A Hauptbahnof is a cavernous German train station. Rail travel is popular in Germany. Many passengers will be rushing through the doors. Here are some tips on navigating through the station to your comfortable train seat.
Deutsche Bahn is the German National Railway that not only manages 30,000 daily trains, but also 5,700 train stations. Here are the steps:
- Purchase your Fahrkarte, or train ticket. Your choice is the ticket office or a kiosk. Ticket offices advise you on various train travel options. Kiosks are good for short trips. In either case you must decide on first or second class train tickets. First is roughly double the price of second;
- Bring your luggage. Large racks above the train seats hold plenty of luggage;
- Check the train time. Large screens are in the front of the station with cities, train times, and tracks; Deutsche Bahn precision enables several trains to arrive and depart each track per hour. If your train time or track number is not on the screen, you are likely early. Germans arrive close to departure, confident the train is on time and knowing the likely departure track. Eventually, your train and track will appear;
- Go to your track. If you are early, the Hauptbahnof offers café’s, Bäckerei, newsstands, and other shopping. When arriving at your track platform, check your train ticket for a number and a capitalized A through E. Number 1 is first class and number 2 is second class. All card boldly displays either number. The capitalized A-E is the Wagenstananziegler, or car locator. You will see A, B, C… painted on the platform a car length apart. Queue-up by the letter on your train ticket. This way you will not be dragging your luggage through multiple cars. Deutsche Bahn will stop the train so each car precisely lines with each letter;
- Hoist your luggage on the rack; make sure your train ticket is available when the conductor makes the rounds, (there is often a clip on for ticket in front of you); and relax.
Depending on the Deutsche Bahn train, you will be flying through the countryside at incredible speeds on a cushioned ride. While the scenery will be interesting, the soft rumble below may lull you into sleep. I used to worry about sleeping through a stop. Today’s smart phones provide a variety of alarms. Regular announcements describe the next stop. Lean back in your comfortable seat and enjoy the ride.