WEBMU 2014: Nürnberg

Every year, a group of ex-pat bloggers living in Germany gather for a weekend of fun, tourism, food, and drink.  This gathering is called WEBMU – the Whiny Expatriate Bloggers Meet-Up.  The location is different each year-  in 2012 the gathering was in Berlin.  In 2013, the group gathered in Prague, but I didn’t make it to that one.  This year, we met in Nuremberg roughly halfway through the month of September.

The attendees were:

A WEBMU weekend typically runs Friday through Sunday, with the early arrivals taking a day trip to an alternate location in the daytime in Friday.  This WEBMU was no exception, and we met up at 10am to visit scenic and moist Bamberg.  Most of the pictures I took in Bamberg are similar to the pictures I took the first time I visited Bamberg, so I’m not going to include too many of those here.  If you’re curious, you can look at the previous Bamberg post.  (Also, it was raining all day, so many of my new photos have rain drops on the lens.  I really need to get a lens hood.)

One of the first things we saw in Bamberg was this randomly placed elephant.  We’re all pretty sure it’s an advertisement, but it was still random enough to warrant a photograph.


We went to the Altes Rathaus, and to the local cathedral to look again at the Bamberg Rider.


We were in Bamberg on the same day that there was a party for the closing of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg, so we stumbled across the Burrito Bandito.  It was a little strange seeing US Army guys in fatigues while out and about in Germany.


While waiting for the train back to Nuremberg, we were witness to the Hochzeit of two smaller trains.  The coupling is almost entirely automatic for this type of train, so it was kind of fascinating to watch.  We were all mesmerized, to the great amusement of the conductor from the train on the left.


Fast forward to Saturday, and we started the day with a small city tour… in the rain.


Here’s the tour route, just for fun:


This is one of the two brass rings embedded into the wrought iron-work in Schöner Brunnen, a rather nifty fountain in the city’s main market square near the town hall.  It is said that spinning the brass ring will bring you luck.  The fountain itself is a reproduction; the original lives in the city’s historical museum.


It’s rather amazing to me that I’ve been in Germany for this long and I didn’t manage to get a picture with a section of the original Berlin Wall until this trip.  Here it is.


Albrecht Dürer is kind of a big deal in Nuremberg.  His house is near this statue.


One of Dürer’s most celebrated creations is this creepy-ass rabbit.  The dude with the pink umbrella just makes it so much more surreal, don’t you think?


This store’s sign caught my eye because it’s a rather nifty play on words.  Bohne & Kleid in German is “Bean and Dress,” but it sounds quite a bit like “Bonnie and Clyde.”  It made me giggle.


One of the nifty things about Nuremberg is that a large portion of the old city wall is still intact like this section on the right.


A bunch of these old cities have St. George and the Dragon themed stuff floating around.  It’s all very Trogdor-oriented.


Nuremberg also has a reasonably well preserved castle, part of which is pictured here.


Big castles have big doors.


Here’s the requisite view of the city from the castle’s ramparts.


Later in the day, Cliff and I ventured in to the Deutsche Bahn Museum, a place I had wanted to visit for quite a while.  It had some fantastic vintage carriages.


An old rail-running bicycle looking thing was on display.  This reminds me a little bit of the scene from Blazing Saddles with the quick-sand.


What would a train museum be without incredibly detailed models?


The DB Museum had a ton of great photographs up showing the construction of the railways and bridges.  Most of those pictures didn’t come out well enough to post, but this will give you an idea of how amazing and fascinating the historical photographs were.


Any good train museum would also cover that uncomfortable part of Germany’s history where the railways were part of the World War II experience.  Here’s a train conductor’s uniform from that era.


The best part of the exhibit was the various trains  set up along the outer edges of the museum.  Here’s a mostly-plastic model of an ICE train.  You couldn’t even sit down inside.  The real thing is much nicer.


Apparently, 6th class train rides involved standing up in a giant rectangular train carriage with no roof.  Still beats walking, I guess.


Compare that last one to first class, which has velvet seats and a nice terrace from which you can have champagne toasts.


Speaking of first class, the Prince’s carriages were present in the museum.  They’re very fancy.


The Prince’s carriage had a green room that Cliff thought was amazing.


I was more partial to the blue room in the Prince’s carriage.   What can I say? I like blue!


There were also some massive old steamers in the museum.


When I say massive, I mean massive.  These wheels were nearly as tall as I am.


…and you can step up into some of them for hammy moments.  Here’s Cliff, waving hello from the conductor’s window.


Have you ever been to the DB Museum?  Have you visited Bamberg or Nuremberg?


It’s difficult to travel in January, unless you’re going to somewhere much warmer out of the country.  The days are short and grey and frequently a little bit on the chilled side, so sleeping in is usually much more desirable.

