Monday, June 4, 2012

From Cesky Krumlov to Munich

25 May

We initially had some problems with arranging transport from Cesky Krumlov to Munich. Two days prior, about the time we would normally book our onwards travel, we heard from Michelle that Vietnam airlines had changed the time of her flight and nobody had told us. We didn't know if they had notified Flight Centre and Flight Centre hadn't told us, or if they just hadn't told Flight Centre. As a result, Michelle had missed her plane out of London back to Australia. For the rest of the day, if we weren't actually doing something in Cesky Krumlov, we were in contact with her or other people about the issue and kind of forgot to plan our transport to Germany.

When we realised this the day before though, we weren't too worried. We contacted Daniel to see if he happened to be free to drive to Munich the next day, or possibly Linz in Austria. Our Plan B was to get one of the regular trains from Linz to Munich. Well, he wasn't going to Munich, but he did have a car going to Linz. At 8am. We decided that was too early for us at this late point of the trip and said no thanks. There were other shuttle companies in town that we would try in the morning, or otherwise get the train out. We knew we would have a few changes, but we'd get there.

Well, none of the other shuttle companies were running cars or buses to Linz or Munich the next morning, although one said they would be able to take us to Munich at 3pm, getting us there close to 8pm. We decided that was a bit too late, and the price wasn't any better than getting a train. (At this point we realised we should have just booked Daniel on the day we arrived in Cesky Krumlov, but because we weren't familiar with the exchange rate at that stage we weren't sure if he was offering us a good price.) So we decided to take the train. We got a taxi up to the train station (would have been a 20 min walk, minimum, uphill, and the taxi was about AU$6) and found a ticket office to buy tickets into Munich. No ticket machines in Cesky Krumlov station, and even if there had been, ticket machines often can't handle more complicated international connections. The lady was able to sell us tickets no worries, and even printed us an itinerary with the stops and changes we needed to make, including listings of the other stops we would pass through. We had good timing, as the train we needed out of Cesky Krumlov came along about ten minutes later.

The Czech regional trains were the oldest trains we travelled on for the whole trip, and the stations were the least technologicised (yes I made that word up). No LED displays on the platforms telling you where the next train was going, no ticket machines, the train carriages were the old-school ones with slide-down windows and had the destination printed on an A4 piece of paper stuck to the inside of the carriage window in a plastic slip. The train took us to Cesky Budojivice (home of Budweiser), where we got off at a deserted, unmanned, closed-looking platform for our connecting train. Double-checked our itinerary, yes, this is the right one. Ten minutes later, along came another train with the familiar Austrian QBB on the side. On we got, and it took us on to Linz, back through Salzburg. At Linz we had an hour to kill before our next train, so we found a cafe to have lunch. Before we knew it, it was time to get our final train which took us in to Munich, arriving about 6pm.

Once we got off our train in Munich, we realised we needed to take a city train to get us closer to our hotel. So we visited the Info Centre to get a rail map and some other info about the town. Munich rail defies the stereotype of German efficiency. There are two rail operators who run the two services, the U-bahn and S-bahn. Their platforms are in different parts of each train station, and directions to the platforms are not clearly marked, especially considering how large many of the main stations have to be to deal with several lines from two different rail services.

Then there's the ticketing process. If you are using a single trip ticket, you need to validate it by date-stamping it in a stamping machine before boarding. No magnetic strip tickets like you get in Paris, London, or even Sydney, and that's not new technology. We didn't notice any NFC passes being used, or the technology for them (like London's Oyster cards or Brisbane's Go card). There is something wrong when Brisbane out-technologies a German city of equal size. Day passes don't need to be validated from what we could tell, because they have the date already printed on then.

Fortunately the guy in the Info Centre told us all about this, so we got to our hotel fine. We were quite impressed with the hotel too. It's the only real 'hotel' we have been to the entire trip, a 3-star establishment with a rather spacious room, nice bathroom, mini-bar (with free beer and mineral water) and even a little stove-top. Remarkably, it was the cheapest place I could find in Munich without going too far out into the suburbs (booked via a hotel booking site, so cheaper than the normal advertised price). It is still the most expensive place place per person that we stayed the whole trip. And it didn't even include breakfast!

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