Train journey from Dresden through the Czech Republic to the source of the Elbe

UNoticeably, Saxon becomes Bohemian Switzerland. A few minutes after departure from Dresden Central Station, the Elbe is on the left, around 20 meters wide. Red canoes go with the flow, a few rubber dinghies, scattered houses pass by.

A tall upper man, whose shoulders seem a little too broad for the narrow aisles of the train, hurries up crouching. He serves cold beer, schnitzel with potatoes and cucumber salad. The guests sit on red armchairs at tables with white sheets.

After almost half an hour in the EC, the Czech border is approaching. Bad Schandau, a treasure of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, is the last town up the Elbe on the German side. Souvenir shops line the river.

Source: WORLD infographic

In the past tourist ships went into the Czech Republic, today the Elbe, which is called Labe in the Czech Republic, has too little water. Therefore it is best to take the train with a nostalgic factor.

Visitors from all over the Czech Republic travel to Melnik

The hour in the dining car flies by. Then it’s time to get out and change trains. Day’s destination: Melnik via Ústí nad Labem. A wine town, picturesquely situated above the confluence of the Elbe and Vltava rivers, almost 90 winemakers for a population of 20,000.

Sárka Kalfarová knows exciting things about the city. The tour guide advances enthusiastically through her central Bohemian homeland and tells of Saint Ludmilla, who took the first prince of the Kingdom of Bohemia as a husband and became a Christian. “So came Christianity – and wine.”

Bohemian wine town in the Czech Republic: Melnik Castle proudly towers over the Elbe river, and there are tastings in the historic wine cellar

Melnik Castle towers proudly over the Elbe river, and there are tastings in the historic wine cellar

Quelle: picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv

Speaking of wine, it is stored in Melnik Castle, among other places. The historic wine cellar is as worth seeing as the entirety of the interior of the Renaissance building. Castle owner Jirí Jan Lobkowicz chats casually about the possessions: “Three castles in Bohemia, two in France.”

80,000 tourists visit its 4,000-square-meter empire every year and make 25,000 wine tastings. “Wine sales have grown, the quality has improved,” says Lobkowicz.

In fact, the local wines surprise with their full-bodiedness. Much has happened since Saint Ludmilla planted the first vineyards. Currently, according to Lobkowicz, around 80,000 bottles are being produced. “That will be expanded.”

And so wine lovers in Melnik get their money’s worth all year round, not only when the oldest wine festival in the republic traditionally takes place here around the name day of St. Ludmilla on September 16. Usually visitors come from all over the Czech Republic.

Czech Republic: The picturesque wine town of Melnik attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year

The picturesque wine town of Melnik attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year

Source: dpa-tmn

And not just because of the wine. The once Gothic houses in the enchanting town center of Melnik were redesigned in the Renaissance, Baroque and, in some cases, Art Nouveau. In the Prager Tor, a preserved city gate with a tower and tea room, you can find peace and quiet after a long day of travel.

Springs with mineral water in the spa town of Podebrady

In the morning it’s back to the rails, next stop: Podebrady. From the train station you stumble into the spa gardens. Soft splashing of fountains, lush bushes. The path to the Elbe leads past box trees that have been cut into spheres and triangles.

Podebrady Castle stands proudly on the bank. In 1905 a dowser came across a possible water vein in the inner courtyard. In fact, a borehole nearly 100 meters deep produced a mineral spring. Since then, mainly cardiovascular patients have been treated in the Czech Republic’s youngest health resort. The number of annual spa guests exceeds the number of residents.

The bestsellers are the carbonated spring baths. You can tap mineral water yourself from several springs in the spa park. Two cups a day of the salty, earthy, sparkling mixture are recommended.

Bike tour along the Elbe in Pardubice

After a refreshment in one of the large hotels along the spa promenade, the next “rail car” is waiting at the train station. The destination of the train is called Pardubice.

There you switch from the train to the bike. Every major city in the Czech Republic has a Czech Railways bike rental service. If you want, you can of course also bring your own bike. Depending on the route, this costs between three and five euros.

Whether with your own or a borrowed bike: In Pardubice, 100,000 inhabitants, a tour along the Elbe beckons. The paths are flat, the views of meadows, deciduous forests, small canals and seemingly endless fields are magical.

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Czech Republic: The 300-kilometer cycle path often runs parallel to the river

Those who like it bizarre can cycle to the gingerbread house (Perníková chaloupka), somewhere in the forest not far from the Kuneticka Horá castle in Ráby. The museum, a hunting lodge from 1882, shows the famous pastries in heart to crib format. At the entrance you get a passport for the gingerbread world plus a few scary stories.

