2009-01-10 48 8
The hash is at the end of the town Muggensturm in the Rhine valley, between Rastatt and Karlsruhe.
I had to go to Heidelberg. Muggensturm isn't exactly on the usual or fastest way there, but, although the detour through the Black Forest and via Rastatt takes a couple of extra hours, there may be reasons to take it. Be it that there are some tariff inconsistencies one can take advantage to save a few Euros on the fare, be it that the landscape the train goes through isn't just beautiful but more like overwhelming, or be it that there is a hashpoint on the way to collect. Anyway, all three out of these three are a definite plus, so the decision wasn't difficult to make.
To get to Heidelberg the cheapest way from here, you need four tickets. The problem isn't to work out the optimal combination, it is to buy them, as none of them are sold at another point than the station from where they are valid, and they all have a limited validity of between two and four hours from the time you buy them. So the real challenge is to plan the schedule so that you never get stuck for too long in case that buying the next ticket lets you miss the train, and never exceed the validity time before reaching the next section.
The first ticket would be valid via Rottenburg to a station in the middle of nowhere named Eyach. Until recently, this was the only point on the route where you could buy the second ticket. These trains go in alternating intervals of 30 and 90 minutes, and getting off, running to the ticket machine, buying a ticket and jumping back on the same train rarely works out, so it's definitely a good idea to choose a train where the next one comes after 30 minutes. Anyway, a few days before there was a change according to which it should be possible to buy the ticket already halfway at Rottenburg, so taking advance chances there could be an idea. There was a bus going there in time to catch the train.
I came running to the bus station a comfortable two minutes before planned departure, entered the bus, went to the ticket machine and entered the code for Eyach, then pressed the button for a single ticket. Choice not possible. Eh? This machine did sell tickets to Eyach since 2002. Anyway, the driver also sells them... Single ticket to Eyach, please, payable with debit card (there's a discount for that, and I was running low on cash anyway). Where? Eyach. Eeh? Where's that? It's in the Rottenburg zone, just give me a ticket to Rottenburg then, it's the same. Ok, that I know. Card not readable. Eh? Damn machines! My card is ok, I use it all the time! Ok, to get the discount you can either pay with the bank debit chip - or with an own debit card of the traffic companies. I have that. I just never use it. Try that, please. Not enough balance. Yeah, guessed so, hasn't been charged up since 2001. But in this bus, the driver can charge it with a minimum charge of 10 €. Hmm, I still have 10 €. Ok, charge it up, Scotty. Now I really was low on cash.
At Rottenburg I had twenty minutes to get from the bus station to the train station, which is a comfortable walk. Or a hasty walk and get some food on the way. Or... a hasty walk and visit an ATM on the way. Since food doesn't solve a cash shortage, but cash is a good helper to solve a food shortage, it seemed reasonable to visit the ATM first. Anyway, I got to the station in time, and the recent reprogramming of the ticket machines had been successful, so I could skip the intermezzo at Eyach this time and go straight up into the warm mountains.
Yes, warm. It was around -2°C at 800m above sea level. You don't call that warm? Usually I won't, either, but it had been nearly -15° down in the valley this morning. And compared to that... -2 is warm.
What more is there to tell? Maybe that the ice in the river bed of the Murg made an unbelievable view from the train. That the third ticket was easier to get as only one out of three available machines was out of order. That I met several traditionally costumed groups on their way to a Fasnet parade (local kind of carnival). I also got some food, and strange faces from seat neighbours when reentering the train (If I just happen to know that the train will wait for a connection the next few minutes, and there is a bakers shop in the station building, why shouldn't I go and get something from them?).
Next stop: Muggensturm. The train stops only on request.
So this is Muggensturm. The name of this little town could be translated as gnats storm, so maybe it is a good idea to go there in winter when the gnats sleep. That is, if it's a good idea to go there at any time. Anyway, it may not be a bad idea either, as it will probably usually not be an idea at all.
After a good ten minutes walk down the main road, I reached the location. The google maps picture was very blurred and probably not very accurate, the GPS couldn't really decide on a spot. It pointed clearly into one house, then to the other side of the road, then back and into the neighbouring house. Once or twice I got it to confess that the point I happened to be at that moment was right, then it tried to send me somewhere over a fence. Averaging all measurings, it probably was on the yard left of the house shown on the picture, so I walked in there shortly to reach them. Since the neighbours were definitely awake and maybe looking (I saw them), I didn't make any photos on the property, though.
There hadn't been any open shops along the way. But there was that nearby church - and as roman catholic churches usually are open to the public all day and have some display of booklets, pamphlets, candles and other merchandise for sale, they are often a good place to find a postcard. Too bad they had only inside views and thus nothing suitable for a hashcard.
I came back to the station in good time to catch the next train further north. And I never bought my fourth ticket as where I should have bought it, all available ticket machines were out of service and the ticket office was closed for good. So that's how automatization saves you money.