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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Last train to Koblenz by Sam M. '07

If I get back by 7:30, I don't need a reservation.

DID YOU KNOW? GERMANY EDITION According to one of my labmates, authorities have set up a row of big-screen projectors in Berlin spanning an entire kilometer to help dedicated fans watch World Cup soccer.

Now, I was all ready to write an entry last night on how some cities in Germany are, to my untrained chemical engineering eyes, simply miracles of urban planning and public transportation. Ling ’07, Bao ’07 and I visited two such cities this weekend–Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. Each city, although smaller than Boston, is serviced by a vast network of streetcars and subways

With almost no effort, the three of us were able to venture out into the unknown city of Stuttgart with complete and utter confidence. Free machines in all the train stations make up a personal itinerary for you listing all necessary transfers and the track numbers of all the trains, so arriving there was no problem. Once there, we used a handy city map and made our way to three separate landmarks within the space of two hours. The first of these landmarks, the Mercedes tower, even had an exhibit on the sixth level detailing how the city is going to be redesigned over the next 21 years to make it even better and more efficient. I hope that the Sistine Chapel is this stunning.

The second of these landmarks, the Stuttgart TV tower, was kind of lame and is not worth your 4 вВђ, but did provide a pretty nice view of the black forest and alps.

But the third of these landmarks, the Mercedes-Benz Museum, rocked to an unbelievable extent. First of all, the exterior of the building is just a marvelous piece of architecture which will some day have an embedded picture right here in the entry. But the exhibits on the interior are just as fascinating, detailing such diverse topics as the internal combustion engine (Course 2), safety laws (Course 17), traffic patterns (Course 1), and the globalization of world economies (Course 14), all through the lens of the automotive industry. I wish I had a whole day to spend there listening to the soothing voice of the octalingual computerized museum tour guide tell me about the social impact of the gullwing design in the 1950’s. But, alas, we had a mere four hours there, barely finding time to check out the vintage 1920’s cars that could go 200 miles per hour.

Also, did you know that there are race trucks as well as race cars? I did not.

But I digress.

So, giddy with automotive excitement, we got back to Bao’s apartment in Karlsruhe at around 7:30 PM, expecting to take a train back to Bayer in Leverkusen and get back by around 2 AM at the latest. After all, it had only taken us 4 hours for Ling and I to get to Bao’s apartment from Leverkusen.

Um, no. It turns out that, according the the handy and infallible Bahn website, there are no non-express trains that leave from Karlsruhe to our connecting point of Koblenz between around 7 PM and 12:15 AM. Furthermore, the 12:15 AM train was scheduled to reach Leverkusen at around 6:45 AM.

Well, dude, I’m in college; I’m not don’t have the money to take an express train. And I don’t have to meet my carpool for work until 7:30 AM. So, Schпњљпњљnes-Wochenende Ticket in hand, Ling ’07 took a nap through the Portugal-Angola game and set out to the Karlsruhe train station at 12:00 AM, while the evening was spread out against the sky, like a patient etherised upon a table.

Although this was the first kind of unpleasant experience I’ve had with the Bahn, which is usually impossibly punctual and tremendously discounted for group travel, I think I’m going to be a little suspicious of all future train travel here. Maybe I won’t even set my watch to official Bahn time anymore.

However, if nothing else, I think I’m even better prepared for The Amazing Race 13 now. Who wants to be my partner?!

3 responses to “Last train to Koblenz”

  1. I’ve heard there are some math classes that cover traffic flow, too.

  2. Eric Q '10 says:

    Dear Lord, you were in Karlsruhe?! That’s where I live…

    My parents work on a military base in Stuttgart, but I’ve been living here for the past 8 years because of a good international school, as the military high schools aren’t too grand. And yeah, the trams are pretty great here. At least, compared to the experiences I’ve had with the T in Boston…

    Anyways… Weird. At least to me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Was that a reference to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot?