Not very many students have cars, which are a luxury to those who can afford them. Others, however, do in fact have the money but take a conscientious objector stance to vehicles because they are bad for the environment. It only makes sense that in the absence of most people having cars, there’d be a strong need for good public transportation; something which I am very unaccustomed with. My host parent has a car, but it’s only to drive to work and therefore it’s up to me to find my own way around so, naturally, Öffentliche Verkehrsmittel (public transportation) seemed to be the best viable option for me. Perhaps for the people of Amsterdam, there exists a special exception where boats are the preferred method of travel. But for cities like mine which aren’t just an endless series of canals, tough luck.
Public transportation in Germany is a little different than back in the States. Punctuality is key in that if the schedule says 11:31, you had better be there at 11:30 & ½ o’clock or you’re getting left. For the south side of Tübingen where I reside, it’s more practical for me to take the train to the center of town and walk to my destination (which I actually enjoy doing) or hop on a bus if it’s convenient. I personally avoid the buses as much as possible because they’re crowded and quite foreign to me. They’re definitely a quick way to go if your daily schedule coincides with the bus schedule, I just know that for me it unfortunately does not.
The trains are pretty awesome though, especially the long-distance ICE trains. The seats are comfy, the windows are massive, the ride is smooth, and there’s even WiFi, believe it or not. The trains come at the same times every day residentially (within the city) so if you can memorize the schedule it makes life easier instead of wondering how long you have to wait until the next train that day.
The only downside I would say about public transportation in general is how long it takes you to get short distances compared to driving. For example, it takes roughly 30 min to get 10 km, which in a car on the interstate it would take you maybe 7 min. It’s all the stops. The actual train ride only takes 10 min, but there are quite a few small towns I have to go through on the way to Tübingen Hauptbahnhof, the central train station.
My student discounted train & bus ticket for the month of June cost 60 Euros or roughly 72 American dollars, which I think is a pretty good deal considering it’s unlimited within the city and surrounding areas. It’s the Inter-Bundesland trains that go all over the country that sometimes cost a fortune. A friend of mine had to cancel his plans to Berlin because a roundtrip train was going to cost him $500, though that’s at the extreme end.
I know my travel to Amsterdam this past weekend wasn’t as cheap as I had hoped, but I will say that the convenience of not having to worry about driving for 12 hours straight is rather nice. I like to think of it as just another part of the Reise, or trip, for me to watch the German countryside soothingly pass me by.
At the end of the day however, walking is still the best form of getting around in most places. Sidewalks are everywhere here, unlike in the U.S., and it definitely promotes average people to walk more. I have a health app on my phone that, as long as my phone is with me, will tell me how far I’ve walked that day. I got curious and looked at the past few months to present. In Oxford I was averaging maybe 2 miles a day. It was like that from January all the way to May 25, when it very drastically went up. “What’s so special about that day?” I wondered. Then it hit me, that was when I arrived in Germany. After that date, I was averaging 8-12 miles a day! It’s no wonder everyone here is skinny. It also helps that the food is healthier as well, but I’ll get to that at a later date. Until then, Tschüss.