Across Europe, thousands of miles of railway have been abandoned over the years and left to rust. But in one German town, an old line that once transported Prussian troops and military equipment and later shuttled children to and from school has been brought back to life. Today, you can enjoy a ride along the disused railway on a draisine— or rail bike.
In the early hours of April 16, 1945, the 2.5 million strong Soviet Army began its assault on Berlin in the hope of defeating Nazi Germany once and for all. After 16 days of heavy fighting and at times even hand-to-hand combat, 200,000 soldiers and civilians had lost their lives and much of the city lay in ruins. Despite the devastation, several landmarks and battle scars still survive today scattered across Berlin, serving as an important reminder to the last major offensive of the Second World War in Europe.
Relaxing, eco-friendly travel without the queues and security checks of an airport? Here are our top reasons why you should ditch flying and travel the 500 km between Berlin and Munich, one of Germany’s busiest routes, by train.
As a student, I would often find myself waiting on the platform at Essen railway station, on my way to university, weighing up whether or not to throw caution to the wind and jump on the train to Westerland/Sylt instead. Whenever I saw the train, the lyrics to the famous German song “Westerland” by Berlin punk band Die Ärzte – a somewhat sarcastic homage to this most touristic and middle-class of German seaside resorts – would run through my head. “Oh I have such a yearning, That I think I’m going insane,” it goes. Sod university, I’d think. “Take me back to the North Sea…” Alas, I never did jump on the train. I was a student after all and I couldn’t afford a holiday anywhere, let alone to the wealthy island of Sylt, where Westerland is located.
The air is thick with cinnamon and cloves, roasted almonds and sweet pastries. Artisans busy themselves selling handmade decorations and handicrafts to curious shoppers. There’s stollen (a traditional sweet bread filled with candied fruits) to fortify you and hot mulled wine to warm you up. The Silesian Christmas Market in Görlitz is full of festive cheer, but Germany’s easternmost town is steeped in history and there’s a lot more here to discover.