The station was buzzing, various platforms with trains going in all directions, people rushing about with suitcases and backpacks, and so many shops, I thought I was in a mall. I quickly located platform 14, and waited for my train. It was a bright, modern and clean platform; a far cry from any transportation centre in Asia.
Today I would be boarding a train, that would take me from one side of Germany to the other, and after a late night a a wedding, I was looking forward to relaxing and seeing a bit of the countryside.
Travelling from one side of a country, to another can often be done fairly quickly if you fly. However, this is not always the most economical, and so public transport is often your best bet.
Initially I looked up flight prices, and although not overly expensive, I decided that I’d like to reduce my carbon footprint, and go an alternative way; by train, which I have not done much of in mainland Europe.
The ICE trains in Germany, make train travel and crossing from East to West, very efficient, and for the mileage you are covering, it offers great value, and it means you get there a lot quicker than a bus. They also serve routes outside of the country, including Switzerland, Austria and France.
In the end, I decided to travel first class, as it was only 8 euro more than second class, and I decided to spoil myself.
How much is a train ticket from Berlin to Düsseldorf?
I paid 69 Euros (£50 or US $75) for the 4 hour 20 minute train journey, in a first class carriage. It seems a bit pricey, but flights were more expensive, and I didn’t fancy sitting on a bus for over 8 hours.
Where to buy?
When I looked up train tickets, various sites were selling them, and for different prices. I found this site the best for my tickets. I am not sure if is possible to book on the day; I booked a few days in advance.
If you have a Eurail pass, you can use the ICE trains (high speed trains)
The first class train journey experience
From the moment you board the train, you feel like an important and valued customer, and just know that you will be treated well. Boarding the train, I was greeted by a well groomed guard, “Guten Tag” he said cheerfully, I replied in broken German. He instantly spoke English and directed me to my seat.
Entering the large and spacious carriage, I was amazed at the size of the seats, leg room, comfortable head rests and how quiet and comfortable it looked.
I took my seat, and awaited my journey to begin. After the announcement by the train driver was made (in both German and English), about the journey, we were on our way.
As the journey began, we passed through the outer suburbs of Berlin, with colourful graffiti on the walls, the train guard approached me, offered me a menu, and said if there was anything he could do for me, to let him know.
I wasn’t hungry by this point, so just enjoyed looking out the window. The scenery varied over the 4 hours, as did the weather.
After a while, I had a wander around the carriage to have a look at the facilities; I was still so amazed by how quiet it was. I wasn’t able to move down into the second class cabins, as this would have required me to have got off the train at a stop, so cannot compare the two classes.
The toilets were clean and larger than on most planes, with various bins for recycling outside. Glass sliding doors, opened effortlessly at the slightest touch.
If you are needing to do business on the go; these trains are the way to do it, with various seating options, including tables. Each seat has a charging point, and there is WiFi, but there is a charge for this, so I did not use this (as I had a European data add on for my trip, through my phone network).
After a while, I decided that I wanted to sample the cuisine, so got the attention of the guard. The menu was in German, so instead I pointed to a picture of what looked like soup, and asked what was in it. It was called Erbseneintopf, and was a a basic soup with bratwurst. I had never eaten it before, and it was warming and tasty.
It was served to me at my seat in proper china plates, with real cutlery and a bread roll. As the train hurtled at speeds of up to 180km per hour, the plates rattled, but none of my food got spilt.
Overall, the journey was comfortable, and although it was over 4 hours, it passed quickly, and I soon was out in the busy train terminal of Düsseldorf, aimlessly wandering for a while, in the attempt to find a U Bahn train to my hotel.
My experience on the ICE train was great, and got me excited about the possibilities of further rail travel in Europe; an efficient and inexpensive way of getting from place to place.
Have you taken any trains in Europe?
What are some of the best rail journeys you’ve been on?