#28 Tuesday 18 June Cologne (Köln) to Leipzig
09:13 dep Köln ICE 2441 to Dresden, Platform 2a & c – and the platform diagram of coaches was correct: 1st class at rear of a quite short train; one coach on two levels; we’re on the upper level and sitting in the direction of the train. We’re in the “psst!” section – i.e. no noise. Very quiet; just the tapping of computer keyboards initially. No wifi!
09:32 Solingen Hbf
09:44 Wuppertal Hbf several stations belonging to Wuppertal prior, including Zooologischer Garten; great views down an extensive valley; population 350,000; Aspirin and Vacuum Cleaners invented here; greenest city in Germany with two thirds green space in the municipal area – 10 minute walk max to a woodland path or park; a ‘must see’ next time
10:00 Hagen Hbf
10:23 Dortmund Hbf lush approach then industrial; 8th biggest city; ‘new’ and newer buildings on either side; 98% buildings in city centre were destroyed March 1945; 1110+ aircraft hold the record for a single raid on a single target!!; replaced its coal and steel industry and is now the most sustainable city; our carriage is filling up but it is still “psst!”; Gary’s pastry paper bag was deafening…
10:44 Hamm (West) flat and farming approach (no animals); rail graveyards; now it’s my turn to pierce the air with morning tea, and Gary is adding Velcro to the sound picture emanating from seats 104 & 106; a momentary explosion of wrappers and laughter from elsewhere; slow train only 163kms/hr
Pockets of stationary wind turbines; paddocks of solar panels; paddocks of young corn?; industries and towns devouring the natural; worthy of a nap
11:18 Bielefeld Hbf still in North Rhine Westphalia; pop 341, 000; was the linen producing town with the bank issuing money made of linen, silk & velvet; the few church spires conspicuous amongst ‘new’low-rise residential housing
Westphalia – think Candide/Voltaire
11:44 Minden (West)
and from here it went downhill. Our train through to Dresden (via Leipzig) was cancelled and the train we were on diverted to Hanover. Change of trains/change of platforms i,e, down the stairs, up the stairs. Not too long a wait but a very full platform and no indication which end of the train our carriage would be. Of course we waited at the wrong end. Our reserved seats were not applicable and it was first in best dressed. We grabbed a compartment and joined two long-legged friends, a blind man, and a disinterested one. It was confining. Mr disinterested (but practical) got off eventually and I moved to his seat, next to Gary, and next to the window. Train inspectors have a habit of closing compartment doors and the further we went, the hotter. Blog in bag; water drunk; legs packed away; no map; no idea where or when Leipzig might appear and we were blessed with the German speaking railway man speaking the English with German words inserted.
We re-arranged ourselves from right-angled to vertical then easily found our way to our hotel just across the tracks. It was 30 degrees. Surprise surprise – we’d booked a room, not an apartment, so no fridge, no kettle, cup, tea or coffee (which is pretty standard in Europe but not what we’d booked elsewhere). Clean though, comfy enough, ideally suited, and the windows open fully. (Yes we could jump out of the 6th floor.)
Left the hotel to go sight-seeing to get a feel for tomorrow which must be Mendelssohn focussed with a performance of Bach St John Passion in the church where he first performed it in 1742 in the evening.
We walked through a nondescript park (it does have a Richard Wagner Memorial statue in it) and past a very austere building which turned out to be the Opera, built in 1960.BUT in this expansive open area that opened out in front of the Opera entrance, the Augustusplatz, was the most exciting contemporary architecture (with a pseudo church frontage) that Gary and I have ever unanimously gone wow over. It is the University; founded in 1409, and incorporating the ‘Augusteum’ which is based on the St Paul’s Church which was blown up in 1968 by the Communists. We circumnavigated the building going ‘wow’ at every turn: so many angles, shapes, textures – glass, metal, moulded x?, stone; student-life energy spilling out of the inner courtyard into the surrounding narrow streets.
The old city hall – site of the Bach vs Council conflicts, and the famous authentic JS Bach portrait by Elias Gottlieb Haussmann.
St Nikolaikirche – re Bach, but also the site of the birth of the Peaceful revolution of 1989 leading to the fall of the Wall
St Thomas Kirche – Bach’s other church
Riquethaus – copper elephants; oriental pagoda
Mendelssohn house – just to find it in preparation for tomorrow
Gary has fallen head over heels for this city; Barcelona is no longer the front runner…