Train Schooling

I’m extremely tired today for unknown reasons (but which could possibly be due to an activity filled weekend, which I will discuss within the next few days while the memories are still fresh), so my long-promised and lied about post about train usage in Germany will be informational, but not too amusing. I think.

The first thing you do is decide you want to leave the city and go somewhere else. By train. The next step is to locate the train station in the city. This is fairly easy to do in most cities, because if you somehow ended up in a city and are not aware of where the train station is, just as “Bahnhof?” to anyone on the street and they’ll point you in the right direction, or look at you like you’re a leper and go away.

When you get to the train station you can either A) go to the ticket counter and take the easy way out, or B) head over to one of these puppies.

If you chose A, you’re smart. Unless it’s a weekend. Then you’ve messed up. Here in Landau the ticket counters are closed on weekends – in larger cities like Bonn or Heidelberg the counters will be open even on Sundays. Heck, the counter in Wissembourg (France) is even open on Saturdays. But that’s France, and we don’t talk about the French. The good thing about the ticket counters is that the nice men behind them do everything for you. You tell them which city you want to go to, on what day, and approximately what time. They’ll give you a print out with your options, and if you want you can purchase your ticket then and there. I’m in love with the printouts because of how handy they are for longer journeys. The printouts not only have information on when the first train and following connection trains depart/arrive at each respective station, but the platform on which you depart/arrive is even noted. It may seem like a trivial thing to all of you, but I don’t know what I’d do without this feature. Probably miss all of my connections.

So let’s say you chose B from the start – you’re brave, you’re up for adventure, or maybe you knew you’d end up there on a weekend. If you’re just taking a short trip, for example from Landau to Karlsruhe, or to Heidelberg, the blue machine is your best friend.

Note: there are also red machines that act as automated ticket counters, but they suck, don’t give you the proper discount (with our Student Cards we can get to a certain point “for free”), and are overall nitpicky. They take forever to work with, and the only thing they’re really good for is printing out free timetables for trips to closer cities. Bah.

Back to friend blue machine (FBM). As you can see in the picture below, I’ve taken FBM and marked various features for reference.

I’ll just go through the list. In the upper left-hand corner of FBM, the word “Fahrkarten” has been red-rectangled. Redtangled? Hah! Anyway, this word = “travel cards”, or “drive cards.” Lucky for non-German speakers, the word “Ticket” is now used. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously used “Fahrkarten” since I’ve been here; only for jokes. With this word you know what you’re about to buy.

A) This is the screen. You look at the screen to make sure you haven’t botched up your “order.” We all know what a screen is for.

B) Number pad. This is used to let FBM know which city you want to visit.

C) A list of cities with their corresponding numbers. The thing with FBM is, that if the FBM is in Landau, all outgoing tickets are calculated “Landau to (destination).” If you’re in Neustadt, all FBM tickets are calculated “Neustadt to (destination). Here’s what part of the city list looks like:

Note: Not all German cities are listed here. That’s another drawback. I don’t remember correctly, but I don’t think that, for example, you could buy a Landau – Berlin ticket from FBM. FBM is a more localized dealer.

Let’s say you’re in Karlsruhe, and you’ve had enough of their crazy southern video-gaming scene. You want out, and want to go back home to Landau (redtangled). You enter “462” on the number pad (B) and the screen (A) will read something like “Landau (Pfalz) – (Price).”

D) If you’ve made the right city choice, you give over your money in sub-D, or your plastic in upper-D.

E) If you’re not buying a simple one-way ticket you can look at an overview of other possible tickets. The descriptions are in somewhat complicated German train-speak, little of which I understand. In this case it’s easier to prepare by asking the ticket-counter men which ticket you should go for. One time I had to buy a “Rheinland-Pfalz Ticket”, which was a €23,- ticket, allowed me to take only the slow trains, but was good for the entire day, there and back, no time restrictions. If I had had the time I could have spent the entire day along the Rhein, taking trains between cities as I pleased.

F) To get the “Rheinland-Pfalz ticket” I had to push one of the keys in this section. There is a similar result as with a one-way ticket. Screen (B) confirms your selection and tells you how much money you need to feed FBM.

G) Your ticket comes out here, as does any change if you’ve paid FBM cash.

H) This buttons is important if you want to cancel any choice (even though you’re not obligated to pay anything if you just want to play around and check overall costs to various cities). Otherwise it’s just there.

U) These are unknown parts of FBM. I don’t know why they’re there, but they don’t seem to play an important role in the process of ticket purchases.

After you’ve bought your ticket, you make sure you know at what time and from which platform the train leaves. If you screw up here, it’s not all roses and pancakes. (See "Kein Oktoberfest")

Final notes: If you get caught without a ticket (without the right ticket…might be the same penalty), you’ll have to pay AT LEAST a €40,- fine. We went from Worth to Karlsruhe once without paying, but that’s because it was a Saturday and there is no way to buy a Worth-Karlsruhe ticket in Landau from the red fake-ticket-counter-machine, and it didn’t make sense for us to get off at Worth, buy a €2,20 ticket, wait for another train, just to make the last 10 minutes of our trip legal. (We bought valid tickets on the way back, Karlsruhe-Worth, though. It’s not like it was fun riding in fear.) As I told my father, if I at any time plan to free-ride on any of the trains, I’m at least going to make my final destination Paris or Berlin, make the trip worth the fine, y’know? There is also a possible fine of €25 if you’re caught with your feet on the seats. Seriously.