Train to Turkey - Leg 4 - Cologne to Munich

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Day 3 was set to be a warm up for what was to come, long days spent on trains doing nothing but relaxing and looking out the window. We started the day getting up early and leaving the Ibis, it has served us well, but we couldn’t wait to leave. The walk to Messe/Deutz station was quiet, nobody was really awake, clearly everyone had a late night partying in the streets. We hoped to find some breakfast at the station and needed something for the trip ahead and were pleased to find a McDonalds, which I’m sure won’t be the first of the trip. A beef and egg McMuffin later we were refuelled and headed to the platform.

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This is where things started to go pear-shaped. We discovered quite quickly that the train was delayed and then discovered that there was only half of the usual set of carriages, and the carriages missing were the ones where we had a seat reservation. Not good. We hung around on the platform for about 90 minutes hoping that all will be well, the increasing number of passengers congregating on the platform was also a worry.

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The 09:36 service to Munich eventually turned up and we jumped aboard and grabbed the first set of seats we came across. It seems that in Germany you can screw up half of the reservations and just pretend like nothing happened to that half, but the other half continue to remain valid. In the UK if there’s ever any kind of delay or technical screw up reservations are simply cancelled and it becomes a free for all. I think I prefer this system more, at least you know where you stand. We were safe in our seats for the time being and settled down and I pushed out the first of two blogs which I hoped to complete that day.

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Aside from it having some parts missing the ICE train really was quite lovely, the seats were very comfortable and the recline was more than I’ve ever had on a train before. Toilets were clean, easy and available and best of all the carriage was very quiet, we pushed 300Km/h and I barely even knew it was fantastic. We began to catch up to the previous schedule and were soon at Frankfurt where our squatted seats were expected to soon have their owner arrive. After a small lecture from the conductor we decided to go in search of replacement seats, we failed.

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So we squatted again and looked busy, tired and grumpy. 10 minutes after leaving Frankfurt it seemed we made the right call as no seat owner had arrived. Phew! The rest of the journey was very relaxing we sat back, enjoyed the ride and got into the groove. Managed to upload the blogs with images which while on the train has been a bit of a problem. The cellular signal and free train WiFi just don’t cut the mustard, I will say that the ICE WiFi was the best of all though, much better than Thalys and Eurostar.

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We arrived a little late into Munich but frankly it was nothing to write home about, in the end the journey was good. Munich station is HUGE we spent some time taking it all in, I have vague memories of that station from when we visited Oktoberfest in 2010 but there’s a lot of time between then and now so I had absolutely no idea where anything was. Outside it was torrential rain, which seemed to come out of nowhere because it was dry when we were on the train, we opted to hang around for a little while and threw Owen’s bag into bag locker to save carrying it around with us.

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Five minutes later and the rain had stopped so we headed into town, we had no plan except to drink beer and see some old stuff. Munich centre is very easy to navigate and everything seems to revolve around the main street which at the end of which is the train station. We first headed for the Dom which was not as impressive as the “Big Black Church” this one instead had two big nobbly bits on top, inside it was pretty impressive huge too.

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We then went in search of beer feeling like we have satisfied the historic culture requirement. The first stop was to try and find some Kellerbier and we succeeded at a small beer-restaurant where Owen had his ID checked (Ha!) . The beer was good, but wasn’t the best I’ve ever tasted so we quickly finished up and went in search of more.

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The best spot for beer in Munich it seems in the Hoffbrau House, an enormous beer hall in traditional Bavarian style with beer served properly in 1 litre steins. We sat ourselves down and strapped in for what would be a good three-hour session. My goodness - the beer here is heavenly. I love Kolsch but this is special, the atmosphere is missing in Cologne, here it is an absolute party. The first litre went down like it was nothing, crisp, cold, malty, perfect. We ordered a pretzel from the Pretzel-girl (6 Euros!) and dived into number two.

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This is where we should have stopped. The second for me was just as good as before, it was getting a little louder and we put ourselves in the corner so that I could upload the second blog of the day, which doesn’t take long provided there is good signal. Owen continued to claim that he wasn’t hungry and despite my persistent nagging that he should eat he wasn’t interested. I ordered a wienerschnitzel and coming to the end of the second (and now in the groove) ordered us one last stein because I’m sensible and measured.

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Owen decided at this point to reject the beer and filled up the empty steins with the contents of his very liquid stomach. The Irish couple who were sharing our table were not mega impressed, but persevered with their freshly served food while Owen semi-discretely blew chunks. Not ideal. My food arrived just in time for him to need to step outside for some air, seems 2.5 litres of German beer is Owen’s limit.

