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What comes to your mind first when you think of Germany? Lederhosen, Bratwurst, Bier, und – Autos? (leather trousers, bratwurst, beer, and – cars?) I bet that most likely you’ve been thinking “cars”. Or “Autobahn” (controlled-access highway). And while I’m not going to get into the leather pants, bratwursts, and beer thing this time, I have to admit that, yes, Germany is a land of cars.
Germans love their cars. The ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V.) is, with more than 17 million members, the most popular “club” in Germany. And it is very influential, too. It has for example succeeded (so far) in fending off all initiatives to establish a general Tempolimit (or Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = speed limit) on German highways.
Germany is a land of cars, I said. It is. But it is much less so than (most parts of) the United States are. You can actually live a normal life in Germany without a car! In big cities it can even be a disadvantage to own a car, because you are likely to get stuck in a traffic jam (weil es leicht passieren kann, dass du im Stau stecken bleibst), and you will have trouble finding a parking space in the city (und du wirst Probleme haben, in der Innenstadt einen Parkplatz zu finden).
So, how do you get around Germany without a car? There are several possibilities. The most obvious one is einen Zug zu nehmen (to take a train). Almost every city in Germany is connected to the rail system. If the town you want to reach is too small or too remote to have a connection by train, there will be a regular bus service to the next train station. Try it out yourself! Go to the website of the German national railway company Deutsche Bahn AG: www.bahn.de. Now let’s do some “virtual travelling”! You will see two fields where you can fill in from where to where your journey goes. You can put in the names of cities or stations, or even an address. If you have no idea wohin du “reisen” willst (where you want to “travel”), just pick random places from a map of Germany, or use place names that you have heard of. If you like, you can change the time and date of your travel, and add further specifications. Now click on the red button that says -> Suchen (Search), and see what comes up! Probably a list of possible connections. You can see details by clicking on the arrow in front of the connection. And yes, you could also use the English interface of bahn.de.
If you really want to travel by train in Germany, here is some advice:
– Booking at least three days in advance may give you reduced prices, called Sparpreis (savings fare).
– Purchasing a BahnCard can be useful if you plan to make several trips; either on short notice – then the BahnCard 50 is for you, or planned beforehand – then the BahnCard 25 can give you better deals because it can be combined with the early-booking discounts.
– There are also special tickets available, most notably the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket (happy weekend ticket), which is valid for up to five people on regional trains throughout Germany on either Saturday or Sunday.
You don’t like trains? You are curious what other options there are to get around Germany without a car? In my next post I will present more alternatives to you!
die Lederhose – the leather trousers
die Bratwurst – the bratwurst (German type of sausage)
das Bier – the beer
das Auto – the car
die Autobahn – the controlled-access highway
das Tempolimit / die Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung – the speed limit
es kann leicht passieren – it is likely to happen
im Stau stecken bleiben – to get caught in a traffic jam
Probleme haben, etwas zu tun – to have problems doing something
einen Parkplatz finden – to find a parking space
die Innenstadt – the city / downtown
der Zug – the train
den Zug nehmen – to take the train
reisen – to travel
suchen – to search
der Preis – the price
das Ticket – the ticket