As you know, I just came back from a 1.5 week visit to two major cities in Germany -- Hannover and Munich -- with a few suburbs and smaller cities in between. For the entire time I was in Germany, I didn't rely on 4-wheeled transportation. Meaning, I didn't rent a car. With everything I knew beforehand about Germany, I figured I could probably get around quite easily with just a train ticket and forego vehicular modes of transportation altogether. It turns out that that's precisely right.
Getting around Germany by rail is wonderful. I have so many great things to say and remember about the Deutsche Bahn system which stretches across nearly every part of Germany. The system incorporates trams, regional trains, inter-city express trains, and I believe even some freight trains. All of this travel done by cities and you pay by zone depending on your intended distance. It's quite good and affordable, not to mention extremely fast and efficient. Most of my travels were on the S Bahn, ICE express trains, and the U Bahn/city buses. The only real gripe I had was that there zoning system makes for quite a convoluted arrangement in ticket purchasing. It made me miss the single-fare-any-destination-possible of the NYC MTA. But that was it really. By all measurable standards, the Deutsche Bahn is above and beyond anything that is available in the United States. It makes Amtrak look miserable.
And on that note, it really made me wonder why the US doesn't have a transportation system like this? I mean, we already have the inter-state rail system set up. The only thing we're lacking is the right type of trains that can deliver the same comfort and speed as those in Germany and the infrastructure to adequately handle passenger and freight traffic on the same lines. With our focus on cars here in the US, I'm realizing more than ever that we've got it all backwards compared to our European friends. Wish our governments funneled more money and expertise into rail travel.