Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Riding the Rails: Brussels to Berlin

July 17, 2011 -- I took a Deutsche Bahn InterCity-Express train from Brussels to Berlin with a transfer in Cologne. The train makes intermediate stops at Liege and Aachen before reaching Cologne. From Cologne the train makes intermediate stops at Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Bochum, Dortmund, Hamm, Gutersloh, Bielefeld, Herford, Hannover, Wolfsburg, Stendal and Berlin-Spandau. DB ICE trains travel at speeds up to 200 mph (322 kph).

The train station at Liege, Belgium is spectacular. It was designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the new transit hub at Ground Zero in New York City and the Chords Bridge in Jerusalem.

In typical German fashion, Deutsche Bahn wants you to know exactly how fast and efficient their high-speed trains are. The ICE trains top out at around 200 mph (322 kph) so my train was gaining speed at the time I took this picture. For Americans reading this blog post, that is 155 miles per hour.

As we sped through the German countryside I was expecting to see alpine houses and gothic cathedrals, which I did. However, I also saw gigantic wind farms with enormous wind turbines dotting the landscape. And it seemed as if every other house I saw had solar panels installed on the rooftop. Germany is obviously not the windiest or sunniest country in the world, but the Federal Republic has had a Renewable Energy Act in place since the year 2000, so this is the result of over eleven years of generous incentives for wind and solar power. It is impressive to see so many wind farms and so many citizens powering their homes with the sun.

That evening we arrived at the multi-level, futuristic looking Berlin Central Train Station. Trains are coming and going all the time on different levels, making it look like something out of the Fox animated science fiction show "Futurama." So cool.

Here are photos and video of my high speed train trip from Brussels to Berlin. Click here to see the photo set on Flickr.