The first gingerbread bakeries existed in Pardubice as early as the 16th century. The history of the city as a venue for the Steeplechase horse race goes back to 1874.

You cycle back to the town center through the Green Gate, a 60-meter-high tower house with a green roof. The day ends there in the historic old town. In the evening there is ermine, a delicious, pickled soft cheese on a puddle of oil, and bread with tartar, an almost addicting tartar sauce.

Hiking in the Krkonose National Park

Now the source of the 1112 kilometer long Elbe river is still waiting. From Pardubice the train rattles via Stará Paka and Kuncice to Vrchlabí (Hohenelbe). Two changes later, after a short taxi ride to Spindleruv Mlyn, you can see the Elbe again.

Czech Republic: You can see mountain chalets everywhere in the mountains.  Hikers can stop here and strengthen themselves

You can see mountain chalets everywhere in the mountains. Hikers can stop here and strengthen themselves

Source: dpa-tmn

Now is hiking time. The air is refreshingly clear in the Giant Mountains National Park. Extensive pull paths, meadows and forest stretches embed rough mountain ridges. On the way you come to a typical regional Martinova bouda over, a mountain chalet. These small accommodations, scattered in the mountains, are picturesque and await visitors.

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Hiking in Bavaria: A hiker in Berchtesgadener Land takes a break and enjoys the view of the clear Obersee

There are exceptions, however: The multi-storey Labská bouda is anything but beautiful to look at. “A building sin of communism,” says the local mountain guide. The path stretches towards the source, briefly paved, then again sandy and stony.

Finally you reach the Elbe meadow (Labská louka) at 1602 meters above sea level. On the floor: an inconspicuous stone ring. It symbolically marks the origin of the Elbe. The actual source is 150 meters higher in the peat bog and is not accessible. But if you have enjoyed the diverse landscape and culture along the Elbe for days, then a stone ring will do too.

Czech Republic: The inconspicuous stone ring symbolically marks the origin of the Elbe.  The actual source is 150 meters higher in the peat bog and is not accessible

The inconspicuous stone ring symbolically marks the origin of the Elbe. The actual source is 150 meters higher in the peat bog and is not accessible

Source: dpa-tmn

Tips and information

Corona: Due to the high number of infections, Prague was declared a risk area, and other parts of the Czech Republic are also affected. Current information from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswaertiges-amt.de).

Tickets: Usually with Deutsche Bahn (bahn.de) and Czech Railways (cd.cz).

Information desk: czechtourism.com

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In Corona times: which mask makes sense on the train and plane

Europe Travel in times of Corona

What is important for masks on trains and planes

Masks are required for passengers both on the train and when flying. But not all mouth and nose protection is actually effective and not all of them are accepted by the airlines. We give an overview.

| Reading time: 3 minutes

“We don’t even have half a meter between us”

Vacation abroad is in principle possible again, including air travel, but many are afraid to get on a vacation plane. WELT reporter Lea Freist flew to Barcelona and reports how things work on board.

In Airplanes and trains, travelers should not wear masks with a valve for exhaling to protect against corona. “The purpose of the mask is to protect those around you. The air you breathe is expelled unfiltered through the valve, ”explains Prof. Tomas Jelinek from the Center for Travel Medicine (CRM) in Berlin.

For this reason, airlines also generally do not accept the use of such masks. At Lufthansa, for example, it is said that visors, FFP2 masks with valves, as well as scarves and kerchiefs are not permitted on board, as they allow the air to escape to the side and do not provide adequate protection.

Which mask makes sense in the airplane

Travel physician Jelinek advises on trains and airplanes to wear a mask that does not restrict too much and through which one can breathe easily: “A cloth mask or paper mask is completely appropriate.” These masks are primarily used to protect others.

People with respiratory problems are better off using a cloth or paper mask than an FFP2 mask

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Jacek Sopotnicki

“If I’m afraid of infecting myself, then I need a particle-tight mask, that is, an FFP2 or FFP3 mask,” explains Jelinek. However, breathing is more difficult with these masks, which can lead to problems, especially in airplanes.

Because the air pressure on board is lower, the passenger takes in less oxygen in the lungs than at sea level. “That’s not a problem for a healthy person,” emphasizes Jelinek. But people with respiratory problems are better off using a cloth or paper mask.

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A flight attendant demonstrates the safety measures to protect against infection with Corona

Lufthansa also explains: “FFP2 masks have a relatively high airway resistance, which can cause health problems for people with previous illnesses. In addition, even healthy people often have problems wearing this mask for an entire flight. “

Keep your distance before the flight and on the train

According to Jelinek, there is a greater risk of infection on air travel at airports, for example when people are standing close together in queues. Travelers should therefore keep their distance from one another when boarding and disembarking, the doctor warns.

