Visiting a foreign country was one of my dreams and finally it has come true. This is my first foreign visit and has a wonderful time. Thanks to EMBO | EMBL Symposia to providing me with this great opportunity to visit Germany (and Austria). I would like to thank all my friends who helped me to put up this trip and make it a big success. I am penning down my experiences in a blog post so that it will be useful for any first timer visiting Germany or Austria.
The journey started from Kharagpur on 14th of October 2015 and took my flight from Kolkata. The Air India flight journey was good. I have heard from many friends that Air India flights run late and are horrible experience. Contrary to my expectation the experience was pleasant. I reached Frankfurt Airport on same day around 7pm. The Airport staff and security are very polite and the process there is hassle free. I had already purchased a five day Eurail pass (Regional pass for Germany and Austria) which I activated at the Frankfurt am Main Flughafen Fernbahnhof (Frankfurt Airport long-distance station). The Deutsche Bahn (DB) information center was very helpful with this. DB is the train company which operates German trains (while OBB operates in Austria). They provided me with the connection details and platform number for my train to Munich.
The Airport has free WiFi from Telecom. But the Airport railway station has only 30 minutes of free WiFi from Telecom but that is not a problem because there is a Starbucks Coffee Shop in the station and provides free WiFi for sessions of 2 hrs. The Airport and station launch were warm but near the platform it freezing cold. This is first time I took out my jacket but as the train was 20 minutes late due to energy saving I went back to waiting region. I slept in train peacefully and reached the Bavarian capital next morning. It was an Intercity Express (ICE) and the seats were sitting but it was comfortable. It is better to have a head set with you as high speed trains has a buzz and while entering tunnels you will feel a drop in air pressure. There is no need to reserve seats in a sitting train. There will be enough free seats in trains where reservation is mandatory as per my experience.
I reached the München Hauptbahnhof (central railway station – Hbf) early morning itself and had breakfast from there. During the trip the things that can become major hurdles are food, luggage, information regarding places to visit and local travel. I will explain how I managed with these primary issues. Food was never an issue during the entire trip for me. I am a fast food lover as well an obligate non-vegetarian without any reservations against any kind of meat. So food was never a problem during my entire trip and in fact I enjoyed almost every food I had during this trip. The next major problem is carrying luggage. I kept my luggage in a storage lockers. The lockers can be used a maximum of 72 hours and costs 4/6 Euro depending on size of your luggage. The locker needs change as it uses an electronic lock with coin drop facility. Luggage lockers are available at all railway stations.
First and foremost thing to do while visiting any German city is to go to DB information center and get a detailed map of local transport. The local transport include mainly four components: S Bahn (operated by rail companies and Eurail pass is valid on that), U Bahn (underground trains operated by city or private companies and Eurail pass is not valid there), bus (H) and tram (O). Taking a city card is alternative option which gives access to all of local transportation including the S, U, H and O. I didn’t take any city pass in Berlin instead I travelled in S Bhann and also walked most of places in city. Secondly obtain a map of city from tourism center. Combining this with the map of local transportation from DB there is sufficient information available to visit the major attractions of the city. The Dutch (and Europeans in general) are very helpful and polite. For many people language is a barrier but many times they managed to help me with sign language.
The entire trip was an awesome experience for me. I started the visit with the Bavarian capital of Munich. The Munich is a very beautiful city and has a special charm. The journey continued through Berlin, Düsseldorf, Heidelberg, Vienna, Salzburg and Frankfurt. Each city has its own charm and I will detail my experiences in each city separately. To read in detail about my experience in individual cities visit the link: Munich, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Heidelberg, Vienna, Salzburg and Frankfurt.