“Lads, this is an intercity we’re on! The Bayern ticket doesn’t cover us on these.”
This was not a happy thought for five sleepy revellers on their way home from the Erlangen beer festival. We had spent the day enjoying the carnival crowded with beer tents and bandstands. A solid two hours of travel separated us from our beds.
We followed the pressing crowd to the station, and managed to get on a commuter train to Nurenburg Hauptbahnhof. We relaxed in the knowledge that there were another two trains due to leave for Munich before services stopped, and hopped on the first one to roll in.
We didn’t know they would both be sleek, fast and unaffordable ICE trains. We were fare-dodging.
I was hoping for leniancy. Our carriage was empty apart from us, and it was late and there would be no trains until morning. A blind eye might be turned. There might be no ticket inspectors at all!
No such luck. A middle-aged lady as severe as the Deutsche Bahn uniform she wore gave us two options: pay the price of a ticket, or get off at the next stop. Tickets for five of us would come to over €200. I had about seven euro. Nobody else was carrying that kind of cash, nor did we want to spend it. She asked for a credit card, but the last thing you want to show a ticket inspector when you’re fare-dodging is the means to pay a fine.
“When’s the next non-express?” said Colin.
She checked. “Five twenty in the morning.”
We didn’t see her again until she came by to boot us off at Ingolstadt.
“So eh, where the hell are we?”
Ingolstadt is a historic walled town with museums, French Gothic architecture and about 125,000 inhabitants. Shelley sent Dr. Frankenstein to university here. Alas, all we saw was a Deutsche Post depot and a disused steam engine on rails that went nowhere. For us, Ingolstadt would be a vista of shutters and streetlights, with little or nothing open on the wrong side of midnight on a Sunday. Munich had been forty minutes away by train. Who knew how long the journey home would be now?
We looked into a bus, literally, only to be met with a shake of the head and a bemused look from the driver. We pondered hostels. We considered trying to find a nightclub to dance the night away. We were no longer sleepy revellers. We were grouchy drunks who should be curled up on a train speeding south. We were angry at German efficiency and in sore need of our beds.
The only businesses open at that hour were taxi drivers. We quickly learned there was no way a German taxi man was going to cram five of us into a saloon for a jaunt home though. We weren’t in Donegal or Dublin; they play by the rules here. This would play to our advantage though.
The first saloon man we asked offered to order a large taxi from his company for us. Here’s a tip: if you’re ever in a similar situation, negotiate a price at this point — taxi drivers are salesmen for their mates with a good ability to bargain for you.
A taxi to Munich for four would have come to €130. “Five or ten euro more for the bigger one,” he said. When we flagged down another people-carrier five minutes later thinking it was ours, the driver quoted us €180 and nearly drove over Declan’s feet to escape our attempt to bargain.
Our man turned up a few minutes later, and after confirming the price (€140), we piled in. He had good English, a clean vehicle and knew when to be quiet and drive. The five of us chatted in Irish for a bit, revelling in the ability to speak a language nobody for hundreds of miles could comprehend; our own secret national code. Then we shut up and stared out the windows for a while as we blasted down the Autobahn to our beds.
Moral: the super cheap Bayern ticket group pass is probably the most valuable travel tool for penniless students in Munich — but smart travellers check the time of the last R-Bahn!
Stephen Bourke blogs at shlockdoctrine.wordpress.com, and wrote this sentence all by himself.