Traveling in Germany – Part 1 – How to Get There Without Going Insane

Traveling in Germany. This can be a nerve wracking experience for those who have never been outside of English speaking countries or overseas in general. It does not have to be. Americans’ misconception of this country is unbelievable. When I told family, friends, and various other people I was moving to this country I was faced with so many reactions and emotions. Most people thought I was crazy. I don’t know much of the German language, I’ve never lived in another country, and I’ve only traveled outside of the US to Canada, England, Scotland, and the British Virgin Islands.

I’ll admit I was a little (ok, a lot) nervous about moving there. My email stopped working two days before I left, making it nearly impossible to get in touch with my future boss to tell her what time I’d be arriving at the train station. I knew I was moving to a very small village where English wasn’t as wide spoken as in Munich or other big cities. I knew there were many things that could go wrong. My flight was from JFK to Dublin to Munich. I arrived at JFK 8 hours early with one 50 pound suitcase and one 80 pound suitcase. Remember those things. I’m living proof it’s possible to make it through airports, train stations, no English signs, etc, despite almost everything going wrong. The flights went as smooth as possible. JKF to Dublin was great, I had three seats to myself and no turbulence. I slept most of the 6 hour flight stretched out on those seats and woke up in time to watch the most amazing sunset as the plane was flying over the UK. I’m not sure I would have changed much about this. My tips here are to fly Aer Lingus because it’s super cheap, especially if you book a decent amount ahead of time, sleep on the flight if you can, and drink water (obviously).

Arriving in Dublin was uneventful. I got there around 5 or 6am and made it through security just fine, with an hour to spare before my next flight. Dublin took me straight to Munich. The flight was crowded and this is where I started hearing less English and more foreign. The flight attendant started making announcements in German first. I started to really worry about how the rest of the day was going to go as I still had to get to the train station and find my way to Ulm, a city roughly 20 minutes away from Urspring, the village I’d be living in. Landing and customs went well, a lot better than I thought they would. Technically I should have had a visa to enter the country, but I didn’t have time to get one beforehand. I entered the country as a tourist, making sure I had a return flight booked (that I wouldn’t use) so I could say I was just visiting. I also was ‘supposed to’ have paperwork showing I had sufficient funds to cover my trip. I did not have this paperwork, nor sufficient funds as I was staying a long time. I did, just in case, have a letter from my boss stating I would have accommodations and whatnot when I arrived. In the end I panicked for nothing. I showed the customs guy my passport, he stamped it, and said have a nice day. It took all of 45 seconds. If I had to give advice to other people doing this I would say just have the damned paperwork. It’s a lot less stress. Look it up online, it’s pretty easy to find.

My next huge challenge was the train system. Remember what I told you to remember? I have a total of 120 pounds of luggage and I’m traveling completely alone. I don’t know if my boss is going to be waiting for me at the train station in Ulm. I don’t know anything at this point. Thankfully the train station was in the airport, so no problems there. When I said I wanted to go to Ulm she asked which ticked I wanted. I opted for the cheapest one, which was a VERY stupid idea. The trip took hours and I had to change trains 3 times. I was exhausted from sleeping only 4 hours on the plane the night before and that 120 pounds was getting heavier and heavier. I went via Passau. Passau is something like 60 miles east of Munich. I lived probably 40 miles west of Munich. This paired with the slower regional trains I took was hell. I kept falling asleep and the guy checking the tickets had to wake me up a bunch of times. At a couple of the stations I had to go from platform 1 to platform 9 in three minutes, this is nearly impossible with luggage. There were only stairs to go underneath platforms. To add to the stress a couple stations didn’t have English signs like the airport did. I was so tired and so stressed at this point I could barely lift my luggage onto the train. Actually, I couldn’t lift my luggage at all. I managed to have someone help me each time, but it was close every single time. At one station where I had to go up and down a lot of stairs this really nice guy, who spoke no English, offered to help me carry my luggage. I must have looked terrible, he sure wasn’t in any shape to be carrying my luggage. He was an older, heavy-set guy, and my first hint that Germany would be a great place. At this point I was able to stumble through VERY basic German. I showed the guy my ticket, said something in garbled German, and he grabbed my heaviest bag and took me to the right place. I thanked a lot of Gods after that. To make this long story a little shorter, I made it to Ulm in one piece, but just barely.

My suggestions to someone else making this trip… buy the expensive ticket! Just do it. Trains are expensive in Europe and don’t try to save money when you have lots of luggage and no idea what you’re doing. Also, if you are moving there, pack as little as possible. I do not in any way shape or form recommend traveling with a 50 and 80 pound suitcase. They have H&M everywhere, if you need clothes they are cheap. Shampoo and other basics are cheap there as well, and seem to work much better than products sold in the US. I especially liked Haar Kur, some sort of conditioner. It cost 1 Euro and works better than anything I’ve ever used here. My point being is to leave everything possible in the US. I do recommend bringing your German language textbooks if you have them. They are harder to find there and will cost more. I had no trouble finding some English novels and whatnot at train stations. Familiar makeup and other things like that were easy to find as well.

My next post on this subject will cover more of the living aspects, rather than the travel aspects. Got any horror stories about moving abroad? Comment with it! Other people can definitely learn from these mistakes.

Safe and happy travels everyone!