I arrived by train from Möckmühl, although I very nearly ended up taking the bus.  The train ticket office was closed for a two-week vacation.  This was astounding – was there no one else in the town of 8200 skilled in selling train tickets?  Apparently not and the helpful notice told me that I could still get a ticket from the helpful ticket machine.  Urk.  I had never used one of these, but had watched people. They invariably walked away with a ticket clutched firmly in sweaty hand, but not without a lot of vigorous button pushing and mutterings.   I was not looking forward to the experience and I did try to get out of it by purchasing a ticket at a travel agency.  However, due to some silly regulations, only train stations are allowed to sell train tickets.

Since I knew certain future events were going to try my patience I had gotten a printout of train times from the Tourist Information.  At least I had a starting
point now to tackle the Ticket Machine.   What I realized very quickly, once I took the time to study the printout, was that the gal had neglected to print the platform numbers. Unless the town you are changing trains in has only one or two platforms this is not good.  Maybe not as much of an issue if you have the power of teleportation so that you can pop in to every platform and check the “board”, but teleporting is not one of my gifts, neither is being fleet of foot so that ruled out running up and down platforms as well.

Generally, of course, a train will arrive at one platform and a connecting train leave from a platform on the opposite side – helps prevent time-wasting crashes.  In some cases like the Frankfurt Airport station, the connecting train platform is most often literally the opposite side of the arriving train platform.    However, usually the connecting train arrives at a platform on the opposite side of the station.  I figure it is Germany’s answer to making sure at least some of its citizens get a dose of invigorating exercise.   German trains wait for no one and you might have five minutes (six if you’re lucky) to make your connection. I saw a woman who had made it to the door just as it closed and the train left her behind.

So…. On your mark, Get set, Go!  As the train is coming to a stop politely elbow people out of the way so you can get off the train first, find the platform exit, try not to push people into the path of an oncoming train as you hustle down the platform, drag the suitcase that weighs a ton (how did it get so friggin heavy?) down a flight of 20 or more steps, speed walk through a tunnel (swing those hips!), find the correct exit for your connecting platform, drag the now even heavier suitcase up a flight of 20 or more steps and gasp your way to the platform.  I’m not at my best when I have to catch a train in Germany.

In a huge train station like Frankfurt Main (different from Frankfurt Airport) it is essential to have platform number information.  If I remember rightly this station has at least 24 platforms above ground and something like 6 underground.

It’s a much more relaxing state of affairs in Scotland.  If the train isn’t already waiting there is generally plenty of time to catch it and the platforms in the station tend to be side by side.   No frantic headlong dashes necessary and you may even have time for a dram or two of whiskey.

Back to the Ticket Machine.  Armed with a new printout complete with platform numbers, I’d allowed myself plenty of time to work out how to use the Machine before the train arrived.   These machines are “multilingual” – you just press the country flag button of the language you want – as long as the language you want is German (or so it seemed).  After doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, I considered my options; a) I could try again b) I could beat the Machine to a nuts and bolts pulp c) I could board the train without a ticket.  They don’t always check and my trip was a short one d) I could bat my eyes and sigh helplessly in an effort to attract someone who would help.  Heck I was willing to consider swinging both ways if it would get me a ticket.   In the event I didn’t have to do anything, a fellow who had probably decided he’d had enough amusement for the day came over to help and in due course I too was clutching a ticket in my sweaty hand.

Hope everyone is keeping warm and happy!