From Antwerp to Dresden by train

In May Ivan and I undertook another epic rail journey to Poland and Czechia in Eastern Europe. The first leg of this journey took us from our hometown of Antwerp towards the German city of Dresden. Dresden is located close to the Czech and Polish borders in Eastern Germany. I’ve always wanted to visit Dresden and as we would be in the region we thought it would make a great first stop.

The first train of the trip was a normal Belgian intercity train to Brussels South from where our ICE International service to Frankfurt departed. The ICE was operated by a class 406 ICE 3M unit, capable of running up to 330 km/h and into Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. As usual I reserved a seat in one of the two declassified former 1st class compartments, providing us with a bit more room and a calmer environment.

The route took us through the Brussels North-South tunnel towards Brussels North after which we joined the line 36N with a top speed of 200 km/h towards Leuven. We passed through the station of Leuven at 160 km/h before accelerating up to 250 km/h on Line 2 alongside the E40 until Ans. After a slow ride down the steep slope of Ans to descend into the Meuse valley and a stop in the station of Liege Guillemins we climbed up into the plateau again using the Tunnel of Soumagne with a top speed of 250 km/h on line 3.

Just before the German border we slowed down to join line 37 and cross over the Hammerbruecke before entering Germany and descending down towards Aachen Hbf.

After a brief stop in the Aachen Hbf to change the catenary voltage we continued onwards, the first part of the route over the old route meandering through the hills in this part of Germany before reaching the modernised section in Duren for a last sprint of 250 km/h top speed into Cologne.

After the stop in Koln Hbf we crossed the Hohenzollernbrucke, providing us with a view over the Rhine and the Cologne Dom. After Cologne we followed the route of the SFS Koeln – Frankfurt, speeding up and down the hills through tunnels and over viaducts along the right side of the Rhine river at 300 km/h, following the Autobahn over big parts of the route.

After calling at Frankfurt Airport we took some classic lines and crossed over the Main river to arrive in the Huge Frankfurt Hbf.

In Frankfurt Hbf we quickly went to look for some food and drinks to eat during our next segment. From Frankfurt onwards we would be travelling in one of the first generation ICE 1 units, a very long train consisting of 14 coaches. In here I once again was able to reserve seats in a 6-seat compartment as every ICE 1 coach has a mix of both airline style seating and traditional train compartments.

The unit has been refurbished in the early 2000’s and is sporting the current DB design inside, not giving away it’s true age. The route would take us over the old railway lines from Frankfurt over Fulda, Eisenach and Erfurt providing us with some very scenic views over the landscape in Central Germany.

After Erfurt we joined the new VDE8 high-speed line from Erfurt to Leipzig speeding up to 280 km/h through a series of tunnels and passing over some bridges. In Leipzig we arrived in yet another enormous terminus station.

In Leipzig we changed onto our last train of the day, one of the new IC2 double decker Intercity sets. As the route would be taking us over the classic line through a mostly rural landscape at up to 160km/h a true high-speed train was not needed for this line.

The train can’t deny it’s heritage as a regional train with a pretty basic interior, even though the seats have been upgraded to a mainline version they are still pretty hard to sit on and I imagine it might not be the most comfortable ride if you are doing a long trip in it.

After a long day of travelling we arrived in the curious station of Dresden, where we quickly jumped on an S train to get us to a stop closer to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Dresden am Zwinger.

Despite some delays on our way through Germany we still made all connections and had quite a pleasant trip through Germany in clean and modern trains. In the next instalments I will be writing about the rest of the trip through Germany, Poland and Czechia and the adventures we had there, so stay tuned for more!

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