|Total time||Avg. speed||Delay||Boarded||Wi-Fi pledged||Wi-Fi fulfilled||Wi-Fi overall|
|2.5 hours||71 km/h||0 %||100 %||100 %||0 %||0 %|
I have seen few east-German cities so far. While Berlin does not count anyway, there is Magdeburg, Dresden and very few more. Good idea to catch up, and why not finally see the place where, almost exactly a quarter decade ago, socialist Germany started ending. I have passed Leipzig a lot of times, since it is close to an Autobahn I rode frequently a couple of years. But I never got downtown, a task that Leipzig main station easily allows for. Also, I can prepare for future business which might include this city.
The suggested route starts in Berlin Südkreuz. A station built along the greater Berlin railway projects for the 21st century. Formerly a rather irrelevant connection between few bus lines, some S trains and, at a time long ago, also some regional traffic. Plans from the 1990’s, finally realized in the late 2000’s, aimed on turning the station formerly known as “Papestraße” an important station again.
All this will probably turn out a good idea within one or two decades; right now the place is blatantly over-dimensioned. The S (express metro) train hall easily competes with former long-distance Zoo station, and the overall complex easily beats smaller countryside airports.
It is plain to see that hundreds of commuters and regional travelers are (or have been) expected to pass here each hour, connecting with some dozens of trains in the same time. Right now, things go slower around here. If ever there have been any on-platform catering outlets to provide these legions of hungry commuters with travel necessities, they are gone long enough to remove any visible traces.
What seems more likely is, that, except for the project team, nobody yet truly believed in short- and maybe mid-term projections. Except, maybe, for the stores in the main and the S train hall. So, meanwhile, Mr. Vending Machine is glad to be at your service. Speaking of service: You would not want to smoke anyway, given the absence of any coffee vendor.
A positive impression, after all and aside the fact that the station meets contemporary standards in most other details, is a digital train assembly board. I know these from the Netherlands, and I can only hope they manage data supply better than they do with the commonly used displays. However, this here looks nice and seems to work.
The ICE, coming from Hamburg and on its – still long! – way to Munich, is in usual conditions. This means: Dirty. The reason is simple: Trains standing still between two trips, which is in fact the only opportunity for thorough clean-up, do not pay. This is the still-current projection horizon in average German management offices. And it is why waste bins are so full they can’t even be opened. And it is also why I can tell from the seat next to me that the “Board Bistro” is, or has been, offering Croissants today. Or some day.
After all there is a recent copy of the train’s schedule. I learn that, while Leipzig is just an hour from Berlin, Munich is still more than five hours from Leipzig. Obviously, the infrastructural focus right after German unification had been on the Autobahn. Which would allow for a 3.5 hours ride, given an appropriate car and free tracks.
While I am being offered free newspapers, my interest in paid drinks is denied for now: Everything at its time.
I am happy for a couple few rows away: Not only they get served a fine-looking menu (and drinks), every detail about the dish, the further menu process, wine origins and payment options is kindly explained. This is really fine. Less fine is that my time, obviously, still has not even started coming.
I need not even ask, the guy queued right before me has been audibly informed that board staff is pretty busy. After all, my kind request to serve my drink soon enough before I leave is heard. And served. After all I could read a small bit, since it was dark outside and not much else to see or do. I was not even limited to paper, thanks to free on-train Wi-Fi. The latter I figured an ICE standard; I would soon learn some more on this.
Granted: I am impressed. I have not even seen the inner city yet, however, alone this station is quite something. For one thing, it is pretty big. And I did not even realize in the first place, that I had not even seen one third so far. For another, change was in the air. The place had visibly been undergoing a lot of (re-)construction already, and still there was work in progress all around. Which did not seem to matter, given the sheer size (one of Europe’s largest station buildings, as I learned soon after).
The whole place looked neat and organized. Almost clean, yet not cool. And consists of some 24 platforms, which I had rarely seen before. Entering the main hall reveals the overall dimensions, and a mall nested two (or three?) levels downwards. A place I might keep in mind for late-shopping, even though the hairdresser seemed not to be prepared for ambulant services. (In a central station, surprise!)
I understand that, in past socialist times, east-German cities were likely to be turned into parade grounds with vast avenues and stuff. Berlin still suffers from this desease, many do, but what I do not understand is why Leipzig does. They did, and still do, invest such a lot in improvements. So why does such a relict still have to cut station and city apart, instead of being put into a tunnel?
Even more, as they recently opened a new metro line, starting 30 meters below the former platforms one and two and cross below the inner city (“Innenstadttunnel”). Not every German city gets these things done that straight-forward, by the way.