German rail has a history that goes back to 1835 when the first train line known as the Ludwigsbahn ran from Fürth to Nuremberg. This developed and went two different ways as the Deutsche Bundesbahn of West Germany and the Deutsche Reichsbahn of East Germany. In 1994 the two became one and privatization has turned it to one of the finest systems in the world.
Train travel in Germany is easily one of the best in its class and once experienced will make a regular commuter of you in no time. Incredibly punctual, impressively clean, and efficiently networked, it showcases the land like none other. So, hop onto a Deutsche Bahn or German Rail service as they are your best bet when it comes to exploring the country at your leisure and convenience.
German train travel might pose a bit of mystery if you’re not used to the system. Once you’ve unraveled it you can be on your way in no time at all. Depending on how long and how far you intend to go, there are many options available that will give you the best value for your time and money.
Based on their speed German trains are classified as Regional Bahn (RB) that stops frequently, Regional Express (RE) that does not stop everywhere, EuroCity (EC) that goes all over Europe, InterCity (IC) that connects the various cities within, and the superfast IntercityExpress (ICE) that goes up to unbelievable 300 km/h (186 mi/h) making short work of long distances. These codes in brackets will help you pick the train of your choice, depending on speed.
German rail travel has been revolutionized by the introduction of the ICE and it deserves special mention. These high speed trains are a thing of beauty and efficiency with a sleek aerodynamic structure emphasizing its new age design. The interiors are pressurized as in air planes to avoid discomfort to passengers. The cars in the first class come with video screens. It also has telephones, fax, and facilities to connect your laptop computers. Each car has a computer that helps you with further connections you may need to make on your journey.
If you’re going to be in Germany for an extended period, it makes good sense to buy a Rail Pass or BahnCard which can get you huge savings. If you intend to travel to other European countries, you should of course go for a Eurail Pass. It lets you travel by train to about 18 countries and is of immense convenience. If you are a student under 26 years of age, you get concessional rates. If you’re only going to be here a short while, you can get your tickets at the train station.
Domestic and international tickets are sold at different windows, but may also be available at the same counter in some places. MasterCard and VISA cards are widely acceptable while other cards may sometimes be declined. Just look for the logo on the windows to avoid grief.
All in all, German rail travel will certainly impress you and add considerably to your trip. For me it’s always an unforgettable and convenient experience. :-)