Table 914: Koblenz – Mainz

PART 1

This month we are following the scenic Rhine Valley from Koblenz to Mainz, Germany’s most famous and beautiful railway journey. To explore the many beautiful towns along the way take the regional trains stopping at all stations.

Our starting point is Koblenz one of the oldest cities in Germany, situated on the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Koblenz has something for everyone, from fairytale castles, vineyards, the winding cobbled streets of the old town and excellent cuisine.

A good place to start your visit is to take a ride on the Koblenz cable car. Situated on the banks of the Rhine, it is the most scenic way to reach the iconic Ehrenbreitstein fortress. Located 112 metres above the Rhine, the Ehrenbreitstein fortress is the second largest intact fortress in Europe with spectacular views over the Rhine Valley. Inside the fortress you will find the Landesmuseum Koblenz, highlighting its history.

The monument for unified Germany at Deutsches Eck (German Corner) is the main landmark in Koblenz. Take a walk up the various levels inside the impressive statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II for the most impressive picturesque views of the area.

For classic German cuisine and wines from the Rhine-Moselle region head to Weinhaus Hubertus, one of the oldest half-timbered buildings in Koblenz.

Experience a boat trip along the Rhine from Koblenz to the one of the many wine villages and castles. The Köln-Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt (Table 914a), better known as KD, runs cruises and scheduled services up and down the river between Köln and Mainz.

PART 2

This week we continue south along the right hand bank of the River Rhine to the town of St Goarshausen. Famous for its mythical Loreley Valley and the 132 metre high slate rock. At the cliff top lies the Loreley Visitors Centre with stunning views of the Statue of Loreley below. The statue, erected in 1983, is a memorial to a young maiden whose songs enchanted seamen causing countless shipwrecks. Above St Goarshausen you will find two stunning castles: Katz Castle (not open to visitors) and Maus Castle with fabulous views over the town and Rheinfels Castle across the river.

Continuing on we reach Kaub and its famous toll Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, in the middle of the Rhine River on Pfalz island, only accessible by boat to and from the castle, a truly unique experience.

Passing Lorch with its Monastery, Kloster Lorch, we reach the charming town of Rüdesheim, best known for its Riesling wines. In the old town you will find the famous Drosselgasse, an alley lined with historic buildings, restaurants and gift shops with a fantastic atmosphere. Be sure to visit Brömserburg Castle, home to the Rheingau Wine Museum and learn about the wine production in the region and development from ancient times to the present day. Don’t forget to take a ride on the two-person cable car to the Niederwald Monument, with stunning panoramic views over the vineyards and the Rhine river.

PART 3

We have now reached the city of Wiesbaden, the state capital of Hesse, and best known for its hot springs, beautiful architecture and countless vineyards.

In the centre of Wiesbaden you will find the Kurhaus, Wiesbaden’s main spa house. Built in 1907, in neo-classical style, this beautiful ornate building with its ballrooms and concert hall, is used as a convention centre. It also houses a casino with roulette, poker and blackjack, and a fine restaurant. Take a walk around the grounds too, with the ‘Bowling Green’, fountains and beautiful trees.

You can’t go to Wiesbaden without visiting Kochbrunnen, the most famous hot spring in the city. The fountain flows at around 360 litres per minute and the water temperature is around 66°c. The waters flow crystal clear, but turns yellowish after sitting in the basin for 24 hours.

To the north of the city you will find the Nerobergbahn, a funicular railway which links the city with Neroberg hill. Dating from 1888, it is the oldest water ballast railway in Germany. The ride takes around 3½ minutes and a distance of 440 metres. From the top you’ll be rewarded with great panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Before you leave check out one of the largest cuckoo clock in the world on the shop front of Gebr. Stern GmbH. It strikes every half hour between 08:00 and 20:00.

PART 4

On the left bank of the River Rhine we reach Mainz, Germany’s wine capital. Head to the Kupferberg Museum, one of Mainz’s oldest wineries. Explore the deepest wine cellars in the world with seven storeys, and sample their superb sparkling wines.

In the charming old town (Altstadt) you will find an array of half-timber houses and market squares. In the centre you will see the distinctive octagonal tower tops of Mainz Cathedral. Built from deep red sandstone, this Roman Catholic cathedral is around 1,000 years old. Also be sure to visit the Church of St. Stephan, with its beautiful blue stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Just a short walk away, in the centre of Schillerplatz, you will find the Fastnachtsbrunnen, a striking 9 metre tall fountain. Decorated with over 200 bronze figures depicting the start of carnival season in Mainz which takes place every year on November 11.

If you love books head to the oldest museum of printing in the world, the Gutenberg Museum. It tells the story of how Johannes Gutenberg, from Mainz, invented the printing press. The museum has a reconstruction of the original Gutenberg printing workshop and runs daily demonstrations. It also has two original Gutenberg first printed Bibles on display.

