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TRAVEL TIPS

Please read carefully and digest!!!

Get used to the 24 hour clock in Europe: they do not use anything else! Understand what departure at ‘15.30’ means!

Railway stations have large BLUE electronic signboards showing each train arriving (Ankunft) and departing (Abfahrt), from where it is coming (aus, von) or going to (nach), the platform (Gleis) at which it arrives/departs, whether it is on time, or exactly how late it is running. German trains USED to be known for their punctuality: times have changed!
Timetable posters at stations are in white (listing extensive details of arrivals) and yellow (listing departures).
Trains carry Destination and Route Boards on the side of carriages, often with the name of the train, and not all carriages may have the same final destination.
Platforms are divided into sections, A through E, and a display case acts as the locator for each carriage for long-distance trains - they also show which carriages are smoking/non-smoking (Raucher or Nichtraucher), 1st or 2nd Class, and the destination for each carriage - with one final destination, as some carriages may be dropped off at intermediate points.
Inside the train, compartments in a carriage may be in two sections - 1st and 2nd Class, Smoking and Non-Smoking - and the windows have a diagram of the seating, showing whether a seat is reserved, and the portion of the journey for which it is reserved. Some trains have compulsory seat booking.
If changing trains during the journey, you must know at which platform (Gleis - pronounced "Glice") you are arriving and from which platform your connecting train departs. This is where it helps to have not too much baggage, not too heavy, and most definitely wheeled. German Rail (Deutsche Bundesbahn or DB) used to be known for its efficiency and punctuality: it has been noted in recent years however, that trains may be very late, so the connection may be missed and an alternative must be found. Conductors and porters are very helpful, informative and speak English.
In the Sauerland a free bus pass allows unlimited trips anywhere within that region for the length of your stay.
In Vienna you will receive the 72-hour Vienna Card, which entitles you to use public transportation at no charge throughout your 3-day stay and also gives discounts to various museums and other places of interest.
In historic Bacharach it is a 2-minute walk to the Rhine, where you can sit on a bench and watch the river cruisers and barges pass by all day long, enjoy snacks with a glass of wine, even enjoy a wine festival in autumn. This walled town is built entirely of slate - including the walls of houses - and is all but indestructible! In September you can buy the young wine mixed with pure grape juice (Federweisse) right in the grocery store - but the bottles are not corked! Castles are everywhere on the Rhine.
All Meals during travel days are the responsibility of the traveller. Other meals provided as indicated.
In rural Germany in particular a HotelPension, Pension or Gasthof is the standard for accommodation, offering a high standard of cleanliness and comfort. Rooms are often limited however, so groups sometimes have to be split between one or more locations. In some places, Federbetten (feather-beds) are still used - these look like a mattress placed on top of the bed, but are extremely warm and comfortable. Breakfast is usually a buffet breakfast. Accommodation may vary according to availability.
Wines are described in German as trocken (dry), süß (sweet) or halb-trocken (medium sweet). There are two basic qualities: Tafelwein (simple table-wine) and Qualitätswein (certified as typical of a specific region). Further distinctions made are: Perlwein (sparkling Tafel or Qualitätswein); Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (guaranteed uncut with other wines); Kabinett (fine, light wine from fully ripened grapes); Spätlese (made from fully ripened grapes); Auslese (select, hand picked grapes); Beerenauslese (over ripened, mouldy, but great-tasting grapes); Eiswein (ice-wine, made from berries of at least Beerenauslese quality); Trockenbeerenauslese (dried up, raisin-like grapes, honey-sweet). Federweisse is fresh grape juice mixed with the new wine - in an uncorked bottle, available for only a very short period of time, often in local grocery stores. Sekt is champagne-type wine and is further categorized by region or certification. Hauswein is the restaurant or vintner’s own brand. Try the different Gasthäuser owned by the vintners themselves, who sell their own wines as well as provide first class meals.
Europe in general tends to be casual - travel light: bring as little clothing as possible, good-wearing, easily washed, a raincoat, umbrella, runners or walking shoes, an electrical adapter set - Europe uses 220-240v not 110v so you will also need a converter if your equipment cannot be switched to a different voltage range - some shavers today automatically adjust to the voltage being used, but make sure you check anything you are going to bring well before departure. Don’t forget to bring your camera, with sufficient film (carry film in a lead pouch, available at any camera store, for air travel, to prevent x-ray infiltration at airports!).
Use Euros only for cash.

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