Train travel through Germany this summer is getting a huge boost: Officials have introduced a new 9-Euro-Ticket hop-on-hop off program. Part of a government plan to help consumers with rising energy costs, the new fare is valid for travel for one month on all local and regional trains, as well as buses, throughout the whole of Germany. Though the unlimited ticket excludes popular Intercity Express trains, you can still travel far and wide across the country for a mere €9 until the end of August, when the offer ends for the year.
Earlier in July, I decided to book a ticket to explore the charming medieval towns and foothills of the Bavarian Alps located along Germany’s Romantic Road. Here’s how I pulled off the four-day trip for just €9 in train fare.
Day 1: Munich to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Just before 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, I set off from Munich in a near-empty carriage. I’ve packed light—my backpack fits comfortably overhead—following the wry advice on the train’s information screens to not “bring your double-bass” on-board during the 9-Euro-Ticket season. In a more crowded carriage after changing at Treuchtlingen, I hear a few complaints about Ausflüglers, the German word for day-trippers. But everyone on board is well-behaved. Distant churches with cupolas like onion bulbs and a freight train full of Audis whip by my window.
By late morning, I’m walking the cobblestone streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, 124 miles northwest of Munich. After a local pastry—a Schneeball, a nougat-flavored dough ball—I climb the town hall tower and look down at the red roofs of half-timbered houses enclosed by 14th-century walls. I duck into the cool of St. James’ Church to gaze on Tilman Riemenschneider’s 500-year-old wood carvings. After a turn around the walls, I go for a pub dinner of Käsespätzle, a fresh Bavarian pasta with cheese and crispy onions.
How to get there: From München Hbf (Munich Main Station), take the RB16 heading to Nürnberg and get off at Treuchtlingen (1hr 57 mins); change to the RB80 heading to Würzburg Hbf and get off at Steinach (1hr 6 mins); then change to the RB82 to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (15 mins).
Day 2: Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Dinkelsbühl to Nördlingen
The next morning, I’m on a bus to Dinkelsbühl, a couple of hours’ drive to the south, trundling past tumble-down barns and over-curated front lawns. The top floor of Dinkelsbühl’s history museum is dedicated to the Munich School painters who “rediscovered” the town 200 years after its near ruin in the Thirty Years’ War. While now an established stop on the Romantic Road, a local bookseller tells me that it’ll take more than the 9-Euro-Ticket to make up for the long decommissioned train line once directly connecting Dinkelsbühl to Rothenburg and Nördlingen. The bus service they replaced it with is a little patchy (I had to take two buses to get here), but I find them speedy and reliable, if not as comfortable as the trains.
I take another bus to Nördlingen, an hour to the south-east. Once I arrive, I make a twilight pilgrimage to Hexenfelsen, a dolomite block unearthed after the asteroid impact that, 14 million years ago, formed the crater in which Nördlingen sits today, and where a panel commemorates those burnt at the stake here during the 16th-century “witch craze.” I head back into town for a hearty plate of Maultaschen, which are ravioli-like parcels; these particular ones are stuffed with fried vegetables.