How to train around Europe
Our United Airlines flight from Chicago to Munich took off on time. Boo-hoo, my video screen was broken; a good thing I brought a book along. No biggie since there were no good movies to watch, and our seats were in the roomiest 777 seats in Economy.
UAL arrived in Munich around 9:30a. Bags on cart, we made a beeline over to the DB Bahn (German trains) desk to ask questions; Munich Airport has a train station inside the terminal.
– Did we need to validate our tickets purchased from Rail Europe? “No.”
– Was there an earlier train to Worgl? “Yes.”
– Did we need new seat resrvations on this train heading to Venice? “No. Just board, look for any available seat without a reservations card.” It is only a one-hour train ride to Worgl and we could always stand if necessary.
The DB representative also told us, “You don’t have to train into the Hautbahnhof (Munich’s main train station.) Just take the S-Bahn (rapid transit, commuter trains) to the Ostbhanhof (East Station), and wait there for the train to Worgl.” The Ostbahnhof is the city’s second main station, five stops from the Hauptbahnhof. Five less stops in each direction after flying for nine hours is a good thing. Don’t worry about training if this is your first experience in Europe. Almost all personnel speaks perfect English. If they don’t, they’ll direct you to someone who does.
We were holding tickets for a later train with seat reservations. Proactive thinking, “What if the plane is late” Oh yes indeed. I’m sure that’s happened to you, Ja? Seat reservations cannot be transferred to another train. Miss your train, you lose $12. Rail Europe had told us reservations were obligatory. Unfortunately, if you don’t use them, you lose them. Seat reservations would be obligatory in high season or weekends, not in the middle of the week. Let’s get on the next, frequent S Bahn.
The crowded train #2 on its way to Venice pulled into the Ostbanhof. We wrestled the suitcases on, and looked for seats. All seats had reserved signs above them. No worries, we looked for tags that said “Munchen-Venezia” (Munich-Venice) that had no one sitting there, thinking these people changed plans like us. If someone came later, we’d stand. There was no room to put suitcases in luggage racks and we just stacked them along a wall. If someone wanted to jump off the train with them, be our guest.
It’s been a while since Steve and I traveled into Austria from Germany and were stunned by the incredible amounts of solar panels on houses, barns, businesses facing southern exposure.
A 45-minute wait in Worgl between train #2 and train #3 to Zell am See. A good thing. The Worgl train station is huge as well as spread out. Look for elevators that take you down into train station labyrinth and then up to the proper platform; saves schlepping suitcases up and down flights of stairs.
Train schedules are posted electronically on platforms, walls, and inside stations. Look for Ankunft/Arrival with destination, track number next to it. That’s all you need to know.
Slow train #3 was hotter than hell even with most of the windows open, and stopped at least 10 times in small villages along the way. St. Johann di Tyrol, Kitzbuhel, Hahnenkamm (the world’s most difficult ski run on the World Cup calendar in Kitzbuhel), crowded Schwarzsee (one of the warmest lakes in the Alps). It would be difficult to find a more scenic route with glorious mountain scenery and Tyrol style chalets. Mi-Mi-….”The hills are alive…”
The train got into Zell am See five minutes late, just late enough to miss the bus to Saalbach, pulling away as we crossed the street! Arghhh! What to do. Wait another hour for the next bus or suck it up and take a taxi. FYI: We’re talking Euro to Dollar 2011 conversation rates. It took $1.43 U.S. to get 1 Euro, quite a difference on a 43 Euro taxi fare; 43 Euros isn’t terrible for a 30-minute ride but in dollars? $61 U.S.
All’s well that ends well in this case, $61 or not. The local bus stop is at either end of Hinterglemm; buses are not allowed on the main street. In hindsight, we would have had trouble finding Hotel am Reiterkogel.