The German railways have this offer on the weekends they call the Happy Weekend Ticket
). (The German link has a lot more information. For €35, you and four companions can travel anywhere in Germany in second class on the local network. That's a lot of trains. They're relatively slow, but it's still Germany, so they run pretty efficiently.
On Sunday, I decided to see if I could get to Cologne by local train. Many years ago, when I was still a student, I changed trains in Cologne's main station. I had a short layover, and I decided I'd go look at the cathedral
, which is right on top of the station.
Anyway, that time, years ago, I got as far as the cathedral tower's ticket window. I had a quick conversation with the ticket clerk, and came to the conclusion that I just didn't have enough time to climb the five hundred or so steps to the top. So I turned around and walked back down to the station, figuring I'd be back later in the trip, because I was in Europe for months on a rail pass. I'd surely come back through Cologne with more time than a half-hour layover.
As it turned out, I didn't, and I went home that summer not having climbed to the top.
Years went by. Every time I went past the cathedral on the train I thought about it, but I was always just passing though, often without even stopping. But you can hardly miss it when you go through Cologne's main station.
This time, I looked at the timetables--the German railway has a nifty timetable site
--and that if I left early in the morning I could get to Cologne and get back in the same day, all on the one €35 ticket.
It's a nice view. I didn't have a camera with me, but here are a couple of example photos from other people:
On the way back, it worked out that I could give myself a nice train ride along the Rhine, which I'd done before, years ago, but always on an express train. As it turns out, taking the local may be better for sightseeing, because you stop at every little town, and you don't go very fast between them, so you can enjoy the scenery for longer.
(Some more photos I didn't take:)
The white castle in the middle of the river is Burg Pfalzgrafenstein
, a toll castle on Falkenau island.
It was a nice way to spend a Sunday, riding a train along the Rhine at dusk. I decided that at some point I should come back with buckets of money and take a river cruise, or rent a car and visit all the castles and stay at some of these inns. Or both.