sit on the river side of the train.

I had deliberately chosen a hotel close to Cologne station, so it was just a short walk to the hotel.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Tram-Trains From Karlsruhe-Durlach Station

Karlsruhe-Durlach station is the second station in Karlsruhe. Wikipedia says this.

Karlsruhe-Durlach station is the second largest station in the city of Karlsruhe in the German state of Baden-Württemberg after Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof. It is used by services of the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn and the Rhine-Neckar S-Bahn, regular regional services and occasional long-distance trains.

I went there, as I thought it might be an interesting place to see the yellow and red tram-trains on the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn working.

I was not disappointed and took these pictures in the station and as the tram-train I caught climbed up to the main tram line through the city, that eventually goes through the main shopping street.

I got off at Tullastrasse and hoped to catch one of the new tram-trains to the city centre. In the end I caught an older one.

This Google Map shows Karlsruhe-Durlach station.

Karlsruhe-Durlach Station

Karlsruhe-Durlach Station

Note the two Stadtbahn platforms on the North-West side of the station and how they curve up to join the main tram route through the city.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

The Latest Citylink Tram-Trains In Karlsruhe

These pictures show some of the latest batch of NET2012 Citylink Tram-Trains in dervice In Karlsruhe.

They are closely related to the Class 399 tram-trains for Sheffield, that I wrote about in My First Pictures Of A Class 399 tram-train.

They were good trams and rode well on the streets of Karlsruhe.

Note that the trams I photographed are only some of the latest batch of twenty-five tram-trains of this type in Karlsruhe. So the basis of the Class 399 tram-train, must surely be well-proven on the streets of a city about the same size as Sheffield.

Incidentally, all of the new tram-trains were running on tram routes, just as the first Class 399 tram-trains will in Sheffield, when they start running in a few months.

But their profile and nose section is slightly different between the two variants. Compare the pictures from Karlsruhe, with this visualisation of a Class 399 tram/train from the Stadler data sheet.

Class 399 Tram/Train Visualisation

Class 399 Tram/Train Visualisation

Note the lack of a coupling, as I don’t think Sheffield’s trams will work in pairs.

This second gallery was taken as I rode another of the new trams back to Karlsruhe station?

Note that the non-driving end of the tram converts into four seats with panoramic views to the rear of the tram.

Will we be seeing this feature in Sheffield?

I think it is too radical and although the design is common in Germany, I can’t see the Department of Transport allowing this passenger friendly feature.

But if it is possible and built into the tram-trains delivered to Sheffield, why shouldn’t it be used? Surely, as the tram-trains go there merry way around Sheffield and Rotherham, there must be some entertaining things to look at, out of the back of a tram!

Overall, I can see the Class 399 tram-train becoming a very popular vehicle in the UK.

  • It is a modern, low-floor tram.
  • It is a capable, electric multiple unit.
  • It has a comfortable, if rather crowded at times, ride.
  • The newer tram-trains are wheelchair-accessible.
  • The passengers I spoke too, seemed to like the tram-trains.
  • Longer trains can be created, by coupling units together.
  • It is not an unproven concept on the streets and tracks of several German cities.
  • Seventy-five tram-trains of this type and earlier variants, run in Karlsruhe alone.
  • The major difference is that the Germans use 15 kVAC overhead wires for their trains and we use a more-standard 25 kVAC.
  • Karlsruhe seems to have developed extensive solutions to make the train-platform transition an easy one for all passengers.

All it needs is for a successful trial between Sheffield and Rotherham.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Building A Tram-Train Tunnel In Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe has quite a few tram–trains routes in the Karlsruhe Stadtbahn. This is said as an introduction to the system in Wikipedia.

The Karlsruhe Stadtbahn is a German tram-train system combining tram lines in the city of Karlsruhe with railway lines in the surrounding countryside, serving the entire region of the middle upper Rhine valley and creating connections to neighbouring regions. The Stadtbahn combines an efficient urban railway in the city with an S-Bahn (suburban railway), overcoming the boundary between trams/light railways and heavy railways. Its logo does not include the green and white S-Bahn symbol used in other German suburban rail systems and the symbol is only used at stops and stations outside the inner-city tram-operation area.

It works according to the Karlsruhe model.

A typical tram-train route could start on say the west of the city running on a typical suburban railway electrified to the German standard of 15 kVAC. It might share the tracks with any passenger or freight train, just like any EMU in the UK shares the heavy rail tracks.

For passing through the centre of the city, the tram-train takes to the tram tracks with their electrification of 750 VDC and runs like a normal tram. Provided the platforms are of a compatible height and the gauge is acceptable, Karlsruhe’s tram-trains can go anywhere a normal tram could go in the city. But in Karlsruhe, there doesn’t seem to be any normal trams any more so all the lines in the city are full of tram-trains, running at typical tram frequencies.

After passing through the city centre, they would take to the heavy rail system again. Some routes even go quite large distances into the surrounding countryside.

I didn’t actually find a place where voltages change, but it looked to be automatic, with ceramic rods isolating the different voltages.

This is a map of the system.

Karlsruhe Stadtbahn

Karlsruhe Stadtbahn

I think that Harry Beck would have approved of this map, as it certainly has a touch of the Londons about it!

Note the east-west line of routes across the map. These run along Karlsruhe’s equivalent of Oxford Street in London or Lord Street in Liverpool.

So they have decided to build a tunnel using cut-and-cover methods from one end to the other. A section in the Wikipedia entry for the Karlsruhe is called New Tunnel In Karlsruhe, and gives more details. This extract gives some objectives of the new tunnel.

