Monday, May 9, 2011

Travel by Train

                                                              Painting on a barn door in Katzenbach
                                                              Ladybugs are a symbol of good luck in Germany

Before departing for Germany, we bought Eurorail tickets online to travel to Prague, Berlin, and Hamburg. The tickets cost around 250-300 dollars (can't remember exactly) a person for five days, traveling within the Czech Republic or Germany. This was an amazing deal considering how much you have to pay for a flight in the U.S., or for individual train tickets to each of our destinations in Europe. It also gave us the flexibility to take whatever trains we wanted. The only set back was that we had to get the tickets validated first, before they would be accepted for use.

The Ramstein train station is much too small to have a ticket office--hence, no one to stamp our tickets. We decided to buy a ticket to Kaiserslautern (3 Euros) and hope to get it stamped there. Unfortunately, we only had about six minutes to change trains so we didn't have time to look for someone to stamp our ticket. Another ticket bought for Mannheim (8 Euros) and another quick change once we got there. However, by that time we decided just to get on the train and see if the tickets could be validated by the conductor when he came around checking tickets. Not only did he not question the ticket's lack of validation, he didn't bother to validate it himself. He just stamped the "First Day" area to confirm our travel. I guess we shouldn't have bothered buying the other tickets. It was incredibly helpful to look up a train schedule and print it out however, because we would have never had time between trains to double check the schedules at the station.

What we unfortunately did not prepare for was making train reservations. Always make a reservation if you have a train trip longer than two hours, because you do not know how full it might be! Once on the train from Köln to Prague, we found that all the compartments were full. We were instructed to find a place on the side of the train that would be going to Warsaw, and then move to the Prague side of the train once we got to Berlin (where the trains would split). This seemed like a reasonable compromise, except for the fact that we would be getting into Berlin at 4:30 in the morning... I don't have to tell you that we only slept a few hours that night.

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