Saturday, October 20, 2007


Well, the Betriebsausflug was actually very nice! We walked partway up the Heiligenberg from Neuenheim, then continued north through the hills, with great views over the Rheinebene (the plains around the Rhine) - the photo on the right, for example. I got to know the people I already knew a little better - but failed to recruit anyone for pub quiz, because it's on Mondays. They told me I should throw party at my house on Friday with my own pub quiz and then they would go. Argh.

We were to take the Strassenbahn (tram) back to Heidelberg from Schriesheim after coffee at a cafe there. We thought we could buy our tickets on the tram, but once we got on we realized that we couldn't. So, we had a choice - ride without a ticket, or get out to buy one at the machine and risk waiting for the next train (the driver was having a quick smoke).

Riding without a ticket is easily possible because no ticket is required to physically enter a station or a train. But, you may get caught riding without a ticket by inspectors. Riding without a ticket is called Schwarzfahren - or, in direct translation, "black riding" (sort of the same use of "black" as in "black market"). Most trains and stations have signs warning against it, and the fine is around 40 EUR if you are caught. You are also berated right on the train in front of anyone if it happens.

If this system was used in an American city, I'm not sure it would be effective, but apparently it works fairly well here. When we realized we couldn't buy tickets on the train, people looked truly apprehensive about it, even though I have never seen a ticket inspector on the Strassenbahn in any city I've rode in. Some people had tickets already (like a school-provided one). Of those of us who didn't, three of us got out to try to buy one before the train left. I'm such a goody-two-shoes, for one thing. For the other, I didn't want to get berated on the train in front of all my coworkers - although I guess some of them would be getting it too.

The first guy to get to the machine was a German coworker who I don't know very well. I tried to get him to purchase all three tickets at once, but it either wasn't possible or he just ignored me. (Actually I had to show him how to use the machine...haha) So, he got his, and as it was printing, we saw the driver put out his cigarette. He ran back to the train. Now the other two of us really had to choose - run back to the train without a ticket in plain sight of the driver, who now knows we definitely don't have one? (And probably doesn't care, actually, but...) Or miss it?

The other guy ran back. I stood there alone at the ticket machine and watched the train pull away. Argh. Luckily it was not a long wait but I'm kind of wondering if I look like the biggest nerd right now, or what :) I know that the train wasn't inspected, so I would have been fine.

I actually have ridden the bus a couple of times without a ticket when I really wanted to catch a train at the station in Mainz and couldn't spare the time to buy the ticket. It was only a couple of blocks to the station so I risked it. So maybe I'm not the goodiest-two-shoes around. Maybe just second place.


  1. Nice Schwarzfahren story.

    A fellow in our congregation is a controller on the buses here in Düsseldorf and surrounding areas. He says it is a huge problem - people riding without paying. I can't remember the numbers, but it seemed like a lot when he told me about it and it definitely raises ticket prices for those who pay.

    So, good for you for not riding without paying.

  2. I guess I'm the number one goody two shoes - I've never fahren schwarz in my life!

  3. I loved your photo as I live just near where you were walking and do a hike almost daily on those trails.

    Nice to meet you Heidelbergerin from Laura, the Ladenburgerin.

  4. Would they have done it if it were on Tuesday? Is it weeknights they object to? I'm glad to hear the trip was ok.

  5. They do check tickets here around Heidelberg. It's just that it's pretty much not a very regular thing. About twice per month, in the Heidelberg part of the network. They usually only catch like one or two people per checked train load, so i guess the system really works. RNV of course always states that they lose out on something like 1.5 million euro in revenue. Not really much, considering they ferry around 160 million passengers per year.
    Never in my life got checked on a OEG train (which would be the one from Schriesheim), but i know they apparently use surprise checks by plainclothes people suddenly combing the entire train.

  6. Gardner: I have a strange respect for trust-based systems...somehow it feels worse to take advantage of them.

    Martina: Go you! :)

    Laura: There are so many beautiful views around here, aren't there?

    Mary: Tuesday might be better - fewer days left in the week to get through. I'm sure the chances of getting people would increase with every day later in the week I tried. But I don't know of any bars that do pub quiz on days other than Monday!

    Kato: Wow, so few people without tickets - that's really good!!

  7. Oh gosh golly. Only the Netherlands has a bigger problem with free riders. I've seen quite a few inspectors.

    A few years ago, I read that technically, even an Ordnungswidrigkeit like riding w/o a ticket could pose problems for one's residency permits - even for a Niederlassungserlaubnis.

    The funny thing is that even plainclothed, Bahn employees on duty are recognizable from hundreds of meters down the platform. I imagine that has something to do with how few people are caught.


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