6th September – a last minute change of direction

Ljubljana – Villach Hbf – Muenchen Hbf

One of the things I love about Interrail is the ability to change your mind at a moment’s notice. Barring the occasions where I’ve made a reservation, I often start the day with nothing more than a broad concept of where I might up. The idea for today had been to go to Zagreb, then on to Budapest the following day, ending with a flight home from there, or possibly Bratislava, Vienna or the like.

I’d not booked the flight and am increasingly finding myself reluctant to fly, for an assortment of reasons. I’d also started this trip with a flight to Milan and going both ways by plane didn’t sit well with me.

I pulled up the Interrail map as I was having my morning cuppa, along with the map of places I’ve visited so far.

There was certainly a route north through Austria and Germany, that I’d not taken before but I couldn’t quickly find a new way to cross the channel. Not the end of the world, something would work out, and I didn’t need to think about that for a couple more days.

What was odd was that the Interrail planner on my phone wasn’t showing any trains on that route, though I quickly established that the ÖBB (Austrian railways) website had one showing. I packed my bags and headed for the station.

As I mentioned yesterday, Ljubljana station is quite minimalist, but I did like the cycle ramps between the steps in the subway. I found the information desk at the far end and was reassured to discover that the train shown on the Austrian website was running and that my pass was valid.

The new plan was to go to Munich, after a change of trains at Villach in Austria. My train was late arriving, initially reported to be 10 minutes, it pulled in 14 minutes late. Not great when I had an 18 minute connection!

I keep finding ways to love Austrian trains. They are just quirky. This one had compartments and windows that slid down on both sides. Great for sightseeing. In no time at all I was out in the corridor, window-hanging as we headed for the border.

The train manager came through and the passenger I was sharing a compartment with had a long conversation with him in a language I presume was Slovene.

After he left we got talking. He was initially quite grumpy – his connection in Villach was even shorter than mine, but the subject changed and we ended up talking about my travels. As we approached the mountains the scenery became more spectacular and sure enough we both ended up hanging out of the windows enjoying a lovely warm morning and some great scenery, and chatting about places we’d been to. The border is crossed inside a tunnel, as is so often the case in this part of Europe.

Very soon after we arrived in Austria we passed a huge number of Harley Davidson motorbikes parked in the fields beside the line. It soon became obvious that it was a rally. I later discovered that it was European Bike Week, clearly a huge event.

We’d made up a little time by the time we reached Villach but I still had to dash between platforms to make my connection, as did a significant number of my fellow passengers. Thankfully with my first class pass I had no problems finding a seat.

This next leg was a 5 hour journey across Austria and Germany. It’s interesting to see these places in summer. They are clearly geared up as winter ski resorts so the lifts and lodges look a little odd in the sunshine. The scenery was stunning though. The windows on this train didn’t open which was a real shame as I ended up with horrible reflections in what would have the photo of the day, I suspect. (The second one in the following set.)

I rarely get time to visit a restaurant car so with a long journey ahead it was too good an opportunity to miss. The local pork schnitzel on offer tasted a lot better than it looked, and washed down with local beer and great scenery, it was a very pleasant way to pass the early afternoon. It didn’t even break the bank.

We arrived in Munich on time. As usual I’d booked my room while travelling, finding somewhere near to the station, which was not quite the most expensive place I’ve stayed this year, but certainly in the top half dozen. It was also the cheapest option on offer, of a very limited selection. Sometimes late bookings work for you, other times they don’t.

I’ve never been to Munich before. It has a reputation as the city that most Germans would like to live in. The centre is very pleasant. The town hall is stunning but I was disappointed to discover that at 6pm the elaborate clock tower was not going to animate (though I’m sure it should!) I’d spotted it earlier and planned a route assuming that would happen, by which time loads of other tourists were staring up at it, cameras poised for “something.”

Elaborate churches and towers seemed to be around every corner. I found a super food market, though it was winding down for the day. I also found a couple of rather super sculptures, one of which was absolutely huge.

I could see that something was going on ahead of me in the street so went to see what it was. At first I couldn’t work it out but as I got closer I realised that it was a huge electric car showcase, which had taken over whole streets and a square. No wonder the hotels were so full and expensive!

I wasn’t interested by the cars, though lots of people were, but I did quite like the bike with a carrier at the front for a couple of younger passengers. Such bikes are definitely a thing in this city, I saw loads of variants where children were on the front of a bike with the adult steering from further back.

I walked to the end of the street, where there was an impressive arch and another huge church. I then retraced my steps before walking down a different street to the one that I’d arrived by.

The Feldherrnhalle, a 19th Century Italianate monument to the Bavarian army was very reminiscent of the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, which I’d seen a few days ago. A failed coup by the Nazis took place in this area in 1923, an event which first brought Hitler into the public eye.

In an adjacent street a number of cobblestones have been marked in bronze, indicating a route taken by those who defied the Nazis, by deliberately avoiding the square where a memorial to the events of 1923 had subsequently been erected. A simple but clever and lovely memorial.

Continuing back towards the centre, I encountered another huge square. This had largely been taken over by a hospitality area run by Mini, so it was only possible to get photos of the impressive buildings from oblique angles.

One thing I did notice in this area is that most of the taxis are BMW or Mercedes!

Heading this time to the east, I walked down to the river. I was surprised to see that the city essentially ignores it. There are bridges but much of the river is invisible from the banks.

After eating (Italian!) I walked back towards my hotel. In a department store doorway I encountered a wonderful Ukrainian group who were busking and had drawn a large audience. I stayed for quite a while to listen to their incredibly creative takes on everything from Muse to Bach.

I walked back via a part of town that I’d missed earlier, with more impressive buildings and a huge gateway.

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  1. Love the bronze cobbles. Very creative, and moving.

    • Agreed. When I took the photo I had no idea what they were but found them interesting/unusual so looked it up later.

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