When I first found out that I would be moving to Germany, I was convinced I would need a car here. One of my co-workers spent a few months here doing pretty much the same job that I’m doing now, and he rented a car for the duration.
The more I researched the area and the more I learned about life in Regensburg, the more I realized that I didn’t want a car here if I could avoid it. While I do have an International Driving Permit, I didn’t want the expense. To own a car here means insurance, a probable car payment, winter tires, fuel with a hefty per-liter price- no gallons here. On top of that, I would need a new set of skills- there are road signs here that I’m not familiar with. The traffic patterns are different. The stop lights are set before the intersection instead of across it, so that’s another thing to get used to.
I could have had my car shipped over here, but that would have cost thousands of dollars for a vehicle that’s already six years old. Her mileage is low, but I don’t know if the cold would have agreed with a car that spent its entire life in Florida.
For those rare occasions that I might need a car for other reasons, there are always options. When I got my bed from Ikea back in November, I rented a van at an hourly rate with which to transport the bed and a co-worker did the driving. If I find a need for a car for a longer journey, there are many car rental places around such as Europcar.
When I left the country, I handed off my car keys to my brother and gave him instructions to offload the car. I’m going to be here for a few years and it made more sense to sell the car than to try to store it. This week, my car was successfully sold back in Florida. I’m sad to see the Civic go, but it’s better this way. I last drove her on November 11th, the morning that I left the United States.
That’s also the last time that I’ve driven anything though, and for the most part I don’t miss it. For the last three months, I’ve been a regular rider of public transportation. I’ll talk more about the awesomeness that is the German train system in a future post; for now I just want to talk bus riding.
Before I took the bus for the first time, I nearly had an aneurysm trying to read the bus schedule. The way the schedules are formatted is extremely easy to read, but only after someone explains it to you. Without that explanation, it’s easily the most confusing document I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t had a headache already today, go look at http://www.rvv.de/Linie-9-Haltestellenfahrplan-ab-11.12.2011.d1757.pdf. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
In my time here, I feel like I’ve already become a veteran bus rider. I’ve run full-tilt for a bus, only to see it pull away from the curb at the last minute. I’ve been on a bus where someone very close smells like they just ran a marathon through a sewer. Oh, the joys of public transportation.
Those frustrations are small, though, compared to the benefits. The bus system here is excellent and I take that to and from work every weekday. I’ve also learned to find my way around to a number of great specialty stores for home goods and the like. The first time I was on the bus ride home from work and I saw the blue flashing lights of a traffic snarl, I just leaned back, sighed happily, and turned to the next page on my Kindle book.
Each month, I go to an automated machine to get my monthly ticket. I pay a fee of roughly fifty Euros a month for unlimited rides within zones one and two. Zone one is the city center of Regensburg, and zone two contains several of the surrounding towns, including Neutraubling, where the office is located. That’s a small amount of money compared to what I paid back in Florida for gasoline, insurance, and so forth.
There’s several different types of vehicles in use here- some of the more frequented lines like the 1 and the 11 to the University have double-length buses with an accordion thing between the sections. It’s really pretty astonishing. There are certain buses that are red and seem to be affixed to specific lines, and others that are yellow- I’m not sure if there’s a specific reason for that, or if the colors represent anything other than the region the bus travels through.
I’ve also found that the bus lines have their own personalities. It’s hard to describe, but they really do. I even have a favorite bus line, although that might change over time; I’ve only actually been on five or six of the different lines. There are three that will take me to work. There’s one line that runs hourly to Ikea- pretty handy if you want to go eat meatballs on a Saturday afternoon.
I just realized that I wrote an entire post about buses without including a picture of a bus. Here’s one of those nifty double-length accordion buses I was talking about to make up for that.