I’ve learned over the last two years that if I spend too long in Regensburg without taking any trips out of town, I start to get a little cranky.  To combat this, I’ve compiled a small list of day-trips-  places I can go in a single day on a Bayern Ticket (€23 for one person covers all RE,RB and local trains as well as bus rides, U-Bahn, and S-Bahn anywhere in Bavaria for the entire day.)  With that short list in mind, I just try to go on a Saturday morning.

For the first three Saturday mornings of January, I reached the all important moment of getting out of bed and going to the train station, and I chose to keep sleeping instead.  This weekend, however, I finally beat the evil snooze alarm, and I hopped the first train after 9am to scenic Bamberg!


Bamberg is about sixty kilometers north of Nuremberg, and is easily reachable by trains.  Local trains (RE and S-Bahn) go between Nuremberg and Bamberg on an almost hourly basis.  I arrived in town about fifteen or twenty minutes before noon, and started to wander.  I had a list of about five things I wanted to see in the city, and I took the time honored tradition of “winging it” for the rest.

Item the first on my Bamberg list:  Altenburg Castle

Altenburg Castle sits on a hill overlooking the old city of Bamberg.  I wasn’t interested in going inside the castle, and I could see it clearly from where I was, so I didn’t bother going much closer than you can see from this picture.


Item the second on my Bamberg list:  Bamberger Dom (the Bamberg Cathedral)

The main cathedral in Bamberg was built originally in 1012, but it was partially destroyed and rebuilt a few times.  Its present form is kind of like this:


Inside the cathedral are a lot of interesting statues, including the famous Bamberg Horseman (Der Bamberger Reiter.)    Nobody knows who this statue represents, but it’s probably been there since about the year 1237.  The crown suggests royalty, but there’s no other items to suggest identity.  Saint Henry II is buried in this cathedral, and some believe that it represents him, but there’s no Imperial Regalia to confirm that.  Pope Clement II is also buried in this cathedral.


There’s a lot of fascinating sculpture in the Bamberger Dom, so it’s worth having a look around.  I thought the headless clergyman here was interesting:


Just three more pictures from the cathedral, and then we’ll move on.




Item the third on my Bamberg list:  The Franconian Brewery Museum

Alas, the  Fränkisches Brauereimuseum is closed until April.  I do have some bad luck with things being closed when I visit.  I had the same problem with the film museum in Paris and the suspended trains in Wuppertal.

Item the fourth on my Bamberg list:  The Bamberg Historical Museum

Right next to the Dom, this was also closed, for “Winter Pause.”  That’s ok, though.  In this case, I didn’t want to go inside so much as I wanted to see the building.



Item the fifth on my Bamberg list:  Try Rauchbier

Bamberg is famous for Rauchbier, or smoked beer.  The distinctive smokey smell and flavor is achieved by drying barley over an open flame.  Schlenkerla and Spezial have been brewing smoked beer in Bamberg for nearly two hundred years, and Schlenkerla is one of the best known brands of smoked beer in the world.  This is what I tried.

I thought it would be disgusting, but it wasn’t.  It’s difficult to describe the flavor- my friend Alice likens it to “drinking a campfire,” and that’s probably the most accurate description I’ve yet heard.   I didn’t really care for Rauchbier, but I can see the appeal.  Additionally, I only tried one variety from one brewer- there’s also a smoked Weizen (wheat beer) available, and I’d like to try that some time.


Item the sixth on my Bamberg list:  The Bamberg Altes Rathaus

This building was my favorite thing about Bamberg.  It’s situated on the Regnitz river.   More accurately, it’s perched somewhat precariously over the Regnitz river.  Reachable from either side only by a pedestrian bridge, this is a very impressive and fascinatingly beautiful structure.  It helps that this is the one point all day where the sun came out and pretended to not be part of January.


This is one of the sides visible from the pedestrian bridge, a street fittingly named Obere Brücke, or Upper Bridge.


There are bridges on either side of the Altes Rathaus.  The first photograph of the Rathaus in this post was taken from this bridge, a much more modern affair, but with a fantastic view of the building.


Item the seventh on my Bamberg list:  Winging It

The rest of these are just things that I found wandering around the city that I thought were interesting.  For example, in the Grüner Markt, there’s a fountain containing a sculpture called “Gabelmann.”  Gabelmann translates to “Fork Man,” which is apropos since the statue represents Neptune, god of the seas, holding up his traditional trident.  In hind-sight, I wish I’d taken a better photograph than this one.


Mohren Haus means Moor’s house.  Every time I encounter something named after the Moors in Germany, I’m utterly fascinated.  The tiny statue of little Moor dude on the building totally makes it, don’t you think?


Interesting sculpture!


More interesting scultpture!  This one represents Kaiserin Kunigund, but I don’t have any real idea who that is.


Next up is a statue of Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria.  Spend any amount of time in the south of Germany and you’ll encounter at least one Luitpoldstraße in every city.  There’s one in Regensburg, a block away from my apartment.

Luitpold became the Regent of Bavaria after the (frankly rather suspicious) death of his nephew, King Ludwig II.  He remained the Prince Regent until his death in 1912, at the age of 91.


