Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to ride a train in Germany.

The last half of our trip involved using a lot of trains to visit a lot of cities in Germany. I feel that we didn't get to explore Germany as thoroughly as I had hoped, but I suppose we earned an appreciation for a country that neither of us were familiar with.

We bought a rail pass through Rick Steves for Germany since we had a few very long travel days. While there are cheaper options than a rail pass (such as the German regional passes) we really appreciated the lack of thinking required on our parts. Riding the rails with our pass kind of felt like we were using a super efficient public transit. The trains were plentiful, the schedules were excellent and we always had a seat. I am so jealous of how easy it is to get around Germany.

The cities in which we stayed were Cochem, Heidelberg, Munich, Salzburg (Austria), Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Frankfurt. I'll touch upon each one in the next two posts, but the cities we enjoyed the most were Munich, Salzburg and Frankfurt.

Cochem was just a quick one night stop for us. We left Amsterdam that morning and were quickly introduced to the German rail system and just how efficient it was. As in, we missed our stop in the middle of nowhere due to our inability to open the door of the train fast enough. The stop before Cochem was at least an hour out and we feared the next stop we'd have to get off at was just as far. I won't lie, we panicked a little. It was already after 7pm, on a Sunday, and we were hungry and exhausted. Luckily, the next stop was only 15 minutes away and we were able to turn around without any issues. The remainder of our train riding in Germany was spent like this:
Our first stop, Cochem, was a gorgeous little town on the river of the Mosel. I had booked a room just past the center of town, not realizing how far the walk was. Thanks to a long day of travel and rapidly dropping blood sugar, I was one cranky snot during our two mile walk to the hotel. When we finally reached it and retrieved the key from underneath the flowerpot (no lie) I was enraged to see that our room was at the very top of the guesthouse. I had to CLIMB STAIRS. WOE IS ME. But I quickly knocked off the attitude when I saw the view from our window.
After I sat a bit and munched on a reserve Larabar (lifesaver) we went and found dinner. I don't have a photo, but the one restaurant we managed to find close to our hotel was Mexican. MEXICAN. I ordered a veggie burrito that I asked the waitress to hold the cheese on and Jeff ordered enchiladas (but got a burrito). The burrito came without cheese on top, but with some kind of crumbled cheese inside (feta?) that I tried to pick around and I'm almost sure made me sick the next couple of days. If you can imagine not being able to get authentic Mexican food outside of Mexico and some southern states, Germany is a hell of a lot worse.

The next morning we attempted to find Burg Eltz near the little town of Koblenz. Since we had to check out (and leave money on the table, also not a joke) by 11am, we had to take our stuff with us. We wrongly assumed the train station in Koblenz would have luggage storage. As we emerged from the train into the misty rain and entered the station, we noticed the station was empty. Of anything. No lockers, no rail employees, no people. Assuming (again, wrongly) that there would be some kind of shuttle to the castle, we took off on foot with our bags. Now, I am still a fan of using backpacks while travelling, but that shit gets heavy. And I got whiny, again. I had hurt my foot in Amsterdam (slipping off a curb or something dumb) and it was really bothering me. So we didn't get to see the castle because I am a baby.

Our next stop was the college town of Heidelberg. For those of you that grew up in the Pacific NW, Heidelberg is the German equivalent of Pullman, WA. Absolutely NOTHING going on. We had a really crappy hostel above a supermarket that promised a buffet breakfast but really offered bread (only one piece), jam and cereal. After we dropped our bags, we attempted to explore the city. Here is what we found that first night:
 A weird sculpture.
 Vegan appetizers.
Firebowl. A bowling alley where we played many games of foozeball.

Needless to say, Heidelberg was not winning us over. We kept seeing ads for this awesome pub quarter, but couldn't find it. The next morning we hiked across town to check out the castle. It was gorgeous and historic and awe-inducing.
I feel the city slightly redeemed itself by keeping this castle around and available to explore for reasonably cheap. But I would not go back.

My next post I move on to happier places like Munich and Salzburg. You are excited. I have coined Salzburg Portland's sister city because it is SO WEIRD AND AWESOME.

3 comments: said...

Ha, I totally understand that low blood sugar stroppyness whilst travelling! I remember getting really angry walking around Zurich trying to find a vegetarian restaurant!

My husband & I stayed in a campsite outside Salzburg for a night when we travelled around Europe last year. We didn't get a chance to explore the area much due to a crazy rainstorm & because we wanted to get further into the mountains of Austria so I look forward to hearing about your experience.

Karla said...

I went to Heidelberg and, yeah, the castle was only good part. I also went to Burg Eltz (or whatever it's called) and yeah, the train station is more of a train stop. And it's quite a trek to the castle, I remember thinking I must be going the wrong way or something. I have some pictures if you'd like to see it, but I'd say you didn't miss out on too much.
I can't remember if I went to Salzburg or not, I guess I'll have to wait and see the pictures to see if it rings any bells.

sgcorrie said...

Jojo, you HAVE to go back. I'll detail it soon, but I'm just going to say "ponies!"

Oh thank god Karla, I thought we were just being snotty tourists! I'll get to writing up Munich and Salzburg today!