German Train Travel Rants & a Stop in Neubrandenburg

Italy was my first independent train travel experience in Europe. It was easy. Other than remembering to validate my ticket, the train stations in Italy were easy to navigate, and generally, they were on time. Germany is another story. First, the main train station in Berlin has long-distance trains, local trains, and the subway in one building. I found it confusing to navigate and to purchase tickets. In addition to that, up to five people can travel on one long-distance ticket. What? I don’t know why this is and only found out b/c my friend told me, but your ticket is good for 1-5 people. The tickets were quite a bit more expensive than they were in Italy. Why they don’t just make the tickets more affordable and require one ticket per person, I’m not sure. The day before, when I needed to catch the subway, you think it would be simple. But, there is a different price depending on where you get off. Yet, I didn’t see a list of stops/prices like they have posted in say, Washington DC. I just had to pick an A or B ticket. Confusing!

I don't have a photo of the Berlin train station, so enjoy these German bunny posters

I arrived at the train station to catch my first long-distance train to Neubrandenburg to meet up with my friend Stella. The signs, of course, are only in German but I saw a message with the number 30 in it. I asked a woman about it that didn’t speak English, and eventually found someone younger. She told me that it meant what I had suspected: my train was going to be thirty minutes late, which meant I would miss my connecting train. Great. After standing in a lengthy line at the ticket office, I decided to wait to catch a train an hour later with no stops. I had no SIM card and wasn’t sure if my friend would get an email in time. I couldn’t access my skype, as the only internet I could find in the train station required me to use their computers. So, I sent my  mother an email, hoped she got it, and asked her to call my friend in Germany.  Luckily, my mom emailed back in 10 minutes, saying she got ahold of Stella so I breathed my first sigh of relief. An hour later, my train showed up, and I was on my way.

Now, back when I was in Italy, since the trains were almost always on time, I would start looking for train station signs about 5-10 minutes before my scheduled arrival time. In Germany, my train was of course late, so I was panicking as to whether I had missed my stop or not. They would announce stops (in German) but there wasn’t a light-up sign in the train. It was dark, so when we rolled into Neubrandenburg, I didn’t see the sign on the platform, but I did see my friend. I snatched up my bags and jumped off the train, eager to see her and happy to be in the care of a local now!

An old building by the Neubrandenburg train station

Stella and her friend picked me up at the train station and we made a short drive through this sleepy town. Neubrandenburg is not on the tourist route (as far as I’m aware). I don’t know the population, but it’s not very big. From my friend’s apartment, we walked to town and also to the train station for the remainder of my stay, if that gives you an idea. It is located in what was East Germany. While it still had a quaint feel, this was the beginning of my education on East & West Germany architecture. The architecture was less ornate than what I was to discover in West Germany.

We climbed the stairs to my friend’s apartment, and I immediately felt at home. We have similar taste, and she also had photos from Kenya and South Africa all over her living room. It’s funny how you can feel that sense of home when you are surrounded with familiar people and things (even though, really, I hadn’t been home in eight months). We stayed up late and got up early. Stella had a presentation at school. When she returned around lunch, I stole some warmer clothes from her, we packed up our things, and headed out the door for the train station. We set off for northern Germany to visit her hometown just outside of Flensburg to have an adventure-filled weekend!

14 thoughts on “German Train Travel Rants & a Stop in Neubrandenburg

  • Italian train travel is certainly hard to beat, until they go on strike. I had to take a 14 hour bus ride to make it to Milan on day. The bus did not have bathrooms and they did not provide me the refund that was promised, horrible! Sorry about your delay.

  • I can imagine how nice it must have felt to be in the comfort of an old friend after all that time. I am feeling that way now after it’s been just over one year that I’ve been in Italy and just under one year since I’ve seen my friends and family (had to go home in April last year to get a visa).

    I think it’s super funny that you had such a great train experience in Italy and such a bad one in Germany because I would definitely think it was the other way around! I’m glad it all turned out okay in the end!

    • I know you’re right! While Italy’s train might not be as nice as the ones in Germany, I at least felt confident taking the train all over the country. Germany- not so much.

  • A few things here.. there are only Certain tickets that allow 5 people, not every one. There are what are called “Ländertickets” (Tickets for the specific state) and “Happy Weekend” things that allow you to have up to 5 people. They only work on the slow trains (the red ones with the RE/RB numbers) not the faster white trains. If you by a single ticket out of the machine for one station to another it is for one person.
    How much was your ticket? It may have been “too much” ticket for what you needed.

    Italy always surprises me with its trains. I kind of get the sense that they are slack, but when I actually get there I have a good experience. This is often true in Germany as well. Ok, yes I speak German, but my travel Italian isn’t horrible. Germans get upset when trains are more than a minute late, Italians seem to just take it in stride.
    One of the things to notice is that although the ICE trains are delayed often too, usually to a less degree than the Regional ones can be. And if they have to use the same tracks, an ICE will get priority, just making the RE later. And lately the Germans have not been immune to strikes either.

    I’m glad you got to meet your friend. Sorry your train experience wasn’t so good.

    • Andrew,
      I’m so glad you commented b/c I thought of you when writing this. I only took the slow trains I think b/c after I met up with my friend we shared a ticket together. Out of my four days of taking the trains, it was late every time. While I probably wouldn’t make judgments about the train system off that (it could’ve been a coincidence) my friend told me that the trains are late a lot. Of course, again I’m speaking of the regional trains since I haven’t taken the ICE trains. I think using the same tracks is an issue b/c on one of the trains I was on waited at a station for like 20 minutes until the track was open for us. It’s not so bad unless you have to switch trains!

  • I also found it quite difficult to buy a normal ticket from the machines in Germany, its not just you :) People always complain here in Holland about the train being delayed for 5 min, but they never realise it can be far worse :)

  • While I would have liked to have seen a picture of the train station, I rather enjoyed the German bunnies.

    I think I would have had a mini freak out honestly. Something I’ll have to work on lol.

  • I can see how the German train system can be very confusing for foreigners… in most trains they do not even have announcements in English (and if they do, they are usually barely to understand!) and especially in a town like Neubrandenburg where (almost) nobody speaks English, you can easily feel lost as a non-German :) Thanks for mentioning the delays – I forgot about them, haven’t taken a train in my home country in years!! – but it’s so true.

    Love the posters of the bunnies by the way – SO GERMAN, lol.

    • Dani,
      I’m relieved to hear that someone who is from Germany can understand. The announcements were difficult for me, and while I don’t have this expectation that everyone should speak English or things should be posted in both languages in towns like Neubrandenburg, I did find it surprising that nothing was in English in Berlin since so many travelers pass through there.

  • I was really surprised to read of your train experience in Germany. I lived in Berlin for several years and always found the trains to be pretty prompt. I’m glad you were able to connect with your friend and enjoy time together and have some better German experiences! It really is an amazing place!

    • Oh Germany was fantastic. I definitely had fun there…. just the train travel was a bit tough for me ;) I have more to write about Germany and all great things!

  • A lovely photo of the old building near the railway station. I haven’t been to northern Germany, only Bavaria, so I’m glad you have shared your experience with us,, especially the ticket buying episode. It can be quite stressful sometimes in a foreign country, but it all ended well for you so that is good. Thanks for sharing.

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