TABLE 935: München, Augsburg and Ulm – Oberstdorf and Lindau

PART 1

Continuing our new feature we are focusing in on some of the more interesting tables in our timetables, exploring the routes that it details and the cities, history and scenery along its lines.  Throughout January we will be looking in detail at Table 935 and its routes through Southern Germany.

Readers wishing to explore the scenic Allgäu region of southern Germany will need to consult the unwieldy, but intriguing, Table 935 to plan their journeys.  The table covers a series of lines which link the cities of München, Augsburg and Ulm with the mountain resort of Oberstdorf and lakeside town of Lindau. The table itself is quite complex as various services interconnect with each other at several railway hubs, most notably Buchloe, Memmingen, Kempten and Immenstadt.  To complicate matters further, many trains run with two portions, splitting or joining en-route.  We have considered simplifying this table by showing each route separately, but this would markedly fail to demonstrate the wonderful way the various services interconnect with each other to provide regular journey opportunities between the towns and cities of the area.

Most services are operated by regional trains so it is easy to explore the region using one of the excellent regional tickets, such as the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket or Bayern-Ticket.  Closer inspection of the table will also reveal four daily EuroCity trains in each direction running to and from Zürich (on which regional tickets are not valid). However, there is currently electrification works on the route via Memmingen to enable faster services, this will result in variations to timings during certain periods as the work progresses.

PART 2

Journeys through the rail routes of the Allgäu region are primarily dominated by the Alps Mountains. However, the region is also comprised of numerous lakes, forests and small romantic towns that contribute to the regions natural beauty. Hiking trails, cycling routes, and ski runs crisscross the land, and the entire region is dotted with health resorts.

There are many notable attractions to visit in this region such as the famous fairy-tale Bavarian castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, easily reached from Füssen station near the Austrian border. Direct trains from Munich run every two hours and are operated with modern, air-conditioned double-deck trains. The best views are from seats on the left-hand side on the upper deck, from here you can enjoy great views of Neuschwanstein castle. Tourist-busy Füssen provides the main access point to the castles either by shuttle bus or by foot but also boasts a medieval fortress the Hohen Schloss,  a former Benedictine monastery of St Mang and a very attractive old town so is worth an explore in its own right.

PART 3

The Bavarian Allgäu railway running from Munich to Lindau weaves its way through some historic towns such as Ulm (famous for being the birthplace of Albert Einstein and having the tallest church steeple in the world), Kempten (the largest town of the Allgäu) and Oberstdorf.

Oberstdorf is a busy winter resort, principally a skiing and hiking town and is the highest market town in Germany. The terminus station is reached in just over 2 hours from Munich and is the most southern railway station of Germany. Oberstdorf is served by around 40 daily intercity and regional-express services operated by Deutsche Bahn and Regentalbahn so it is also a good base from which to explore the region. There are a large number of valleys in the area around Oberstdorf, many of which are not only scenic, but are often starting points for walks in the mountains. The beautiful Oberstdorf Nebelhorn is known for its impressive views of 400 mountain summits. However, you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy the scenery as many of the summits can be reached by cable car. The new mountain restaurant at the top of the Nebelhorn offers a 270-degree panorama so you can enjoy a meal with a spectacular view.

PART 4

Lindau near the borders of Austria and Switzerland is the final destination and terminus on the Bavarian Allgäu railway. This historic town is actually an island on the eastern side of Lake Constance and connected to the mainland by a road-traffic bridge and a railway dam leading to Lindau Hauptbahnhof.  Arriving in Lindau you are greeted with an impressive panorama of the Swiss and Austrian Alps and Lake Constance which stretches out behind the world-famous harbour entrance with its Bavarian lion and white lighthouse. If you are feeling fit you can climb the 139 steps to the top of the 136m lighthouse for stunning views out over Lindau and the Bodensee. The old town still boasts the romantic alleys and dreamy courtyards of its medieval past, full of colourful boutiques, cafés and restaurants. In summer tourists flock to the lakeside promenade, widely regarded to be the prettiest in Lake Constance.

Lindau makes a great base to explore the region. There are several boat trips along the lake to nearby towns such as Friedrichshafen, home of the Zeppelin museum or Mainau, known as the Flower Island. For those who are not a fan of boats, they can also be reached by the excellent regional train and bus services. See table 933 for connections to Friedrichshafen. For Mainau the nearest station is Konstanz (Tables 916 & 939) where there is a connecting bus to the island. From Lindau, there is also the option to take the spectacular rail journey over the Arlberg Pass to the Alpine resort of St Anton am Arlberg (table 951)