Before and After

When I first arrived in Regensburg, the ticket machines for the bus system were all confusing push-buttony evil, like so:

photo 2-5

One day about two months ago, a magical thing started to happen.   The old machines started to evolve.  I walked past one on Albertstraße and it had a brand new touchscreen and a whole lot of new technology stuck on the front.  The new machines always exist in sunlight.

This is progress!

photo 1-5

Have you noticed any tiny little improvements around your town that make you happy?

No Limits

Americans have a lot of myths and misconceptions about Germany.  We think that all Germans wear lederhosen and dirndls– they don’t; that’s just in the South of Germany.  We think that all Germans love beer and pretzels- ok, that part is actually mostly true.

Before I moved to Germany, I had a weird misconception that the Autobahn was a single world-famous stretch of roadway.  I stupidly didn’t register that “Autobahn” is really just the name for Germany’s entire system of highways until I was already here and seeing the separate segments of the highway.  I now know that Regensburg sits at the intersection of the A3 and the A93, and both of those roads are considered “The Autobahn.”

We think that the entire Autobahn has no speed limit.

nolimitsIt only takes one time on the highways here to see that this isn’t entirely true.  There are places on Germany’s roadways with no posted speed limits, designated by the circle and slashes seen to the right of this paragraph.  One ADAC estimate says that roughly half of the Autobahn  does indeed have a posted speed limit.  I can attest to this, since I drove on the Autobahn last week for the first time.

I don’t usually have a car here- when I moved over, I sold my beloved Honda Civic in favor of using the bus and train to get around.  I didn’t want to deal with the expense of parking, of getting gasoline, of insuring a car- and I really don’t need one here.    I drive when I’m in the United States, but not here.

When several of us went to Zürich for business last week and I had the opportunity to sign on as a second driver for the rental car, I didn’t have to think too long before signing up.  As a result, I got to drive a bit in both Germany and Austria.  I have a few thoughts on the experience:

  1. The places that do have speed limits here are somewhat infuriating because the speed limit changes rapidly and often.  In a five-minute span, you can find yourself seeing multiple speed limit changes.  It’s usually somewhat logical-  120 kilometers per hour to 100 to 80 as you approach a tunnel, for example.  Sometimes, though, it can be downright schizophrenic:  120 kilometers per hour to 80 to 100 to 60 to 120 and then, suddenly, no limits again.  In the US, highway speed limits tend to be one speed for much longer stretches of roadway.
  2. Even on the sections of the Autobahn that don’t have posted speed limits, there is still a recommended speed.  The Richtgeschwindigkeit, or recommended speed, is 130 km/h.  I can say from my new experience that 130-140 is actually a very comfortable speed.  This is perfectly logical, since this is roughly equivalent to 80-87 miles per hour.
  3. Our rental car was a Volkswagen Touran, which is basically the minivan version of a VW Golf.  This car isn’t really built for speed-  at one point on a straightaway, I took the car up to 180 km/h (112 mph) just to see what it felt like.  It felt terrifying.  At that speed, the entire vehicle felt like it was catching an updraft.  There was no sense of real control of the vehicle, and I was concerned that any good gust of wind would completely crash us.  I leveled it back down to a more relaxed speed very quickly, and didn’t break a three digit mph speed again for the rest of the trip.  I saw plenty of people doing 200-220 km/h on the Autobahn, but you really have to have the right car to do it without spontaneous outbreaks of sudden and horrible death.

Would I rent a fast car some time and drive fast on the Autobahn again?  Probably, it was kind of fun despite the terror.  Maybe next time I just need a faster car…

Have you been on the Autobahn?  What’s the fastest speed you’ve ever driven?

 

ICE, ICE, Baby! (A Beginner’s Guide To The Deutsche Bahn)

I love trains.

One of my favorite things about living in Regensburg is that we’re situated on a major rail line. From here, there are direct lines to Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Prague. That’s just without changing trains. If you don’t mind changing trains once or twice, you can go nearly anywhere on the continent. It’s a great way to travel.

Step One: Book Your Trip

appWhile you can get your train tickets from automated machines in the train station, or from a Deutsche Bahn counter, it’s generally advisable to do this ahead of time. The DB has a very excellent website in multiple languages, as well as a series of great apps to serve this purpose. It’s not much different than arranging air travel at this point- You can search with criteria like arrival or departure time, number of connections, and so forth.

