Last year I thought I would only be living in Germany for a year, and I traveled like I was about to be put under house arrest. Towards the end of the year I was lucky enough to extend my contract for another 12 months, and now I am here until December 2015.
After all the travel I did in 2014, you would think I could take things easy this year: spend more time in Munich, maybe save a bit of money… Not so. In fact, I have entered 2015 with an even more urgent desire to throw myself at as much of Europe as possible. And this year I have the added intention to explore more of Germany, 1. because it featured disproportionately amongst my travels last year, and 2. because it’s my European home, and that’s just rude!
Like last year, I have drawn up a travel bucket list for 2015. As a bit of a teaser, the following locations may or may not feature (hint – they do!): Hamburg, Leipzig, Heidelberg, Dresden, Israel, Poland, Croatia, Turkey, and Iceland.
Clearly, there are a lot of places to see (and seriously, that is just a sneak preview). So, basically, if I want to do this (and believe me, I do!) and if I want to return to Melbourne at some stage with any money to show for myself (and believe me, I do!) then something has to change… I need to learn to travel like a tight-ass.
Step number 1: explore tight-ass options of getting from A to B
This weekend, I decided to tick one of the German towns off my list: Bamberg. In a past-(less tight-ass)life, I would totally have forked out 70€ to take the train up there in the sort of comfort, speed and cleanliness that only the Deutsche Bahn can provide. This year: nuh-uh! In the spirit of travelling like a tight-ass, I decided to catch the bus. The bus ticket with meinfernbus costs only 11€, and at over 3 hours the trip was nearly twice as long as the train, so heaps better value! (hang on… wait a second - D’oh!)
It was my first time on a long-distance bus, and I must say, I was very impressed. There was free wifi (it was a little slow on my iPad, but speedy on my iPhone), a little tray table for me to eat my packed lunch off, and even a hot water dispenser (next time I will bring some tea bags and a paper cup!!).
For one terrifying moment I thought there wasn’t a toilet, but it turned out to be tucked away down some stairs (and not too unpleasant either – much cleaner than train toilets anyway). The bus driver babbled away merrily in Bavarian throughout the trip, and we even made a pit stop in Nuremburg, where you could pick up a bite to eat (ha! I had my roast vegetable and quinoa salad, no need!).
I have been using this word a lot since deciding to travel like a tight-ass, and I am very glad my iPhone has picked it up in its autofill. I wish it would do the same for other scarily long German words. Anyway… Mitfahrgelegenheit is a car-sharing service (Germany’s answer to Blablacar, only harder to pronounce), where you are connected online with people planning to drive to your desired destination. You exchange numbers with them and pay a small fee (in my case 12€) for a seat in their car.
I have never used one of these services before (to me it always sounded a bit like organized hitch-hiking) but as it presented such an opportunity to save cash, I was bang up for trying.
Towards the end of my couple of hours in Bamberg the light started to get really good and somehow I got carried away taking photos. The next thing I knew, I was running late for my mitfahrgelegenheit pickup at Bamburg station. So I basically ran there, my camera flailing awkwardly behind me. Eventually, I made it right on time BUT I really needed to pee!! The car trip was over 2 hours. There were no toilets on the mitfahrgelegenheit. Sad face.
Painful bladder aside, my first mitfahrgelegenheit experience was a pretty good one. It was really easy to get in touch with my driver Dominik over the mitfahrgelegenheit website. He texted me that morning to confirm where we would meet, and he was there on time, waiting for me at the end of my 800 meter sprint. He was friendly and chatty (and not an axe-murderer apparently) and so were the other two girls we picked up in Erlangen on the way to Munich. Dominik dropped us all off at a U-Bahn station on the way to his final destination, I made a dash to the nearest public toilet, and I lived to tell the tale.
I will definitely be considering mitfahrgelegenheit next time I travel within Germany.
Last time I checked, this was a travel blog. So you are probably wondering when the hell I am going to cut to the chase and tell you about where I went.. Well, be patient, God damn it!
Bamberg is a small town in Bavaria. World-heritage listed in 1993, I am led to believe it is an outstanding and representative example of an early medieval town in central Europe, both in its plan and its many well-preserved ecclesiastical and secular buildings. Well, that’s what the sign said anyway.
I liked the pastel-coloured buildings, which really were very well preserved, complete with curly, intricate detailing. The buildings were perched along a series of canals – something I have never seen before in Germany before – which added to the charm.
Have you ever caught a bus? Have you ever used a car-sharing service? What was your experience? Would you do it to save some cash?