Lengthwise through BavariaThis should not only be our longest travel segment today, but also the longest travel segment on our entire journey, both in terms of time and distance. Now, as you probably recall, I like taking the slow trains when exploring the country. For one, I get to see much more of the land looking out of the windows. But much more importantly, taking regional trains is just so much more affordable. In fact, Germany offers something called the "Quer Durchs Land Ticket" ("Cross Country Ticket"), which allows free use of all regional trains in the entire country for a day and is actually ridiculously cheap, especially when used by multiple people. For example, this journey, taking the fastest possible connection, would have cost us a whopping 200€ normally, and even with the normal price for regional trains, it would still have been about 150€. However, with the Quer Durchs Land ticket, we only pay a total of 48,50€ the both of us together! That's only 24,25€ per person, a quarter of the fast connection, and a third of the regular fare. The only drawback of this offer is that we can only start our journey after 9:00 on weekdays. On the weekends and public holidays, however, there is absolutely no drawback to this amazing deal.
In Hof, we only have a few minutes to get onto the next train. But fortunately (and quite honestly, amazingly) our train is on time, and conveniently, our next train is just standing on the opposite side of the platform we arrive on…
Across the UplandsThis time around we're travelling with a good old-fashioned Regionalexpress… though actually, it seems to be a pretty modern model. One curiosity here is that apparently in these parts of Germany, you don't have to buy the train ticket in advance, but can instead buy them inside the train, as long as you approach the conductor before sitting down. Since we already have our Quer-Durchs-Land Ticket, that does not apply to us, but I make a mental node of this protocol in case we need it at some point during our journey.
And then, we arrive in Dresden – capital of Saxony – amazingly right on time again, and with almost half an hour to change. Which is quite good, since Dresden turns out to be one of those more exciting stations. You see, while most stations have to decide on whether to be railhead stations or through stations, the Dresden Central Station went "Hey, whoever said I can't be both", and implemented this in an innovative two-layer design, where the inner seven tracks are on a lower level and terminate at the station, and an additional six tracks – three on each side – flank the terminus tracks on a higher level. And because that alone would still be boring, there's even an eight terminus track approaching the station from behind on the upper level.
Up The ElbeCompared to the previous two legs, this is only a relatively short segment, lasting only 45 minutes and taking us past towns and villages such as Heidenau ("Heath Meadow"), Obervogelgesang ("Upper Bird Song") and Königstein ("King Stone") the rest of the way to today's destination of Bad Schandau.
The flat plains on which Dresden lies are soon enough replaced by the hills and mountains of the Sächsische Schweiz, rising up to both sides of the river Elbe, and whereas the S-Bahn at first makes a beeline through the landscape, it is eventually followed to closely follow the run of the river, winding its way further into the forested mountains past villages built along the very side of these hills.
We arrive at Bad Schandau under a threatening, yet thankfully dry sky. Despite bearing the impressive title of "Nationalpark-Bahnhof" ("National Forest Station"), this station really is little more than a few platforms with a building next to them.