By popular demand, we are increasing coverage of rail travel. Henceforth, Train Talk will be a regular Gemütlichkeit feature. We lead off this month with a summary of Germany's ICE trains.
Germany's ICE Trains
With a maximum speed of 280 km/h (174 mph) these high speed trains connect the major German cities (including the capital Berlin) on six lines at hourly intervals. Some trains also go to Zürich and Interlaken in Switzerland.
- Each train has a restaurant car with two sections: the traditional restaurant and self-service bistro.
- Public phones and luggage lockers are available on board.
- With exception of the first and last car of the trainset, the complete ICE train is a nonsmoking area.
- Various radio and music channels are available via headphones in each seat. Some cars have video systems which show movies.
- In ICE trains of the second generation, first -class coaches provide plugs for computer notebooks and laptops at each seat.
- Sample travel times include: Frankfurt-Hamburg (536 km/332 miles), 3h25; Frankfurt-Munich (417 km/259 miles), 3h32; Frankfurt-Stuttgart (203 km/126 miles), lh23; and Hamburg-Munich (823 km/ 510 miles), 5h30.
- Not required but recommended. You'll pay $10 from the U.S. but usually no more than $3 if you wait to get to Europe to book seats.
- Eurailticket, Eurailpass and Europass holders are honored on all ICE trains without extra charge (except for ICE "Sprinter").
Rail Pass Notes
- On Switzerland's popular Glacier Express, the Eurailpass and the Europass are honored on only part of the journey. However, the Swiss Pass and the Swiss Flexipass are both good for the entire route. These passes also will get you a 25% discount on just about every ride to a mountain top in the country including the spectacular but expensive journey through the Eiger up to the Jungfraujoch.
- A rail option which must be purchased in Switzerland is the Half-Fare Travel Card. For 90 Sfr. ($60) per month, holders of the card get 50% off rail travel within the country.
- A similar product available in the U.S. is the Swiss Card. For $166 first class and $128 second class, you get up to a month of half-price rail travel plus one roundtrip to anywhere in the country from a point of entry such as Zürich or Geneva.
Lets' say you followed our May issues advice and rented an apartment in Pontresina for a couple of weeks and are flying in to Geneva and out of Zürich. The Swiss Card gets you to Pontresina from the Geneva airport at the start of the trip and to the Zürich Airport at the end of your stay. Between times, you travel half-fare anywhere in the country rail, boat, Glacier Express, etc. first or second class. Even if you buy the second class Swiss Card, you can still purchase half-fare first class tickets and vice versa.