Saturday, November 3, 2012

Getting Around in Germany

We live, as I've already explained, in a very small town. The somewhat larger town of Horb lies in the valley below and has a train station.  The station is probably a 40-minute walk from our house, or an 8-minute drive.  From this station I can get to any city or town in Germany that I want to visit, relatively easily. I don't need a car to leave town and go somewhere shopping for a day.

My daughter and parents are coming to visit in December, and they would like to see some Christmas markets during their stay. Martin will be in the office most of the time, and I'm still not comfortable driving, especially long distances. In Wisconsin, this would have been a problem, and we would have spent a lot of time sitting at home. Here all we have to do is get down to the train station, and we can go to Nürnberg, Ludwigsburg, Konstanz, Esslingen, Stuttgart, Freiburg, and any number of charming towns.  We can get to the small nearby towns by bus, and the bus stop is a 4-minute walk from our house. The bus schedule is available online, so we don't even have to stand around and wait at the bus stop.

This is one of the brilliant things about life in Germany - the accessibility of public transportation. In Fond du Lac (Wisconsin), one is stuck if he doesn't have a car. There are buses in Fond du Lac, but I never met a person in 19 years of living there who used them. Oshkosh is 20 minutes away by car and has nice opportunities for shopping, but if you don't have a car or know someone who does, you can't get there.

Martin's mother has been staying with us for a few days, and tomorrow she takes the train back to Esslingen. It will cost her €8.40 ($10.80), and the trip takes about 75 minutes.  She doesn't like driving out of Esslingen, and so if it weren't for the train, she wouldn't be here unless Martin had driven there to pick her up.

When I go to Esslingen without Martin, I take the train. I always bring a book, but I usually nod off for a nap. I couldn't read or sleep if I were driving! Driving in Germany is no fun anyway. The roads are packed with cars, campers, and semis, and although there are sections of the Autobahn where there is no speed limit, there are so many cars on the road, constructions zones, and traffic jams that one rarely has a chance to drive faster than 70 mph. Besides that, parking is a big pain. Parking garages are your only hope, and squeezing into those tight spots takes some real talent or a Smart car.

It's just one more reason why I feel lucky to live here - I live in a small, quiet town where there's next to nothing going on, and I don't drive much yet. If I get bored and have a free day, I can choose a town to visit and buy a train or bus ticket for a day trip there and back. It usually takes longer than driving by car, but it's convenient and makes travel possible even for those who don't drive.

Checking the arrival time

Since I still don't plan on driving further than to and from the train station in Horb anytime soon, I am grateful for the accessibility of the buses and trains. I feel somewhat environmentally friendly, as well. The trains and buses are still going to be running their routes whether I'm on them or not, and leaving the car in the garage saves us gas and  doesn't cause additional air polution.

I'll use that as my main reason for not doing much driving over here!

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