“Once you sit in an airplane, the risk of infection is low because the cabin air runs from top to bottom,” says Jelinek. “They hardly breathe in what is exhaled around them.”

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In order to protect against corona, the stewardess wears protective clothing on the plane

It’s different on the train: “Here, the air is blown through the entire compartment. It is more important that everyone really wears a mask and that they keep as much distance as possible from one another, ”says Jelinek.

And what else is important? “The mask should be changed daily, better half a day,” advises the expert. “So when you travel you need a supply – like with underpants.”

On the other hand, Jelinek advises against wearing medical gloves in luggage: “This is actually nonsense.” All studies indicate that Corona is not necessarily transmitted via smear infections. Those who wring their hands in gloves for a long time, on the other hand, risk eczema: “You do more harm than protect yourself.”

“A warning for the colder months”

“The pandemic will only really start now. With us too, ”says virologist Christian Drosten. WELT reporter Marie Przibylla explains what he means by this and what that means for the coming months.

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Railway stations: a declaration of love to the palace with a siding

IIn the shimmering shimmer of the shops, travelers pull past with clattering wheeled suitcases. On the way to the platform you can hear metallic sounding loudspeaker announcements, electric humming trucks and dull humming express locomotives. It smells like perfume, grilled food and coffee.

Travelers either have headphones in their ears or check their cell phones while walking, often both. Everyone is in their own world, far removed from the visual and sound impressions of their surroundings.

How different it was a hundred years ago! The smells and sounds must have been so much stronger and more intrusive. Coal smoke, asbestos, hot iron and leather cases. The steam engines snorted, whistled, and groaned. The horses’ hooves rattled, and the train passengers dragged heavy and bulky suitcases or wooden boxes with iron fittings.

Travelers could check in the luggage

I had just such a box for travelers at home. For a long time we put things in it that our daughter should get when she left home, but once they had belonged to my grandmother and were packed with clothes, towels and sheets when she took the train from Västerås to Stockholm in the 1920s to start as a maid for an upper-class family in a villa in Bromma.

This kind of wooden box is not so easily dragged across the platforms. How did you do that then? Fortunately for travelers, luggage could be checked in, which means that, to use a term from the world of aviation, you checked in your suitcase, which was then transported in a special baggage cart.

And if you brought them on board the train yourself, there were porters who took care of the luggage on the way from the train carriage to the waiting horse-drawn carriage or car. I don’t know if my grandmother got herself a porter. Presumably she was picked up and given help with carrying her by the family, who would then work for her.

Train stations did not fit into the old core of the city

The railroad changed not only the landscape, but also the city. The post stations, from which the predecessors of the trains, the horse-drawn carriages started, were a natural part of the city center, which lay within the medieval ring walls and imperceptibly merged with the city area.

The horse-drawn carriages clattered across the cobblestone streets to the distribution rooms and post offices, which were often housed in inns with names like “Hotel Zur Post”, “Post-Hotel” or “De La Poste”.

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The new railway stations, however, were built outside the city walls. This is not surprising, because the tracks did not fit into the alleys of the old city centers unless entire districts were demolished. The cities grew, and new apartments and factories were built around the train stations.

Although these were the newest and most modern neighborhoods, they were viewed with a mixture of fear and contempt by the nobility and bourgeoisie. People preferred to live in older houses and palaces within the city walls or in mansions further out in the country. The parallel to today’s major European cities is clear: The station districts are the counterpart to the concrete suburbs with today’s tenements.

Hotels in the area had a bad reputation

Before the train stations were built, it was thought that they would become an attractive place that would attract city dwellers like a place of pilgrimage. In the spirit of optimism for progress, it was believed that the modern would be more attractive than the old.

In a way, it turned out that way, especially in smaller towns. But in the big cities it was the other way around. They stayed away from these smoking and noisy places.

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More and more homeless people are living in the Frankfurt train station district among syringes, rubbish and rats lying around

In 1855 Auguste Perdonnet wrote in “Traité élémentaire des chemins de fer”: “The hotels that are closest to the train stations are usually doing badly.”

In this way, the districts around Europe’s proud train stations acquired a proletarian character and a bad reputation, and were notorious for pickpockets and receiving stolen goods. Here were the hostels where pimps and prostitutes settled down, and the bars where a mix of travelers and workers ate and drank.

