Planes, Trains & the Underground to Munich, Germany


I knew I was definitely leaving for Germany as soon as I queued up for Luftansa. The airline is notorious for following the rules, as is the country. The attendant pulled me aside to measure my bag. It that appeared my bag was 1-inch too wide. It’s a popular small-size carry-on and you’d think that a huge 747 would have overhead compartments big enough.

Inside, I packed 3 cameras, several lens and batteries. She lifted the bag. It passed their puny dimension standards (just barely) but I exceeded what she felt was a ‘lift-able’ weight. To appease the situation I took the heaviest camera out and swung it over my shoulder. Her puss changed little as she reluctantly cleared me aboard.

Tough company continued for the remainder of the trip but was made tolerable with preparation.

Water is a luxury on a dry cramped plane so the extra was a saving grace. Crying babies and snoring company were tolerated with extra doses of Tylenol PM. Stuck in a window seat meant I had to hold it but I tucked away Kleenex, a waterless toothpaste/brush, medications, contact solution, glasses, Chapstick and hand sanitizer in my seat pocket. The heat index soared at the back of the plane so I peeled off as much as allowed. Economy class at it’s finest folks!

Fortunately, the stress of flying lifted upon arrival. Frankfurt airport made finding a bathroom, clearing customs and finding my bags painless. The experience improved more so connecting with the DB S-Bahn Fly&Ride.

Signs at Frankfurt are translated into English but almost decipherable in German too. The language is extremely close with many words different by only a few letters. Rather than use the ticket kiosks, I was helped from a friendly face at the Information counter.

The 4-hour journey from Frankfurt to Munich was pure pleasure. The DB S-Bahn lets you charge devices, log onto the internet hotspot via a small price and buy super strong coffees from smiling Frauleins. The trains are never late and break for no more than 90-seconds. Efficiency and expediency, these are German qualities you can learn to love. The DB S-Bahn ticket assigns you a seat but unlike Luftansa, if empty enough the train is flexible. The passenger to my left was a young teenage girl versed in good English since grade school. Nearly everyone under the age of 30 are bilingual, if not trilingual (French).


Munich’s main train station (Hauptbahnhof using the U-bahn) is always busy so be careful navigating with suitcases and bags. Beeline it for the Western Union bank and exchange your dollars into Euros so you can jump the subway or ‘underground’ (U-Bahn). After coming this far you’ll be tempted to hail a cab. Don’t! Petro costs a fortune and many taxis don’t use GPS so even if they get lost the meter is still running.

Though extensive, the underground is color-coded and straight-forward; just make sure to stamp your ticket before board. The system runs on an honorary policy and is rarely enforced but should a policeman ask, you’ll pay a hefty fine if you didn’t buy a ticket for a mere 2.70 Euro. Handy underground paper maps are free as is an i-phone app download.

Like all subways, look for the name of the last stop for orientation, you don’t want to be going south when you should be going north or visa-versa, and once aboard, listen for your stop and/or watch the marquises above the cabin door. Unlike NYC, seats are clean, plentiful and apt to be offered to a senior or child without hesitation. Another hallmark of Europeans are their manners – respect and politeness abound.

Okay, one final 5-minute walk and you’ve made it to the hostel of your liking. Hostels are the only way to travel in Europe. Unlike days of old, you can opt to have your own spacious room with all the amenities of a fine hotel minus a hairdryer, refrigerator or coffee maker. Still, for all the reasons I mentioned in the last blog, hostels are ideal for location, safety and sharing a breakfast buffet with a traveling brethren. Oh, yeah and, most importantly – saving money.