Germany - description, impressions
First of all, Germany is very different.
Even to me, who never knew a German language, it is clear that the language in different parts of the country is quite different.
Absolutely dissimilar architecture in different regions. Those not some differences, but just a completely different style.
Let's talk about the stereotypes of our understanding of the German way of life.
Accuracy is present. Transport runs strictly according to the schedule, not only trains, but in general the whole, including urban. At the bus stops there are digital displays, like at the railway stations (only smaller, of course), where it is written, what are the nearest buses when they arrive. And they really drive up, minute to minute.
With cleanliness a little worse. Garbage on the streets is present. Perhaps, actually the Germans, are really neat to the point of pedantry, but in today's Germany there live far not only the Germans. In addition to the Turks, there are often Muslims from other countries, including women wrapped up to the eyes.
By the way, accuracy have the other side of the coin. If in Germany on Sunday evening you suddenly see a working shop - almost certainly inside fusses some Turkish woman. A good German can not be forced so rudely to break the rules. On Sunday evening everyone is supposed to rest and prepare for a new working week. :)
Of course, it is foolish to tie some labels to the whole people, especially to the whole population of the country. Anyway, people are all different. Even for the short time that I stayed in Germany, I saw also late train and banal disorganization and many other things that do not fit into stereotypes.
Speaking about what is common to the whole of Germany, it is impossible to ignore transport, especially railway transport - trains, tickets and in general, everything concerning the railway is the same throughout Germany. The pleasure is not very cheap (a 40-minute trip in a class 2 car costs about 10 euros), but it's convenient and comfortable. The railway network is very well developed and can be reached by train almost anywhere. Therefore, it makes sense to talk about this in more detail.
Railway transport in Germany.
Tickets are more convenient and profitable (it is more advantageous, though, only 1-2 euros) to buy in special ticket machines. But vending machines sell tickets only for domestic routes. If you plan to travel outside Germany, you need to contact Reisenbureau and buy a ticket from the cashier.
At each more or less large station there is a special counter or booth on which something like INFO is written. They speak English, you can turn to them if you have any questions. It's free.
As for the route. An extensive railway network does not at all mean that you can get to any point without any transplants. Rather, on the contrary. Special inconveniences, however, it does not deliver. In the same machine, you can print the trip route (and it is not even necessary to buy a ticket), where it will be written, at what time on which station you will have to go, on what platform to go and when the train arrives for which you need to sit down. Trains run quite often, I have never waited more than 20 minutes.
Types of trains in Germany as the speed increases (and prices, of course):
SB (S-Bahn) - city trains, incl. Metro.
RB (Regionalbahn) - suburban trains from the city center to the suburbs, no further.
RE (Regional-Express) - intercity trains. Here, as in all the following types of trains, there are already cars of Classes 1 and 2. Wagons, as a rule, are two-storied - on the second floor there is 1 class, which differs by a smaller number of seats and, correspondingly, by a larger space, and also by a factor of one and a half by the cost.
IC and EC (Intercity and Eurocity) - these trains run between the major cities of Germany and travel abroad. They make few stops and develop a high speed.
ICE (Intercity-Express) - are used, as a rule, for trips to the capitals of neighboring countries. They develop a speed of up to 320 km./hour. For example, you can drive from Cologne to Brussels in less than 2 hours (and on IC for 3.5 hours, moreover, with a transfer at the border). And the tickets are not much more expensive than on IC.
The ticket is bought strictly for a certain type of train. You can not buy a ticket, where trains are indicated, for example RB and RE, go to IC (it often happens that one route can be traveled by different trains). Well, you can, of course, but be prepared to pay a rather big fine. Controllers go almost always.
Tickets are valid for a certain period (usually one day) and are not tied to a train departing at a certain time - you can sit on any one.
Purchase a train ticket in Germany.
Vending machines for ticket are multilingual, there is an English interface. The process is more or less understandable, if you do not pay attention to different so-called. "land" tickets" and other programs for preferred passengers.
The easiest option is a ticket from the station where you are located (it is substituted by default) to the desired city, one way. We choose where we actually go and the time of the trip. By default, the nearest trains are offered. The screen displays a list of travel options (with a different number of transfers and travel time, different types of trains and cost per item). Poke into the right option and pay. Cash and cards are accepted. Be prepared for the fact that if the ticket costs a couple of euros, mashine will not take more then five euros banknote. So, if you are going from the airport to the city by train (which is usually the most convenient option), it will not hurt to have a trifle with you. There is nowhere to exchange large bills - you will poke your money into the machine until some kind German does not sacrifice you a two-euros coin. That's the way it was with me :)
Land and other special tickets can also be used, but they need to be dealt with separately and in advance. They give tangible savings, provided that you fall under the rules of this program. For example, the four of us bought a land ticket for a group of 2 people, which allows to travel anywhere within the federal state for one day on a certain type of train (IC) and carry one child for free with one adult. Details on all tickets can be read on the website of the German Railways bahn.com. There you can check the proposed route. By the way, the process is very similar to how it happens in the ticket machine. On the same site you can buy a ticket in advance (and then just print and take with you), but the meaning is only in the case of some sales. Sometimes it is much cheaper, but, again, you need to carefully read the conditions. Very often, large discounts are offered for a certain train at a certain time - for example, in case of being late for the arrival of the train, the ticket can be thrown out.
What I liked - in Germany is very developed domestic tourism. Almost everywhere I have visited, most of the organized groups with the guide are German. In addition, on weekends from cities a huge stream of people in the neighborhood pours out. Groups of young people, pensioners, families with children, who with bicycles, who on foots - go by train to a specially designated place to look at some attraction or simply climb through the mountains and get some fresh air.
The main German alcohol - of course, beer. There is a popular saying "the best German beer is Czech" :), but, in general, there are very good brands. In different regions of the country their preferences.
Not all Germans know what is schnapps. :) Maybe, of course, I somehow mispronounced this word, but I could find schnapps only in Austria. It is usually fruity, of different tastes.