An industrial architecture with a fine facade

The stations themselves had an industrial character, but with a fine exterior facade. Thick wooden beams and large sections of glass dominated the track hall, which turned out into the country. The reception hall, the ticket hall, i.e. the station building itself, which faced the city, was built from stone and received plastered facades and neoclassical decoration.

The half-factory, half-palace style quickly spread across Europe, and you can basically recognize it in every major train station. A source of inspiration was undoubtedly the success of the world exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851, which helped glass architecture achieve its commercial breakthrough.

the world exhibition in London's Crystal Palace 1851

A source of inspiration for the architecture of train stations was the world exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851, which helped glass architecture make a breakthrough

Quelle: Getty Images/JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado

As long as there were only a few routes, the first European train stations were undemanding, but in connection with the consolidation of the railway network in the 1840s, the demands grew. The number of tracks running into the stations became more numerous and with it the number of platforms.

From the middle of the 19th century, terminal stations became a typical image in Europe’s major cities. These were stations where all railroad tracks ended and the trains had to change direction if the journey was to continue.

The main train station in Leipzig is a splendid example

The largest terminus in the world, Leipzig Central Station, is a splendid example. Built in 1915 with a rectangular, palace-like hall in light brown stone, large enough to hold a cruise ship, and with a facade facing the city center that is almost as wide as the Eiffel Tower high.

Behind the main building – which was destroyed in the nights of bombing in the summer of 1944, but rebuilt in the 1950s – the station was provided with six wide steel and glass constructions that held the glass roof over the twenty-six parallel tracks (of which still today twenty three are present).

Central station in Leipzig in 3rd place

This is good news for Deutsche Bahn. In a European comparison, five train stations have now made it into the top ten.

Source: WORLD / Laura Fritsch

The fact that the station was given such enormous proportions as if it had been made to astonish the world was not primarily due to the fact that it was a national showcase project, as was the case with the Milano Centrale. The building was so big – almost 83,000 square meters – because the Prussian and Saxon Railway Companies shared the station, and each wanted a lot of space and an impressive entrance.

But of course also because Leipzig organized book, craft and industrial fairs several times a year. During the intensive trade fair weekends, tens of thousands of visitors and many additional trains had to be handled.

Italy: The Stazione Centrale terminus in Milan was opened in 1931

Italian splendor: the Stazione Centrale terminus in Milan was opened in 1931

Those: picture alliance / arkivi

The impressive and castle-like facade in Leipzig has its origins, similar to basically all old train stations in large cities, in the plan to hide the industrial face of the building behind ornaments. As if the person was not equipped to look directly into the raw function, but had to be beguiled with embellishments.

But although the stylish ticket halls resembled palaces, many cities lost their medieval character as a result of the railroad and took on an industrial shape shaped by modern communication.

“I want to travel, I just need a ticket!”

On the other side of the Atlantic, too, great plans were made and lavish work with marble and brass. American train stations in general, and New York’s Grand Central Terminal in particular, should shine and amaze people.

The writer Tom Wolfe wrote that even the great architects of Greece and Rome would certainly have been impressed if they had come to Manhattan and seen the most beautiful wonder of the railroad world with sculptures, portals, roof structures and Corinthian columns.

New York: Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, inaugurated in 1913

Should be demolished: the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, inaugurated in 1913

Quelle: Getty Images

Today one has gone one step further and tries not only to hide the industrial character of the station, but also its entire original function. The new buildings and renovated train stations are now more like shopping galleries than the ticket sales halls with boring waiting that they once were.

Stone vaults, sculptures, stucco decorations, and the ceiling of a cathedral are hidden behind glass and steel corridors with low ceilings and rows of brightly lit stores selling clothing, electronics, and healthcare products.

I am often overcome by a nostalgic longing for a time when things were allowed to be what they were intended for, when train stations were still allowed to be train stations and nothing else and didn’t have to pretend that they were shopping galleries with the same chain of stores, whether you are on Hovedbanegården in Copenhagen, Berlin Central Station or Milano Centrale.

I feel like shouting: “I don’t need a new cell phone, perfume or new clothes. I want to go out and travel, I just need a ticket! “

The text is an excerpt from the book “Vom Sweden, who took the train” by Per J. Andersson, published by CH Beck in 2020, 379 pages, 16.95 euros.

“From Sweden, who took the train” by Per J. Andersson, published by CH Beck in 2020, 379 pages, 16.95 euros

Source: CHBeck

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How is the ICE doing in an international comparison?

High-speed trains are now running in many countries. They differ significantly in terms of comfort, speed and punctuality. We give an overview from Germany to China. .