The tunnel will shorten the travel time for the Stadtbahn through the pedestrian zone and the stability of the timetable will improve. In addition, the platforms of the station’s tunnel will have pedestals that are about 15 metres long with a height of 55 cm above the rail so that the first two doors of Stadtbahn trains will have step-less entry. This will make possible stepless entrance on lines S 4 / S 41 and S 5 / S 51 / S 52 in Karlsruhe for the first time, reflecting a trend that has long been standard elsewhere.

These pictures show the current state of the project, as I first walked in an easterly direction down the main street and then approached it from the East in a tram..

When I wrote Exploring Karlsruhe And Its Trams And Tram-Trains, it was in a much worse state.

But I don’t think the digging of the tunnel has been without problems. Note the blue pipe running along the street, which wasn’t there last time I visited. One of the locals told me it was all due to the wasser and gave flooding actions.

It would certainly appear, that they’ve had a lot more tunnelling problems than Crossrail.

I do think that the Karlsruhe tram tunnel, is one of the most significant transport ideas of recent years.

I shall be visiting the city of Karlsruhe again, when it opens.

Just imagine what Manchester would be like, if instead of its current tram system, they’d used a tunnel. Perhaps something like this could have been built.

  • A double track tunnel was built under the city from Piccadilly to Victoria.
  • The tunnel would be able to take Karlsruhe-style tram-trains.
  • There would be sensibly placed underground stations at places like Arndale Centre and Piccadilly Gardens.
  • Tram-trains were used on the various suburban routes, would connect back-to-back.

Unfortunately, the technology to create such a system has probably only existed for ten years and it was only developed after Manchester’s tram system was built.

But that doesn’t stop a tram-train route being created across the city, if the tracks were connected at the two main stations. After all the Class 399 tram-trains, which are UK versions of The Latest Citylink Tram-Trains In Karlsruhe, will be running through the centre of Sheffield.

So will we see them running through Manchester? Don’t underestimate the engineers!

I don’t know the Tyne and Wear Metro very well. Regarding the system and the trains.

  • The trains are very elderly and there is talk of replacement.
  • If say Pelaw Junction to Sunderland or any other part of the network needed to be electrified at 25 kVAC, Class 399 tram-trains would take it all in their stride, just as they do in Karlsruhe.
  • The Leamside Line could be reopened to Washington for the Metro and as a diversionary route for freight. It would need electrification of some sort, but surely 25 kVAC would be better, as it would allow electric haulage of freight trains. Class 399 tram-trains wouldn’t care, so long as there was volts and amps!
  • Extensions up the East Coast Main Line might be easier.
  • If the Durham Coast Line is electrified, the Metro could go all the way to Middlesbrough.
  • The Tyne and Wear Metro is based on the Karlsruhe model.

So could the trains be replaced directly by Karlsruhe-style Class 399 tram-trains?

I have no idea, but I do foresee some problems.

  • The Metro runs on 1500 VDC. But I suspect any decent electrical engineer with rail transport experience could modify the design of the Class 399 tram-trains, so they ran on 1500 VDC and 25 kVAC.
  • Is the platform height compatible? I suspect that if they aren’t then it could be quite easy to build the new fleet of trains to fit the current platforms.

Any Geordie with a little bit of imagination must be able to see the opportunities that would be created, by changing the rolling stock with what I believe could become Europe’s standard tram-train.

And then there’s Sheffield!

I can’t wait to ride the new Class 399 tram-trains in the city!

Note.

I saw the future in Karlsruhe and it will come to Sheffield.

I can envisage a day, when I catch a Class 399 tram-train at Sheffield Cathedral and after running along the picturesque Hope Valley Line, I will alight at the Piccadilly Gardens tram stop in the centre of Manchester.

If you think that is fantasy look at the reality of Karlsruhe, where tram-trains go between the centre of the city and places further away than Manchester is from Sheffield.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

From Munich To Karlsruhe

This was very much an uneventful leg on rather a full train.

As it was raining for the first part, I didn’t take many pictures worth publicising. This is perhaps the only one worth showing.

A Karlsruhe Tram-Train At Bruchsal Station

A Karlsruhe Tram-Train At Bruchsal Station

It shows an tram-train, probably on the run from Karlsruhe at Bruchsal station.

It is actually an S32, which has a route of.

Achern – Baden-Baden – Rastatt – Muggensturm – Hauptbahnhof – Durlach – Bruchsal – Menzingen

I reckon that’s a total distance of nearly a hundred kilometres, which goes right across Karlsruhe, although it goes via Duurlack and Hauptbahnhof, rather than along the main street.

Karlsruhe’s tram-trains certainly have strong invasion tendencies.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

A Tram Map In Munich

When it comes to local transport and walking maps, it’s a case of the bigger the better.

A Large Munich Tram Map

A Large Munich Tram Map

This was in the tram information centre in Munich Hauptbahnhof.

Every main station should have a local transport information centre and the largest map possible.

At the station, I also took this picture.

Tram Sign In Munich

Tram Sign In Munich

I was going for supper and I needed to get a tram 16 to St. Emmeram, which would drop me in the area of one of the best gluten-free pizzadromes in Europe; Pizzesco.

So what could go wrong?

There was a demonstration in the area and the trams stopped running, leaving me in a part of MunichI didn’t know!

Although, Pizzesco was very crowded and I had to wait, I eventually got my delicious pizza and a bottle of gluten-free beer.

Coming back to my hotel, I eventually found a tram outside the Deutsche Museum.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment