February 2008


Die Bahn

RB to WeimarToday, in the name of efficiency, I took a train ride all the way west to Eisenach. I had a quick stay in the city; about five minutes as I changed trains and returned right back to Weimar.

It amazes me each time that the train system in Germany works the vast majority of the time.

Sure it has its moments; trains occasionally get delayed and sometimes even outright cancelled, however in my experience these are infrequent and usually contained delays—usually less than 15 minutes. For some that might be a long time, but face it, in the airline biz, flights that arrive within 15 minutes are considered to be on time and if you actually are that time sensitive, you should take an earlier scheduled train or drive.

I don’t want to compare Die Bahn with the American train system, but I will briefly: there is no comparison. The best that America has to offer is a so-called high speed that vibrates right-left, up-down, and front-back: enough to induce vomiting in even the sturdiest stomachs and prevent any work from getting done. Even the worst train that Germany has to offer, a regional train that stops everywhere, is a whole heck of a lot more comfortable than the Amtrak Accela.

When compared to Dutch trains, Die Bahn again comes out on top. Dutch trains are basically a commuter service, and so while one can easily hop any one of the four times an hour service from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, it lacks luggage racks, something that even the worst German train has in abundance—luggage never blocks the aisles.

So even whilst it was a speedy journey to Eisenach and a rapid return, I can’t complain.

Die Bahn did it.

9 comments to Die Bahn

  • I’m confused as to why you did this. Did you just feel like taking a ride to this place or was there a further purpose?

  • IUMike

    Thinking of CQ’s comment, I used to ride the DC Metro to its furthest stations and turn around and come back just for the heck of it. There was something pleasurable about just being on a train and seeing the city go by.

  • Die Bahn has really grown on me, as well. Because my exchange organisation doesn’t allow me to drive, it’s one of my main modes of transportation, next to biking and taking the bus.

    It’s great, relaxing, and, like you said, reliable.

    My one complaint would be that you can’t really ride the train when you go out on weekends. Then you have to decide if you want to turn in early (midnight) or party until dawn (6AM).

    Have you ridden the ICE yet? I’ve been on it once and it was very pleasant.


  • The trains in America – you mean Amtrak, oder? We used to call it Amtrash.

    In the summer while studying I used to work for Canada’s national railway, Via, or as we called it: Vile Rail. The heating never worked in winter, forget aircon in summer, late all the time, surly crews, pissed off passengers.

  • @cq: I did it because I had a meeting on the train.

    @IUMike: I have taken trains just to go where the trains go… I once took the red line (C, I think) of the Prague Metro all the way to its last station and then wandered around for an hour looking at the neighborhood.

    @Ian: I mean Amtrak… the Acela (Accela?) is crap. Really aweful. I don’t know much about VIA, but I looked at the vancouver bc schedule and was surprised to discover it was less than daily, when headed east.

  • They only go three times a week now, and it doesn’t go through the most beautiful parts. For that, you have to pay thousands of dollars on a private train. In their infinite wisdom, they sold off their only profitable train – a ride through the rockies with an overnight half-way so you always see the scenery – to private interests for a pittance.

  • @Kevin: I know what you mean about going out at night, especially since I live in a smaller city with limited night time opportunities.

    I regularly ride ICEs–if I had to rank Bahn products from best to worst, from Weimar, I would say ICEs, REs, IC/ECs, and then RBs…

    @ian: it sounds like the Republicans were in control when they sold off the profitable part… except its Canada.

  • Sometimes I get serious about moving to Europe just for the fact you can usually get some distance *without* a car. You’ve noted a few times that there are some places you might wish you had a car, but overall you seem to do fine.

    If I could get rid of the car and have the same income I do now, I could probably cover the difference in tax rates between here and there and still have a decent quality of life.

  • NNG

    Tee hee –
    The IRONY – the absolute IRONY!! Do you know the very day I went to Hartford I was expecting ‘Amtrash’ to work wonders. Well, everyone on board was ecstatic that the train, in spite of claiming to be on time, was only 20 minutes late. I thought nothing of it, it was a pleasant ride from NYC Penn Station to Hartford either way. But two days later on my return – standing outside in the butt-clenching cold, waiting for the Mystery Train, which, with no explanation to its passangers arrived 40 minutes… no, an hour… late. THEN, as I made arrangements to reunite with an old college friend in the City stating, “I’ll be at Penn Station in about 20 minutes…” – the damned train came to a complete halt at which point we were informed ‘Ladies and Gentleman, we are currently waiting for two outbound trains from New York to pass us – we are one-tracking into the City.” So we sat there for another hour, putting me in the City almost two hours late.

    Are you kidding? In what Universe is this service? The folks in CT were surprised that I took the Amtrak – they thought I would take Metro North to New Haven, then I dunno, bus, rent a car, hitch-hike – anything to avoid the Train.

    Awwwww- you know, I love traveling by train. If only it would get you anywhere in the US even remotely within the timeframe they publish…

    Well, at least New York subways run reasonably – I haven’t missed an appointment here yet and I’ve managed to cut some things close.

    Next leg of travel there isn’t any reasonable public transportation to anywhere… thank gosh my car is waiting for me. Some things, I just WON’T give up!

    Missing you at the Laden
    No Nickname Guy