The Website has also recently added a seat selection option to the booking process. The brown bars in the screen capture below are tables, so you’ll be sitting facing someone else. The boxed off sections toward the right are compartments with a door between you and the aisle. Click for a bigger view.

seatselector

Step One Point Five: Choose Your Type Of Train

rb-alexWhile you book your trip, you should bear in mind that there are a number of different types of trains in use on Deutsche Bahn rail lines.

  • There are a few non-DB carriers that operate on German rail lines, like the Alex trains pictured on the right, and Agilis just below that. I’m not going to get into the specifics of them in this post, but I’ve used Alex trains for trips to Prague and Munich. The Prague trip was horrible, but the Munich run was smooth as glass. The Agilis trains tend to be run on local routes. For example, the one pictured here runs between Ingolstadt and Regensburg, on an almost hourly schedule.
    Agilis train
  • Regio-DB or RB (Regional Bahn) tend to be highly localized. These trains are usually painted red.
  • RE (Regional Express) lines are for slightly longer distances than the RB. For example, there are RE lines between Regensburg and Munich. You can travel throughout the entire country using only RE lines, but it will take you a while. RE trains are also painted red.
  • IC (Inter City) trains.  IC trains are the middle step between the RE and ICE trains.  They are typically mostly white with red stripes, like the ICE trains, and they are generally faster than the RE trains.
  • ICE (Inter City Express) lines are my personal favorite. These are the trains that look like monorails. ICE trains are always pronounced Eye See Eee, never like the word ‘ice’ despite my bad joke in the subject line of this post. ICE trains are painted white with a red stripe, and they’re fantastic.
  • When your trip moves you between countries, sometimes you’ll wind up on the rail network from another country. For example, the train below is Railjet, a high speed Austrian line. This train was going to Vienna.
    austrianrailjet

In the picture below, you can see four different DB train types. The trains are, from left to right, an ICE type one, an ICE type two, an RE, a RB, and an ICE type three. The type three is the newest and fastest type.

ice-123-3types-munich

I’m a huge fan of the ICE trains. Here’s two more pictures of them. First, an ICE-T train. The T stands for ‘Tilt.’ All the newer models do this, actually. The upper portion of the train is designed to tilt to allow for high speed navigation, even on curves. The practical result of this for me is that my trips to and from the bathroom on an ICE train while the body of the train is tilting back and forth are often high comedy.

icet

Here’s another close picture of an ICE type three, because they’re amazing.

ice3

Why do I think they’re amazing? Well, they’re quiet, they’re comfortable, they have power plugs on the seats, and they’re fast. On newer, straighter sections of track, they can do this-

ice-zoom

You read that right- that’s 300 Kilometers per hour. That’s 186 Mph. And they can go even faster, if the track is straight and smooth.

One more thing that’s kind of interesting to me- in the picture of the ICE Type 3 above, the coupling is covered by a white shell. However, sometimes you see them uncovered, like so:ice-coupling1

That’s because ICE trains can be coupled together for longer hauls, making the single train double the length of a normal train. This is particularly useful when both trains share half a route, then get uncoupled at a major station before going to separate destinations. Here’s what they look like coupled together:

ice-coupling2

Step Two: Go To The Station

The main train station in any city is called a Bahnhof. In cities that are large enough to have more than one station, the main station is called a Hauptbahnhof. Bahnhofs always have clocks on them, for some reason I haven’t been able to learn. Here’s the front of the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof:

frankfurt-hbf

Step Three: Find Your Platform

Every Bahnhof has display signs which tell you information about upcoming departures, including the Gleis (track or platform), destination, and departure time. There’s a big departures board inside the Bahnhof, and once you get to the actual platform, there are usually smaller signs to provide more information, like this one:

platform-digital

In the picture above, you have the following information:

  • This is Gleis 4.
  • This train is going to München (Munich). This train also has stops in Köln (Cologne), Frankfurt Flughafen (airport), and Nürnberg (Nuremberg).
  • The train’s identification is ICE 629.
  • This train will stop at stations A through E on the platform. On the left side of the picture, you can see the letter C- this is useful for shorter trains, as it allows you to see roughly where the beginning and end of the train will stop.
  • The train is departing this station at 12:38.

