Our first Shinkansen trip.

Arriving at the right time at the right platform was just the start of successfully boarding our 9:18 to Himeji from Osaka. The second part we were blissfully unaware of until a young British couple helped us out. Always check to see if the Shinkansen has 8 or 16 cars because it makes a big difference to which part of the platform you will be queueing at to board the train. On our ticket it told us car 5 and our seats 4a and b. At the last moment we had to move to a totally different part of the the platform thanks to this information. On we jumped with our cases and made our way to our seats.

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As the train very quickly accelerated I just had time to take a photo of the Umeda Skytower.

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At Himeji we left our first Shinkansen and visited the famous 1580 castle. (See the next post for more on this.)

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From Himeji we boarded this rather colourful purple Shinkansen. Unfortunately this lady also wanted a photo as it arrived.

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We had barely found our seats and the train was hitting a fast speed. Sometimes there were tunnels but at other times we had half a view like this. Railings or barriers are built to cut down on the noise I guess.

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At other times we actually could see most of the cities, towns and countryside as we sped along.

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It was certainly a good experience to travel the Shinkansen and as we continue our trip around Japan we will have many more such trips. One thing I have learnt though is that it’s hard to type as the train goes along, especially on a bend at amazing speeds.

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Nachisan to Osaka

Our bus arrived at 9:45. We were soon on our way winding down the mountain and through some small towns. When we reached Katsuura station we purchased our tickets for the train. The first ticket would take us to Tenoji and the second to Osaka Central station. We guessed Tenoji must be a suburb of Osaka as the journey was shown as only being about fifteen minutes and this later proved correct. Even though it was busy we managed to seat ourselves near Colin who was going to the Kansai airport for his flight that night. The first part of the trip he would be with us. Once the train started moving we were happy to be travelling near the coast and had views to the sea. However that quickly ended when we began going through a series of tunnels in the hills. After a while we again did see the ocean and it reminded of us of some of the scenery along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.

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As we approached Koza we crossed a river.

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After stopping at Koza we were on our way again. The next station would be Kushimoto the announcement over the speaker system informed us in not only Japanese but also English. Here are a couple of photos of the views from our window.

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After stopping at Kushimoto we continued towards Susami. Here is a photo of the coast there. Pardon the powerlines.

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From there we travelled towards Shirahama past fields and villages with the mountains in the background. All very scenic.

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One thing that did become evident was the land usage. Every plain or hillside was used for growing something, whether it was rice or fruit trees.

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When we reached Wakayama we said our farewells to Colin as he left to make a connection to Kansai airport on a different train.

About an hour later we made our train swap at Tenoji onto a very crowded train bound for the centre of Osaka. On arriving we went to the JR information booth where a very helpful young girl gave us a map of the subway system and directions of how to make our way to Ebisucho where we had booked an apartment for three nights. As we left they bowed. Respectful but cute. Two crowded trains later we came to Ebisucho but our exit didn’t have an escalator or elevator so up three flights of stairs we carried our cases. Even though we travel reasonably lightly the cases seemed anything but light. Our host had given very good directions with photos so it was easy to find. Once we had the key we went up in the lift two floors to our home for the next three nights, a very compact apartment but with everything we needed. After settling in we did a quick walk around our area (which was nicknamed Den Den Town). We purchased a few things at a couple of the convenience stores for breakfast the next morning before deciding to eat locally at Sukiya, a fast food curry restaurant. Once back at our apartment we were very pleased to fall asleep on a real mattress (not a thin futon) for the first time in over a week!

Koyasan to Kii Tanabe

Rain! Every travelers least liked weather type. Perhaps it would be clear after breakfast. We joined about 18 other travelers in the breakfast room with the same priest as yesterday so some of the conversation was the same but some was new. This time he did explain all the foods on our breakfast tray which was good to know.

After packing we checked out. The temple staff leant us umbrellas to use as long as we gave them to the staff at the cable car. A good deal otherwise we had have been soaked on the way to the bus stop. Took the bus to the cable car. Purchased our ongoing tickets to Hashimoto and rushed to catch the cablecar. Only had a short wait and our train arrived. Managed to secure a seat. Here is a photo of the misty scenery near Hashimoto.

