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Off The Crossbar: Germany national team travels by train for a change

On the road, I mean, on the rails again...

The German national team took a rather unorthodox trip to Leipzig this morning.

Normally, players will fly long distances, and drive short enough distances. Not this time, though. Today, Hansi Flick and his team took the ICE from Frankfurt to Leipzig. No, we aren’t talking about frozen water, and we’re certainly not talking about Val Kilmer’s character from the Top Gun movies. ICE stands for InterCity Express, Germany’s high speed rail system. Yes, Team Deutschland traveled by train.

The move came after the DFB came under accusation for flying a short distance of 200km from Stuttgart to Basel back in 2020. The flight was criticized for being environmentally harmful, and prompted the DFB to rethink their travel methods. In the end, they settled on the train, which is the most eco-friendly way you can travel. As a matter of fact, Deutsche Bahn recently swapped their signature red stripe on certain ICE trains to green to advocate their low-carbon, eco-friendly ways.

Germany has one of the best and most extensive rail systems in Europe. They were one of the first ever countries to develop a high speed rail system, and are currently running trains that can reach up to 330km/h, or over 200mph for anyone unfamiliar with the metric system. You can hop on an ICE train from pretty much every major city in the country, and some services even extend beyond the border to the likes of Belgium, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands.

An early morning ICE train at Frankfurt Flughafen station.

However, their main problem lies not in their trains, but in their timekeeping. Many travelers are left seething by 30 minute delays on a regular basis, sometimes even longer. See, Deutsche Bahn is infamous for squeezing in more trains than the tracks can handle, which results in hefty delays. What’s more, due to the less than ideal track conditions, a lot of ICE trains are prohibited from reaching their top speeds, which is why the latest ICE model, ICE 4, was deliberately (and more cheaply) designed to only reach 250kmh.

KTX-Sancheon: Korea’s flagship train model.

Now, Frankfurt and Leipzig are about 300 kilometers (186 miles) apart. This journey takes about three hours via ICE. The fact that such a short journey takes three hours by high speed train says a lot about the track conditions. If such a journey was to be made in Korea, it would take just under two hours by KTX or SRT (which stand for Korea Train eXpress and Super Rapid Train, respectively).

However, three hours on a train isn’t really a big deal. This writer speaks from experience: ICE trains are quite comfortable, even in second class. Jonas Hofmann in particular was happy about the rail journey. “I really, really like to travel by train,” he said. “You can get things done that would otherwise fall by the wayside. It’s a nice get-together, you can have a good conversation. That’s totally fine.” This writer echoes his sentiments. There’s just something very charming and reassuring about being on a train and watching the countryside fly by your window, all the while the mighty machine that’s carrying you pounds the metal rails underneath with all its might.

As aforementioned, there is no means of long-distance travel that is safer or cleaner than taking the train. Perhaps one day, you can put your car keys and passport aside and go to the nearest train station for your next getaway. You’ll be doing our planet a huge favor.

Disclaimer: All separate photos used in the article were taken by the writer.

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