If there are any announcements or indications that your train is late, they’ll generally be notated on the boards. In the picture below, the scrolling text with the white background tells us that the train to Dortmund is actually running five minutes late.

trainbelate

Sometimes, you luck into an older station with the charming flip-board version of this sign. While they don’t have as much information, I think they’re really nifty and I quite like seeing them.

platform-flipstyle

Step Four: Find Your Seat

On RE and RB trains, you can’t reserve seats. On those trains, you just have to make sure that you don’t wander into a First Class car with a Second Class ticket. The cars are clearly marked with very large 1 and 2 signs, so that’s pretty straight forward. Some of the RE trains use double-decker cars with a lot of seating, like this next picture.

rb-interior

For ICE trains, however, you can usually get reserved seating- this is especially nice on crowded routes. When you have an ICE reservation, your ticket will specify a Wagon and a Seat. That’s where these signs come in handy. It’s difficult to capture this in a clear picture, but the car itself tells you that this is Wagon 23, on ICE 29 between Frankfurt and Wien (Vienna). The giant 2 to the right of that display tells you that this is a second class car.

ice-trains4

Once inside you’ll need to find your seat. If you do have a reservation, the seats will be marked by a small electronic displays somewhere above each pair of seats. If the display is blank, there’s no active reservation. The reservation display pictured below shows you that the window seat, #46, is reserved from Bochum to Nürnberg, and the aisle seat, #48, is reserved from Köln to München. Hypothetically, if you were planning on getting off the train before Köln, you could use seat #48 without much of a problem since that reservation starts with someone boarding the train in Köln.

ice-reservations

Once you’ve got your seat sorted out, you can try to stash your luggage. Most of the trains have some form of overhead storage, but it’s not always big enough for a regular suitcase. The pictures below are four different views of ICE train interiors.

ice-cabin-1 ice-cabin-2ice-interior1 ice-interior2

Step Five: Enjoy The Ride!

There’s not much else to add, really. DB trains are generally very smooth. Sure, yes, sometimes delays happen and weird things make travel a little more complicated. For the most part, though, this is a great way to travel. You can get from Regensburg to Frankfurt in three or four hours while reading on your Kindle, or you can stare out the window at the countryside passing by.

If you get hungry, most ICE trains have either a Bordbistro or a Bordrestaurant, and even the RE trains often have a snack cart passing by periodically so you can get something to eat while in motion. The Bordrestaurants often have hot food available, in a small fixed menu. You can see a few options in the photo below- when this picture was taken, chili, a rice dish, currywurst, a simple salad, and even some desserts were available.

bordbistro1

So there you have it- a beginner’s guide to riding (and enjoying) the Deutsche Bahn. I could go on a great deal longer about this topic, because I love riding the rails I think this is a good place to stop, though- this post should cover the basics. Now go forth and ride! Travel somewhere this weekend! Gute reise!

Which do you prefer- trains, planes, or automobiles? Have you traveled by Deutsche Bahn?

One Week In The UK, Part One: London

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

Ever since I was eleven years old, I’ve wanted to see London.    My fascination with the city started when I would come home after school, running from the bus stop to catch the second half of the day’s broadcast of Dangermouse on Nickelodeon.  For the uninitiated, Dangermouse is the world’s greatest secret agent, a mouse in a white jumpsuit with an eye patch.  His assistant, Penfold, is a hamster in a tiny blue suit.   The link above is part of an episode.  To date, Dangermouse is still my favorite cartoon.

As I grew older, the UK criss-crossed my personal pop culture landscape.  Many movies I loved were filmed, in part, in Pinewood Studios about twenty miles outside of the city.  Here’s a very short and in no way complete list:  Superman and Superman II, the original Harryhausen Clash of the Titans, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Legend, the James Bond movies, Little Shop of Horrors, Aliens, the first two Hellraiser movies,  the 1989 Batman, The Fifth Element, Stardust, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (the single finest movie adaptation of a stage musical ever made), and The Dark Knight.  Granted, most of these didn’t showcase London, but they were made there, and in my brain, that counts.  Sweeney Todd has an entire song just about London, though.

I read every Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy book as it came out.  Tom Baker was my Doctor until 2005.  I watch Love Actually at least once a year.  A hefty portion of my regular television viewing comes out of the BBC.  My favorite living author is British.

My point is that I was predisposed to love London even before I ever dreamed of traveling there.  And I did, of course-  dream of traveling there.  When I finally got my passport back in 2006, it was with the intention of making it to London.    I was just waiting for money, time off, and someone to travel with.