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Here we left the Nankai railway system and purchased Japan Rail tickets to Wagamaya and then onto a Limited Express to Kii Tanabe. Have included a few photos of the countryside as we travelled. (Apologies for the window reflections in some of them but it gives you an idea of what we saw.)

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Near Gobo

 

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Near Gobo

We noticed these hothouses near Gobo. Clearly it is quite cold here in winter.

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We noticed these railway workers at Gobo station. Just like everywhere else, seemingly just standing around rather than working.

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Houses ear Minabe.

This was our first view of the coast near MInabe.

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Another one of the coastline as the view changed.

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We arrived at Kii Tanabe a bit ahead of schedule so we went into the Tourist Information Centre and the helpful lady gave us a map and directions to our hotel. We had an appointment with her later in the afternoon for a briefing about our walk on the Kumano Kodo. We took our cases up the hill to our hotel. Checked in and after that went out to the attached shopping centre where we purchased a few snacks. We walked back down to The Tourist Information Centre for our briefing from Fumiko, the very helpful tourism officer She was very detailed. She gave us a few options for dinner. After looking for one of them in a maze of small streets and alleys unsuccessfully we found another of her recommended restaurants, Ichyoshi. We ate with Colin for dinner. Karen ate egg and chicken rice. I ate udon noodles with chicken in a soup with a beer. An enjoyable night.

Reflections on travelling in Germany

In the Germany we loved –
Dresden, what an amazing skyline and so much to explore.

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The Elbe River valley.
Cycling and walking in the Elbe River valley.

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Saxon Switzerland National Park.

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Quedlinburg – with all those wonderful framework buildings it’s no wonder it has a UNESCO listing.

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Freiburg with its wonderful student atmosphere.
The mountains, valleys and lakes in Bavaria.

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The Bodensee (Lake Constance) area.

Favourite meals –
Kingfish at Café Bar Lounge Sol Y Mar in Leipzig
Schnitzel at Feierling Brewery in Freiburg

Favourite drink –
Beer

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Great places to stay –
The apartments at Haus Königsbrücker in Dresden
Quedlinburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber or any other small town or village.

Great places to eat or drink –
Café Bar Lounge Sol Y Mar in Leipzig, sit at a table or lounge on a couch and eat and drink from a low table, this place has a wonderful Moorish atmosphere.
Planwirkshaft in Dresden. Décor is reminiscent of the old east Germany but excellent food sourced from local suppliers.
Café Mezzo at Lister Meile 4 in Hanover. One of many excellent cafes in this part of Hanover.
The restaurant at Feierling Brewery in Freiburg, just across the road from the huge beer garden.
Lüdde Brauhaus in Quedlinburg. Excellent beer and a broad menu of traditional and modern meals to choose from.

Unexpected highlights –
Meeting some great people whilst sharing tables at cafes, breweries and restaurants.
The sensational but super expensive porcelain in Meissen.

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The massive Hohentwiel fortress at Singen.

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Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Travelling on the ICE trains with our First Class Eurail Passes.

What you must do when you travel to Germany –
Check out the museums and galleries in Berlin and Dresden.
Get out into the countryside and visit a National Park to walk or cycle.
Visit Cologne or Ulm cathedrals and climb their steeples.

Ulm cathedral (Munster)
Ulm cathedral (Munster)

Visit Berlin – we have twice before so didn’t go there this time.
Travel on a very fast ICE train.
Take a boat trip on the Rhine.
Visit the Zugspitze by cable car.

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Stay with a local – couchsurf, use Airbnb or if you’re lucky enough, stay with a relative to get a better perspective on daily life in Germany.

What you should avoid doing –
Riding over glass on a bike. Really stuffs up your day’s cycling.
Staying in Munich during the Octoberfest.

What you need to be prepared for –
A train to actually run late. It doesn’t happen often but when it does!!!!