A train trip through GermanyLizet Wesselman - 10/02/2023
A train trip through GermanyLizet Wesselman - 10/02/2023
In the summer of 2022, Germany came up with the brilliant idea of introducing a €9 train ticket that allowed you unlimited train travel throughout the country and even to some places just across the border. Every ticket was valid for the entire month, the only restriction being that it was only valid for regional trains. That obviously makes your travel time a lot longer than with express trains, but still, €9, so we can’t complain, right? I went on 2 separate train trips, here are my highs & lows.
Train trip North of Germany:
The first trip was from Copenhagen back to the Netherlands. I was in Copenhagen in July and was starting to run out of money after 5 months of travelling. So, time to go back to the Netherlands for a while and save some money again. But I didn’t quite like the idea of having to spend 6 weeks in The Netherlands until my next trip, so I decided to take my sweet time and slow travel through Germany.
A fast route between the Netherlands and Copenhagen is via Hamburg. I had already been there in May for a conference, and I honestly didn’t like it. So I looked into smaller towns around this route.
My route ended up being:
Copenhagen –> Lübeck -> Bremen + a few daytrips -> Leiden
The route from Copenhagen to Lübeck was by Flixbus, as Copenhagen was not covered by the €9 ticket. From Lübeck, I travelled on to Bremen, from where I did some day trips. I have already written an article about all these locations, which you can read here.
This first part of the trip was fine in terms of route and trains. The only place where things got a bit uncomfortable was in Hamburg, where I still had to change trains to Bremen. Obviously a big city trainstation is going to be crowded in August, but with a €9 ticket ánd on game day, it was absolute chaos. But oh well, I found my train and we all squeezed us into the train.
Other than that, this part of my trip was really fun! Before this, I had only been to Berlin and Hamburg, and Dresden and Düsseldorf for Christmas markets. Which, by the way, I can definitely recommend! But my experience was mainly big cities and crowded situations. These trips, on the other hand, were along small villages and thus for me a completely different side of Germany. Lots of history and atmosphere and I loved it!
Train trip South of Germany
Trip number 2 took me to:
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- Kochel am See + Walchensee
- Mittenwald + a quick hike across the Austrian border
- Eibsee (photo)
- Stuttgart + Esslingen am Necktar
- Back to Boppard + Drachenfells castle
In short, I picked up roughly where I left off and now headed south. With the main purpose of enjoying the beautiful countryside and a few castles. This trip definitely didn’t go as planned, but down the line it was the most surprising trip I made in 2022. The places I saw were absolutely magical!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber (photo) was a bucket list item for me, and it was even more beautiful than I ever expected! I had seen many pictures, and it looked like one of those typical historic German towns, and it really was. With all the atmosphere and not a single modern detail to ruin it. I’ve had situations where I had such high expectations, that it just didn’t live up to it. But Rothenburg was even more amazing than I could have ever convinced myself for it to be. So, this is definitely recommended!
Mittenwald was the big surprise in terms of towns. I hadn’t actually planned to go here at all, but someone in my hostel in Kochel told me he was doing a trekking tour in Austria from there. Hiking in Austria was also on my bucket list, so I decided to see if there was a nice hike to do from Mittenwald, and there was! But the town itself was really like a huge painting. With coloured houses with murals and a fantastic atmosphere. If I had known that, I would have looked into spending the night there. I did stay for dinner, to enjoy the town a little bit longer. And I’m definitely coming back! But for now, it was a go trough location for an amazing hike.
Nature in the south of Germany really surprised me. As a Dutchy, I always avoided Germany. It wasn’t exotic enough, I guess. I just didn’t expect it to be special and from my town it’s quite far by train anyway, so why not go somewhere else? But gosh, how I actually regret that now, haha.
The south of Germany has really beautiful nature! From beautiful blue lakes surrounded by mountains, to waterfalls and rivers through cliffs. Looking back on my 2022 travel year, this ended up being the most impressive trip I took.
The highlights were:
- The beautiful reflection of Lake Kochelsee
- The first view of the clear blue Walchensee lake after a hike that was harder than I expected
- The waterfall along the way, which I didn’t even know was there.
This hike just had everything. A nice hike, beautiful views, surprises, peaceful nature and a very satisfying end destination.
The Leutascher Geiserklamm (photo), the spot in Austria that I impulsively decided to visit, was a piece of nature that I had never seen before! And something that I’ll now forever be looking for, whenever I go for nature trips.
My final stop was the Eibsee, one of the most famous lakes in Germany. During my entire trip, I got confused faces when I mentioned I stayed at “Kochel am see”, but whenever I mentioned I was there to visit the Eibsee, they all got excited about how pretty it was. And it sure is! But to be fair, after Walchensee, I think it didn’t impress me as much as I expected. Might have been the weather as well, it was a bit cloudy, so maybe the water wasn’t as bright blue as Walchensee the day before. But if you make the trip down there, definitely visit both and decide for yourself! They are both worth a visit, just a 45 minutes busride apart. So, no reason not to stop by.
Unfortunately, it was not my most enjoyable trip and I even went home a day early. Now, months later, I can reflect on it and have definitely learnt from it. But at the time, I was so exhausted and stressed. I had already done 5 months of travelling, something I had never done before, so I was pretty broken. It was in the middle of a heatwave, which certainly didn’t help. But the biggest problem was the organisation of the trains around that €9 ticket.
The trains were just really packed. We had trains where people were pushed in by staff and trains where dozens of people were left behind because it was full. I myself had missed trains as well, and most of my other trains were delayed. Because the trains were so full, it often took a lot of effort for people to get out, so we had to wait for a very long time at each station. Good thing that they made time for that! But this way a 6-hour ride soon turned into 8 hours train journey.
I counted on a train system I was used to, knowing that the German system would be equally as reliable as the Dutch one. Which, on normal days, means minimal delays and cancellations. I highly underestimated the delays that the €9 ticket created and therefore my journeys were so much longer and more exhausting. Even more exhausting, was the fact that there rarely was a spot to sit. Turns out that standing is much more exhausting and damaging to your body than walking, which actually resulted in physical issues. 5 Months later, my feet still hurt on a daily basis because of that trip.
Of course, I could never have known that in advance. I saw many other people travelling around Germany and everyone always seemed to have seats. I was just unlucky, I guess…. Would I do it again? Without a doubt. But with better planning.
Down the line, it was an amazing trip!
Down the line, this was really 1 of the most beautiful trips I have made so far! I really still can’t wrap my head around how beautiful the nature of southern Germany is. A bunch of places that I’ve missed due to the delays, are still on my bucketlist and my next trip to catch up on some castles is already booked!
But I took 1 big lesson out of this, and that would be to expect more delays, when there are insanely cheap train tickets available because clearly I’m not gonna be the only one taking advantage of those. So less long journeys a day, more time for exploring. So, I got out of it with amazing memories and a lesson learned, so I think that makes it a success.