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We headed back to the station and got ourselves some sleeper-train snacks and waited an hour or so for our train to arrive. We enjoyed watching out across Munich station as people came and went the big Grundig logos on the back wall slowly disappeared into the black night sky. With that, we wrapped up Day 3 - thank you Munich, you did your job.

Train to Turkey - Leg 3 - Brussels to Cologne

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On to third train of this trip and after a short break in Brussels we were keen to get onboard and to Cologne for some beer and a chance to stretch our legs. We waited on the platform in Midi for our Thalys train which was right on time. This train like the Eurostar requires seat reservations so we booked them in advance, they weren’t cheap, 20 euros each but it seemed like we didn’t have much of a choice. We learned later that Deutsche Bahn also run a train from Brussels to Cologne and reservations are optional and a lot cheaper too.

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Once at our seats we found that the window was not aligned, which was a bit disappointing. We got to work updating our Internal travel diaries although the guard reached us before everything was completely filled out. We had a bit of a lecture about how important it is to fill out the details before getting on the train as he should charge us for a full ticket. Whoops. We promised to be good from now on! Once the guard left I shuffled seat so that I could see out the window.

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Most of the trip I spent blogging, which worked out well. Signal was very bad, but I managed to download pictures and upload when we stopped at intermediate stations. Owen was tired and slept in the most uncomfortable position imaginable. The trip took a long time, the train was on time but it felt like half the time it was either stopped or going very, very slowly. I think they announced that there are works on the track between Brussels and Cologne and as a result had to reverse the train in Aachen. It’s no problem sitting on a train for a long journey but it’s another thing sitting on a train for a long journey when it’s not moving. Hey ho, we arrived into Köln on time!

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Once at the station we needed to head to the hotel sharpish, we had reserved a room but hadn’t guaranteed it which meant that after 6pm it would be up for grabs. Given that literally everywhere in Cologne was booked, we didn’t want to be in that kind of situation. We walked over the bridge and towards the hotel, we underestimated the distance, it was a good 35 minute walk and didn’t take best advantage of the trams and trains which would have probably saved some time and effort off! We arrived to the luxurious Ibis Budget hot, sweaty and ready to have a beer, so we did.

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Our room was a bit of a gamble, the website showed a picture with a normal bed and a small bunk which mentions that it’s great for kids. There was every chance that Owen wouldn’t fit in the bunk given his length. The room was as basic as it gets, and for some reason the bathroom was in the room itself, and not in a separate bathroom section - with the exception of the toilet which did have it’s own room. Very confusing, not sure if it’s been designed that was to make it seem more budget than usual or if it’s genuinely cheaper to build and service. Who knows! All was fine in the end and after a quick shower we dumped anything that wasn’t worth stealing and booked an Uber to the city centre for some food and drink.

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Arriving into the city centre you couldn’t ignore the fact that it was Pride, it was very, very busy and there were more rainbow flags than on @geeklyjames’ stag do. Everyone was polite, friendly and not breaking any rules, all very civilised. We were dropped off at Heumarkt and so walked over to Malzmuhle to see if we could find a table, this was my favourite place when we came and visited Cologne in Christmas last year, it was also the chosen brew house of Anthony Bourdain when he visited. Once again it didn’t disappoint, we were given a table straight away and before I could blink the famous Kölsch had arrived in front of us.

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We were joined on our table by a Belgian man called Freddy who spoke English, he was a very polite man who shared stories of his travels around the world. Pretty hungry by this point in the day we both ordered food pretty sharpish, Owen went for a bratwurst and I had the boiled pork knuckle with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. As before, the food was spot on, good German pork-based deliciousness with enough salt to provide encouragement to drink even more beer. We stayed a while longer in the restaurant and Freddy showed us pictures of his trip to Antarctica where he somehow managed to get himself on a Chilean military ship for a week!

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With enough beer in our bellies we went off to walk around the city, we hit the main stage and caught a few classics from a tribute act. There was a lot going on, people were enjoying enormous cocktails and phallic-shaped ice lollies. Walking around as brothers we certainly had a few unusual looks, I think we needed t-shirts or something. We made it to the Dom and hung around for a few pictures, this area was less busy than during the Christmas markets which was surprising given that it was bloody freezing during the markets.

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Too early for bed we headed to the Früh brewhouse just around the corner for some desert since we’d walked the pork off. The guys here were the same as at Christmas, which I always find strange when going back to places elsewhere in the world. Our Apfelstrudel arrived and it was as delicious as before, full of sugar and in a vanilla sauce it perfect match for more beer. Even Owen liked the strudel which frankly I didn’t even expect him to!

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We sensibly took the train back to the hotel and got our heads down for the night, still exhausted from the sleeper train the night before. The mattress was not great, neither were the paper thin walls or noisy people outside but melatonin did it’s job well, day 2 was over.

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