I hopped on a train Monday night from Cologne to Frankfurt and met with Mike, a fellow fellow and also a fellow Kappa Sigma, coincidentally. An alum of our program was on vacation, but let Mike stay in a suped apartment in the mean time–I had the honor to rock the couch.
Early the next morning I caught a train to Kaiserslautern, the nearest transfer station for Ramstein and Landstuhl–the U.S. military strongholds in Southwestern Germany. As with many places on my journey, Landstuhl received significant rain as soon as I stepped off the train. I walked to a bakery passed the “American friendly” pet store, and a less-than-legit-looking casino, to buy a cheese pretzel (Kaesebretzel) and a good tasting muffin.
I caught a cab to the main hospital gate, and had an interesting talk with an Iranian cab driver, who’s children have married either Americans or Germans, and he loves everyone. Having a conversation in German with an Iranian cabbie on the way to an American base was interesting and worthwhile I think.
After most of late morning and early afternoon in Landstuhl I headed back to Frankfurt. The next day I stayed in most the day writing and producing the Landstuhl story for air in Arizona Thursday.
The next morning I headed to Frankfurt airport for a piece on staying profitable in a troubled industry. On the way to the train station I bought a “Kurzstrecke” ticket for a short trip at a cost of 1,80–I had been told that ticket is all I need to get around. At the main train station men in bright orange vests were shaking down passengers exiting the train.
In Germany it’s known as Schwarzfahren…you’re riding without a ticket and they’ll get you. Despite my best attempts of explaining my situation, the not-so-courteous man pulled me aside and said my ticket wasn’t good enough, I went too far, and I owe him 40 Euros right now. I showed my Deutschland Pass and explained I needed to get to a train, that I tried to buy a correct ticket, that I’m a visitor with noble intentions. He said I owed him 40 Euros. I asked which ticket I needed if not the Kurzstrecke.
“Depends where you’re coming from. You owe me 40 Euros.”
I had to pay before I could leave, and I had interviews to do. I am still a little bitter. On the way back I spent 45 minutes studying the ticket machine looking for the correct ticket, and in a list of many places to travel to, none of my reference points were available. I finally asked a woman to help me, and she pointed to a button right above the Kurzstrecke button…the cost? 2,10.
That’s right…it cost me 40 Euros because I paid 30 cents less than I should’ve. I’m not sure why, but Frankfurt isn’t on the top of my list of great places.