As I gained more seniority at Mr. Company, the money became less of a constraint, and the time off became easier to come by.  I was still waiting for a travel buddy though, but it never quite worked out.    Meanwhile, I went to other places.  I traveled widely in my own country, visited Canada, and spent two weeks in Hong Kong for work.   Then in late 2010, my life reached “Do-Over” status-  I found myself single again and temporarily without an apartment of my own.  In that time of upheaval, I made a promise to myself that I would reach London before my fortieth birthday.

Fast forward to April of this year.  I’d been in Germany for a scant five months, and I saw a link on Facebook to a Neil Gaiman post.  The surviving cast members of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio shows were doing a live touring version of the radio shows. Neil himself would be the voice of The Book in the Edinburgh, Scotland show on the 21st of July.  Twenty minutes after I read the post, I had already purchased tickets.    Thirty minutes after I read the post, I had compared the dates of the Olympics to the date of the show, verified that the week leading up to that event was a full week before the crowded Olympics began, and requested my vacation time.    The trip formed from that point forward.

On Saturday, 14 July, I flew into Heathrow Airport, with an Oyster Card, a LondonPass, and a very basic travel framework locked in.  I had a ticket for the London production of Wicked on Tuesday.  I had a rail ticket to go from King’s Cross Station in London to Waverley Station in Edinburgh by rail on Friday.  I had the aforementioned HHG Live ticket, and airfare to go from Edinburgh back to Munich the following Sunday.  And finally, I had a list of things I wanted to see, based on a lifetime of absorbing the UK into my soul like so much mercury on the skin.  I had a terrific time, and I took nearly a thousand photographs.  I’m only going to share about two dozen of them here.

London Just Being London: 

I started out my time in London by using one of those hop-on-hop-off tours on a double decker bus.  This is a great way to get an overview of a new city, and the tour guides are usually pretty interesting.  Right away, I saw London being, well, London.  Bowler hat.  Tails.  If this guy had a monocle and a walking staff, my day would have been complete.

As my hotel was in a slightly residential area near Westminster, I got to see a lot of types of living arrangements, and one of the threads that I noticed was that TARDIS blue (Pantone 2955C) is a very popular color for people’s doors.

The London Eye:

I don’t really know why I love the idea of this thing so much, but one of the things at the top of my “I MUST DO THIS” list was to ride the London Eye.  When the Eye went up in 1999, it was often referred to as “the London Eyesore,”  but people have warmed to it since then and it’s become a much loved part of the London skyline.  The Eye is basically a giant Ferris wheel, except that each of the cars is an oval shaped, sealed, and air conditioned compartment big enough for about 25 people to move around.  The compartments are rotated throughout the ride so that the compartment is always completely vertical, and a ride around the entire circumference takes about thirty minutes.   During the ascent, you get a pretty spectacular view of Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, and Westminster Bridge just across the River Thames, and once you reach the top, you have an amazing panoramic view of London.

Preparation for the 2012 Olympics Is Everywhere:

The London Bridge has a set of gigantic Olympic rings hanging from the upper level.  I wish I’d posted this before the Olympics started, since I took these pictures beforehand.  Now, of course, this picture has been done by every news agency in the world.  It’s interesting to me that the rings fold up when the bridge has to open.  I actually got to see this happen, as they opened the bridge for a passing boat while I was visiting the nearby Tower of London.

Wenlock and Mandeville, the Olympic and Paralympic mascots, are all over the city now, expecially along the Thames.  I saw and photographed at least a dozen different variants, with different “outfits” painted on.   This one is at one end of the Lambeth bridge, with his back toward Parliament.

The preparation was extending to areas outside of the city as well.  I took a boat to Greenwich on one of the days, and we passed an active ship from Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, which was docked for the duration of the games. I never found out the name of the vessel.  (Edit after original posting:  It was the HMS Ocean.)  Lots of military folk were wandering around Greenwich.  When one group of them wandered past…   What’s the word for a group of British naval officers?  A platoon?  Division?  Flock?  I think I’ll pretend they’re like dolphins and say it was a pod of soldiers.  Anyway, when this pod of soldiers wandered past, I heard one little boy say to his father, “Daddy, are those space marines?”  I had to fight very hard to not laugh.

Unfortunately for me, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich was closed because of preparations for the Olympics.  I was kind of bummed out by this, because I wanted to straddle the Prime Meridian so I was standing in two time zones at once.  Oh well, at least I got to see a helicopter landing on the deck of the Naval ship.  That was nifty.

