The Germans are known for their efficiency. At least Hitler made the trains run on time, as the joke goes.
It’s true that, for the most part, the transportation system in Germany runs like clockwork. Unfortunately, when it fails, it fails BIG time!
On the days I have class at the Uni, I usually take the train from Nürnberg to Erlangen, because it’s a nice 25-minute trip during which I can read and/or listen to my iPod — I like to listen to German language podcasts on the way to “tune my ear,” so to speak. It’s also much more comfortable than the bus.
Take today, for example. I left the apartment at 10:30 this morning, expecting to get on the train around 11:00 and to be in Erlangen around 11:30, with plenty of time to have lunch and do some reading before my 1:00 class.
I was sorely mistaken.
I should have known something was amiss when the 10:46 RB to Erlangen hadn’t left yet, delayed by 15 minutes. “Great!” I thought. “I can make the earlier train, and be in Erlangen that much faster!” I ran to Track 4, since the delay meant the train would be leaving any minute.
A few minutes after I reached the platform, and announcement came over the loudspeakers that the train would not be leaving from Track 4 but was instead at Track 12! So the scores of riders waiting patiently on the platform shuffled obediently to Track 12 (downstairs, some with bikes and/or luggage, and back upstairs to the proper track) and boarded the now waiting train.
Underway, I settled in to read for class. Unfortunately, after stopping in Fürth, we slowed down and came to a stop on the tracks between stations. “Just a slight delay,” came the (translated) announcement. “There’s a cargo train stuck on the track ahead and it will be a few minutes while we clear it. Thank you for your patience!” — or something to that effect, anyway.
“Oh, well,” I thought. “More time to read, I guess.” This was at 11:20.
Two trains headed the same direction as us passed on the adjacent track as we sat there– including the later train I WOULD have been on had I not rushed to this one! Around 11:35 there was another announcement: we’re being diverted back to the station at Fürth! Cell phones immediately pop up throughout the car — rescheduled appointments, new meet-up plans, I’m-sorry-I’ll-be-late messages. Around 11:50, we headed back toward Fürth, finally arriving on Track 3. We were advised to catch the next train, leaving at 11:53 from Track 1.
Again we head down-over-up to the right track, only to be told the train would leave from Track 2 instead — right back where we were originally.
By this time our patient riders were no longer so patient — one business-suit-clad, briefcase-laden gentlemen got into a heated argument with a DB employee on the platform! Although, honestly, I’m not sure what value there is to arguing with the DB employees… it won’t get you there faster, and you could be barred from the train!
I finally arrived in Erlangen around 12:15 — plenty in time for my class, but not for a leisurely (or even a sit-down) lunch — a one euro baguette while walking to class is not my idea of a leisurely lunch!