With my passport safely stuffed into a zipper pocket and the plane descending for an on-time arrival, there was nothing to be wound up about.
But I couldn’t help checking my watch as I climbed into a taxi headed for Berlin’s train station, the Hauptbahnhof.
“American?” asked the ticket agent, with a smile, time-stamping my pass. “California,” I answered, earning another, bigger smile. “Hollywood! Welcome to Berlin,” he said, handing me a boarding ticket for the Dresden-bound train and pointing toward the upper level and the restaurants.
It couldn’t have been easier. No petrol-swilling car, no rental agreement fine print, no over-priced parking lots. Just me, my DeutscheBahn rail pass, a carry-on bag and a suitcase.
For me and most Americans, driving is second nature, a rite of passage especially true where I live, in Los Angeles, infamous for its uber car culture.
But not in Europe, where rail services supply essential transportation both between cities and in town. In Germany, where distances are shorter and cities and towns are close together, traveling by rail isn’t just fast and convenient, but affordable, clean, and nearly as comfortable – well, almost, but not quite – as the rear seat in a limousine.
Just where do DeutscheBahn trains go? Everywhere. The system counts 76,473 kilometers of track, and where the train goes, there are stations. Nor will you be stranded if you’re staying at a suburban hotel or rural inn. Unless you’re headed to a mountain top, you’ll find street cars and buses crossing routes nearby. With a map and your hotel address in hand, you’ll never have to resort to the Hansel-and-Gretel cake-crumb method of direction finding.
Once you’ve climbed aboard, find your seat, stow your luggage in the rack and settle in to read that guidebook or to snack on a meal from the train’s food service counter (coffee, drinks, and hot and cold sandwiches). Better yet, sit back to watch the scenery glide by and be thankful someone else is driving.
IF YOU GO:
Rail passes can be purchased at 南宁夜网.germanrailpasses广西桑拿,/planning/timetables, and bought their Adult First Class rail pass for $US527 ($A572), good for a month, with seven travel days. The Second Class rail pass, good for the same period, was $US391 ($A424).
The better-known Eurail Pass, available for travel in a minimum of two countries, costs $US610 ($A662) and is good for two months and eight days of travel. For $US710 ($A771), the same pass includes 10 days of travel.