|Our empty first-class ICE car|
Odd rail happening. Today we traveled from Heidelberg to Lucerne. It required changes at Mannheim and Basel. Most of the journey was aboard German ICE 73 that starts at 0647 Kiel in the north and rolls into Zürich at 1600 (4pm). In order to get seat reservations on the Mannheim-Basel leg we arrived about an hour early at Heidelberg Bahnhof and stood in line for a few minutes to request the two first-class seats (we have rail passes). After a couple of minutes of peering at his screen the agent said that first-class is sold out on that train.
I asked about the next train, one that left Mannheim exactly an hour later. The agent peered and typed some more, then produced a reservation for two seats on the train we originally wanted. We paid €8 for two seat, 43 and 45 in car #11, and walked away happy. Later, waiting on the platform in Mannheim for ICE 73 to arrive we assumed we were in for a jam packed rail car. But #11 turned out to be virtually empty, and during the entire two-hour and 10-minute trip there were never more than half a dozen passengers in it. What's more all the other first-class cars were about the same; a fact I determined on my way to the restaurant to pick up some sandwiches. Somebody hit a wrong key.
The change at Basel was painless and once again our first-class car was less than half full. On both trains we had four seats facing, all to ourselves. By the way, I love Germany's ICE trains but the double-deck Swiss cars are even smoother and quieter. It's a silent glide in and out of every station. Sweet.