There’s Lots Of Touristy Stuff, Too:

No first-time visit to London would be complete without checking out Westminster Abbey.  I was kind of entranced by how many famous graves were there.   I stood over the graves of Laurence Olivier and Charles Darwin, and I sat for several minutes in Poet’s Corner, which has graves and memorials for too many literary giants to list here.  There are so many graves and memorials in Westminster Abbey that there’s a separate Wikipedia entry to list them all.

Trafalgar Square has Nelson’s Column, and Piccadilly Circus has a lot of electric lights and a ridiculous amount of musicals.  They have now made musicals out of a variety of movies that I didn’t think were particularly musical.  One of the evenings, I didn’t actually have any plans, so I went to a second musical.  I bought tickets about an hour before showtime for “Ghost: The Musical.”  It was a week night, and it wasn’t terribly full, so when I picked up my ticket at the box office, my seat had actually been moved forward to about the tenth row.  I thought the idea was ridiculous until I saw that the music was from Dave Stewart (most people know him from Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (most people know him from, well everything.  The dude has six Grammys.)   It wasn’t bad.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know the plot.  The transition to a musical wasn’t as jarring as I would have expected.

I quite enjoyed the London Film Museum, which had a lot of neat stuff, including Daleks, a TARDIS, the superman suit from Superman Returns, the Batman Begins batsuit, and a large variety of props from other movies.  There was an entire room of Harry Potter stuff, and a large exhibit dedicated to Ray Harryhausen, including a full sized original Bubo.  This was a highlight for me.

I saw The Monument to the London Fire, but I didn’t climb the 300+ steps to the top.  I walked to Cleopatra’s Needle, an actual Egyptian obelisk (a gift from Egypt) on the banks of the Thames.

I visited the British Library and viewed some of the collection in their so-called Treasures room, which included some of the oldest known bibles in many languages, original handwritten lyrics from the Beatles, very old folios of Shakespeare, and much  more.

The Yeoman Warder Tour (sometimes called the Beefeater Tour, although Yeoman Warder is the correct name) at the Tower of London was informative and interesting, and also free.  Plus they spit a lot when they’re speaking.  The front row needed rain slickers, Gallagher style.  There’s a separate tour to see the Crown Jewels, but that doesn’t really interest me as much.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has a pretty nifty tour, and if you time it right, you can see a play there as well.  I didn’t time it right, but I plan on going back sometime.

I went to the British Museum and checked out things like the Rosetta Stone (amazing) and the Egyptian collection from the tomb of Ramses II.   I especially like how everyone observes the ‘Do not sit on the steps’ signs here.

The gift shops had a lot of neat stuff, but I was particularly amused by William Duckspeare.

Another stop that was almost required viewing for a first time visit to London is the Changing Of The Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.  Or, as I like to refer to it, the daily viewing of the umbrellas in the near constant rain.  I did get a few pictures of the guards doing their thing, however.  I read somewhere that there are four guards when the Queen is in residence, and two when she isn’t, so I could see that she was out that day.  Here’s one of the two guards who was on duty.

I made a point of stopping on Sunday at the Animals In War Memorial.  There are many, many statues, memorials, and the like in London, but this one is dedicated to all the animals that served alongside British and allied forces in all the conflicts of the 20th century.  The memorial has a bronze sclupture of a horse, a dog, and a pair of pack mules moving through a curved wall.  It’s a visually striking memorial, and the site I linked to up above has good pictures of it.  What I found most interesting, however, was that people are obviously visiting this memorial on a regular basis.  There were candles, wreaths, and even a horseshoe left behind in tribute.

London Has Character:

One of my favorite things about the city was that you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a pub with an interesting name.  (Well, you could, but it would have to be a very patient cat, and you’d have to be out in a field somewhere.)  One of my lunch choices was based entirely on where I was when I really, really had to pee one afternoon.  This is the Minories Pub not far from the Tower of London.  The food was amazingly delicious, and the staff was friendly and helpful.

London Also Has Characters:

There’s an area in the corner of Hyde Park nearest Marble Arch called Speaker’s Corner, and there is a tradition of people going there to speak their minds on Sunday afternoons.  My first full day in London was a Sunday, so I couldn’t resist stopping by to see the… let’s call  them outspoken people.  Most of them were religious, most of them were espousing some form of Christianity, several of them were condemning Islam, and all of them were fascinating to listen to for brief spurts.  I took a lot of pictures of people speaking.  This guy had the most eye-catching outfit of the day.