Last, but not least, I stopped in at the Stadtgalerie (City Gallery) Bamberg, because there was a poster for an ongoing exhibit (there until the first of June) called Jüdisches in Bamberg.  I wanted to see what Jewish stuff was in the exhibit, so I took a look.  For a €5 entry fee, this was well worth a stop.


One of the displays had three or four of these rather amazing three dimensional images.  From above, it looks a little bit like a honey-comb.  It’s a cube rather than a rectangle, but when viewed from the front, the depth is rather ingenious. This picture doesn’t quite capture how amazing it is.


Among the artifacts on display in the Jewish exhibit was a Torah scroll, along with the Mantel (the velvet cloak that goes over it), the Kesser (the two silver doo-dads that go atop the wooden shafts), and the Yad (the silver pointer used to read from the Torah.)

This particular one is apparently on loan from the Bamberg Historical Museum, and I was not able to find any details about its origin prior to that.  Every Torah is hand-written by a special scribe, though, so they’re not terribly easy to come by.


Have you ever been to Bamberg?  Did you try the Rauchbier?  What did you think of it?

Category 1

Growing up in Florida, the word “Category” followed by any  number is indelibly linked to the strength of hurricanes.  In Germany, I have a new definition for Category 1, and it ties into a goal I’ve set for myself.

A few months ago, I was doing research for another blog post when I stumbled across the interesting (well, interesting to me) fact that German train stations are categorized, between one and seven.  The category is based on the level of traffic which goes through the station.  The vast majority of my travel has been in the first two Categories, but I’ve been to several of the others.  Here’s a quick summary of the levels.

  1. Category 1 – The 21 Category 1 stations are considered traffic hubs.  They are staffed around the clock and typically have many railway-related facilities as well as shopping and dining options within the station.  Most of these stations are the main stations of large cities with at least half a million residents.  Most are based at the intersection of important railway lines.  Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne, the four biggest cities in Germany, have more than one Category 1 station.munich-hbf
  2. Category 2 – There are about 80 Category 2 stations, and these tend to be important traffic junctions.  These are fully staffed during typical travel times and they usually have a few shopping and dining options, though not as much as the Category 1 stations.  Regensburg is a Category 2 station.
  3. Category 3 –  There are 230 Category 3 stations.  These have a station hall where travelers can purchase ticket and small food items, but they are not permanently staffed.
  4. Category 4 –  There are 600 Category 4 stations.  These typically have frequent connections to RegionalExpress and RegionalBahn style trains.
  5. Category 5 – There are around 1070 Category 5 stations in smaller towns or the outer edges of major cities.   These typically only have local trains stopping, and the equipment is often vandal-proofed.
  6. Category 6 – There are about 2500 Category 6 stations which have only the most basic equipment.  These are the rail equivalent of bus stops.
  7. Category 7 – Another 870 stations are Category 7.   These are typically rural stations with only one platform, serving only local trains.
    poikam1 poikam2

I mentioned earlier that the categorization of train stations had given me a goal.  Simply put, I want to visit every Category 1 station in Germany before the end of my time here.   These 21 stations are the Category 1 stations.

  • Berlin-Gesundbrunnen station
  • Berlin Hauptbahnhof
  • Berlin Ostbahnhof
  • Berlin Südkreuz
  • Dortmund Hauptbahnhof
  • Dresden Hauptbahnhof
  • Duisburg Hauptbahnhof
  • Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof
  • Essen Hauptbahnhof
  • Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof
  • Hamburg-Altona station
  • Hamburg Hauptbahnhof
  • Hannover Hauptbahnhof
  • Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof
  • Köln Hauptbahnhof
  • Köln Messe/Deutz station
  • Leipzig Hauptbahnhof
  • München Hauptbahnhof
  • München Ost station
  • Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof
  • Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

Two of these are within an hour of my current location.  Of the 21 Category 1 stations, I’ve already been to nine of them.  I should be able to knock out the second Cologne station when I go there in March for Carnival, and Munich East is just a detour next time I go in to Munich for something.  The other Berlin and Hamburg stations should be easy to pick up next time I visit those cities as well.  As for the rest, I need to schedule trips to Dresden, Duisburg, Dortmund, Leipzig, Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe over the next few months.  It’s a silly, completely arbitrary goal, but I think it will be a fun way to round out my time in Germany.

Do you have any personal travel goals that started with a list of something?

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

December 2020 Update:  This post still gets a lot of visits, so I feel the need to say this:  The post that follows was written in March of 2013, while I was still living in Germany.  I moved back to the US at the end of 2014, and while I still ride the DB when I’m visiting, I cannot say with any certainty that this seven-year-old post is still accurate.    Please also bear in mind that I do not work for, and have never worked for, the Deutsche Bahn.  I am merely a happy passenger on their trains when I’m in Germany.  Happy travels, friends!

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.


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.

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.


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.


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


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-


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:


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?