From the Elbe to the Alps and back again

March 12th, 2018

Even I have a few days now and then when the last thing I want to do is travel and this was the case this week. I needed to make a trip to Munich to take care of some business regarding my college application for this year but having only a few days left in Europe the last thing I wanted to do was spend so much of it crisscrossing the country. Despite Germany being small compared to say the US it was still a good 10-12 hours from Hamburg to Munich without taking the expensive ICE. Worse news was that by the time I had arranged my meeting the saver tickets for the southbound trip was already over 50 euros, instead, I decided to take a tip from one of my German friends and take the FlixBus, a new bus service that offers cheap long distance bus trips throughout Germany. So for 22 Euros I booked the bus which was going to take a full 12 hours, well atleast the website says they have wifi and charging ports so I hopefully wouldn’t die of boredom. The weather forecast was showing sun for Wednsday so I added an additional day to in Munich in hopes of doing some photography on the Allgau line which would be closing at the end of the month for electrification work. 

As with every trip anywhere I arrive at the ZOB (Deutsche abbreviation for central bus station) last minute, quickly buy two sandwiches and hop on board for the trip to Munich which departed precisely at . Having never done a long distance bus trip in Europe before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully so far so good, I had a seat and after the first stop a window and charging spot. I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery outside so was surprised when I looked out to see we were in Wernigerode in Eastern Germany, I was not expecting us to go this way! Indeed the bus trip would take me through alot of places I had not seen since 2012, Goslar….Wernigerode…..Halle (Salle). Throughout the trip there were a few extended stops both at stations and roadside convenience stores for which I was thankful. Finally at 22:50 we arrived at Munch. It made it but I dont think I will do it again for such a long journey unless really necessary, while there is wifi the paltry 150 mb allowance didn’t get me far especially since I wanted to stream some music. Thankfully I kept myself busy writing trips reports so maybe that means there will be some new posts here sooner rather than later! 

Of course, since the Munich ZOB is right next to the HBF (as was my hostel) I had to take a walk through the big train hall and was surprised to see so much older DB power that was long gone from Hamburg including the old 111 class electrics and 218s off the Algau trains. 

Two DB 120’s waiting at Munich HBF, this class is slowly being phased out but for the moment are still going strong.

The following day was mainly grey and cloudy but it was alright as I had my meeting and went to visit my cousin who now lives in Munich and had just given birth to her first child.

March 14th, 2018

Once again the day began cloudy but the forecast said the weather should improve further west so I boarded one of the many Algau line DMU’s and headed west in search of sun and 218s. The majority of the services on this line are either run by the private operator ALEX or use DMUs but the line hosted several 218 hauled trains as well. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions of the saver ticket I was only able to begin my journey at 0900 so I missed the first 218 train to Lindau but decided to get off at Günzach to photograph IC 2084 and the weekday freight which would supposedly be following. Once thing I love about Germany is there is always a bakery no matter how small the town. I was starving having skipped breakfast but sure enough, there was a bakery a short walk from the station so stocked up on delicious fresh made bread and started walking to find a photo spot. There were pockets of sun but unfortunately not for IC 2084 which passed seconds before the sun came out. It was nearing 12 and the freight

had still not shown up and the only stopping train for the next 2 hours was approaching so I decided I needed to keep going towards the better scenery and hopefully more sun on the Oberstdorf branch. Of course right after leaving Günzach the freight sped by in the other direction, never fails! 

Thankfully though as we headed west the cloud cover rapidly decreased and by the time we reached Immenstadt it was nearly gone. I decided to ride all the way to Oberstdorf to scout the line which turned out to be a smart move. The Oberstorf branchline is a real gem, passing through small villages with classic architecture and the big snowcapped peaks of the Alps towering above. Getting around is quite easy just by walking and public transit though a bike would no doubt have made things even easier. The real challenge is getting the snowcapped mountains in the frame as most of them are to the south but I am quite happy with the results. 

After the last ALEX train I caught DMU service RE 3890 which I planned to take to Kempten, however my DB navigator app showed a late running ALEX train would provide a faster connection and not risk missing the connection at Kempten. I of course jumped at the opportunity to take a real train but turned out to be nearly a very bad decision. While the trip on the nice old coaches with padded seats was great things turned for the worse when we were informed the train was terminating at Geltendorf due to the delay and my alternative now was a very long S-Bahn ride into the city. As usual, I scraped by with just minutes to spare and again having no time to grab any dinner for my long overnight trip. From Munich it was a relatively quick trip up to Frankfurt on a ICE3 where I changed to a regular intercity for the long trip up to Hamburg. I managed a few hours of sleep and then woke up for the early 0650 arrival in Hamburg. I decided since I was up so early to stick around the photograph the arrival of one of the inbound trains from Kiel which had recently been running with a 218 diesel ahead of the regular electric. After successfully photographing it was back to the apartment in Barmbek to finish cleaning then pass out for some real sleep. 


I stayed at the Jaeger’s hostel in Munich adjacent to the HBF which I reserved via It was ok, hardly the best hostel I have stayed at but not the worst either. The price was quite reasonable at 13 euros a night in a 10 bed mixed dorm. The main problem I that whoever was in charge of the thermostat insisted on turning the dial to 11, it was reasonably cold outside at night but I woke up sweating both nights and probably contributed to me getting sick that weekend (though the long travel probably did not help either)

Final thoughts

While the long trips both ways were not very fun I am glad to have made the trip, the scenery on the Oberstdorf branch was worth the trip alone. This summer all the EC trains with the 218s will be diverted onto the Algau line so I will definitely be back. This might be the last summer for the 218s in Bavaria as once electrification is complete most EC trains will go to electric traction and the Algau will probably be left with only local trains.