I walked up and down the Thames while I was there, covering several kilometers on both banks, and I really enjoyed some of the scenery and people on the South bank.  One day, while I was walking along the South Bank back toward my hotel,  I passed this fabulous fellow who was silently dancing his way in the opposite direction.  I’m burning with curiosity as to what it was all about, but he never stopped moving long enough for me to ask.

Mind The Gap:

My friends here in Regensburg have figured out already that I’m kind of a nerd about public transportation.  I love the crap out of good public transit, and London has an amazing collection of ways to get around.  I especially love the London Underground, often referred to as The Tube.  I love the Mind The Gap signs.  I love the subway cars.  I love the distinctive push of air that you can always feel coming up the tunnel a good fifteen or twenty seconds before the train appears.  I love that even when I was going the wrong direction and was basically lost, I could still easily navigate my way back to places I was familiar with on the Tube.

Don’t Forget To Go Outside Of The City:

There are a lot of places I wanted to visit in the UK that I didn’t have time for.  I didn’t manage to visit Stratford On Avon, the final resting place of Shakespeare.  I didn’t even get to see large swaths of London. I’ll hit Cardiff next year, for some of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who events.    I did, however, take some time on Wednesday of my week to hop a train from Waterloo Station in the morning out to Salisbury.  From the Salisbury train station, there’s a regular bus that goes every  thirty minutes or so out to Stonehenge.  It took me roughly two hours each way, but it was totally worth it to see this in person.

Next Stop, Edinburgh:

I checked out a lot of other things, much of which I”ll remember tomorrow or the next day that I wanted to get into this post.  For example, I went out of my way to see Fenchurch Street Station because I love the character that Douglas Adams created.  I also found Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station and got my picture there. (And as a result, couldn’t get the Pet Shop Boys song out of my head for the rest of the day.)  I ate Fish and Chips and Indian Food.  I had a drink in a pub off Carnaby Street.  I bought some underwear in Marks & Spenser, because everyone says it’s really good stuff.  I went on the London Eye twice.  I walked more in one week than I usually walk in a month.

And finally, I left.  From King’s Cross Station, I took the train up the coast to Edinburgh, Scotland.

But that’s another post.

Two If By Train

I’ve always wanted to see Europe.  Lots and lots of Europe.  Up until I moved to Germany, however, I had never actually been to Europe. When I was given the chance to work in Germany for Mr. Company, one of the biggest draws was that I would be here for a long period of time-  exploring Europe from Europe is a great deal simpler than trying to do it in a series of shorter trips from the US.

To add to my wonderment,  Regensburg sits on a major rail line.  The Regensburg Bahnhof is a five minute walk from my apartment.  From there, I can be to Munich in just under 90 minutes.  In five hours I can be to Vienna, Salzburg, or Prague.  In less than seven hours, I can reach Berlin or Zurich.  In eight hours, I can reach Amsterdam, Budapest, or Paris.  If I have ten or twelve hours, I can reach Venice, Rome, or London.  That’s just rail-  if I take a 75 minute train to Munich, I can hop a flight to just about anywhere in no time at all.

I just got my BahnCard, too.  The BahnCard system is a wonderful boost to someone like me.  For a yearly fee up front, you get a percentage of all of your rail travel discounted within Germany.  The BahnCard 25 is less than sixty Euros up front, and is 25% off your rail for that year.  The BahnCard 50, which I purchased, is 240 Euros per year, but it provides a 50% discount.   I’ve already made back 20% of the expense, and I just got the card last week.   There’s also a BahnCard 100, which is an obscene amount of money up front, but BC100 holders do not pay anything additional for their German rail travel for that year.  It’s the Black Card of the EuroRail system, literally- it’s actually a black card.  Regular BahnCards arrive in a flat white envelope, but the BC100 arrives in a presentation box, pictured below. (And shamelessly stolen from http://blog.mahrko.de/.)

To add to the seven layer burrito of awesome that is the BahnCard, RailPlus is automatically granted on every BahnCard, which grants 25% off of ticket prices for another 24 countries.  From here, I can start planning on little rail trip weekends whenever I feel like it.

I’m gonna go everywhere.