Monday, November 10, 2008

German Punctuality

The purpose of this post is not to offend Deutsche Bahn in any way - I am sure they do a great job coordinating all those trains, but rather to inform anyone reading this how to actually plan their time when traveling in Germany.

5:30 AM - It's Monday again, and the alarm clock buzzes the beginning of a new week. I wake up ready to face it, happy that I live in a German country, where everything and everybody is Punctual. I know... that here, no matter where I am, German Punctuality applies. So, I want to also be Punctual. I want to arrive at 9:00 AM in Aachen, to get my student card from the Secretary, and afterwards, at 10 - to attend my lecture. Normally, this is a 90 km track, 2 hours time. I can do it.
With help from German Punctuality, I will catch the train at 7:01 AM, and will be in Aachen at precisely 08:48 AM.
6:00 AM - Shower, breakfast. German Punctuality works.
6:30 AM - Outside, air is fresh. It's still dark, in a cloudy cold and rainy Punctual day.
6:48 AM - I am at the train station, I buy the ticket. Train is announced to be 10 minutes late. I think I am still able to make it in time to catch the connection train - Koeln - Aachen. Few people wait silently on the platform.
7:01 AM - The billboard changes. 10 minutes suddenly change to 15 minutes. Hmm, no problem.. I am lucky to be young and can run to catch the connection in Köln. I'll do my best to be Punctual.
7:10 AM - 15 minutes become 20. OK, my connection in Köln is lost. I'll have to catch the next one, which will arrive half an hour later in Aachen. As of now I am no longer Punctual for my appointment.
7:20 AM - Billboard announces 25 minutes delay now. One employee of the Deutsche Bahn mumbles some bored excuses on a microphone. One old guy near me starts to dance something like a chicken dance.
7:25 AM - Train is still not in Bonn. You can barely move around the station, as now, the station is full of people which waited the train and 7:01, and also the ones who came for the 7:30 train.
7:30 AM - Train arrives, fully packed with people and with a delay of 30 minutes. The employee announces on the speaker that this train, although Regional EXPRESS, will have to stop in every stop on the way to Köln. That's 2 times more stops than usual.
7:40 AM - Still not at the first stop. The train advances a few kilometers, than stops for a pause. Probably this is what it takes to be Punctual.
08:10 AM - I am in Köln. Yeah!!!
Now where's the train? I look on the display on the train station. I find out that my next train which was supposed to be there at 8:20 AM will be 20 minutes late. All trains on the billboard were at least 15 minutes late. Ok, that adds up another 20 minutes to my wasted time.
8:40 AM - I step into the train from Köln to Aachen.
9:50 AM - I am finally in Aachen, almost 4 hours after leaving my house. Bummer, I won't be Punctual today. I quickly WALK to the secretary office, pick up my ID, and finally arrive at school at 11:00 AM. I enjoy the remaining half an hour left of the lecture. Wow, that's a deal: 4 hours travel for half an hour lecture.

It would be OK if this was an one-time case, but it happens 4 times out of 5 when traveling to Aachen and back. One good friend also had this happening to him, but in his case he didn't miss one lecture, but a whole flight. In return, he didn't receive at least one excuse, but had to buy a brand new plane ticket. That was at least 5 times more expensive than the one for the flight he lost.