how to travel in Germany for free

Derek and I look forward to watching the Olympics every couple of years. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter: we’re into it. This year, especially, we’ve been rooting for Germany to win gold, but probably not for the reason you expect. Yes, it’s fun to root for the “home” team (especially when they have such fun medal stand outfits), but perhaps the bigger (more selfish) reason is because when Derek and I bought our discount cards for the German rail line, Deutsche Bahn, they were running a special promotion that any time the German team won a gold medal, Gold Card holders would be able to travel for free on many DB trains around the country the following day. So even though our schedules are pretty busy to begin with, we decided to seize the day last week and fit in a couple (admittedly quick) visits to cities that weren’t on our original agenda. 


On Tuesday, we ventured to Magdeburg, a city about an hour west of Berlin that was the seat of Emperor Otto I for much of his reign (he’s buried there, too). It’s on the banks of the Elbe River and it celebrated it’s 1200th birthday a few years ago. (Twelve. Hundred! And I thought I was feeling old at 30!*) Our expectations were low (evidently a good life strategy, actually) and we didn’t know much about the town, but we had a great time and actually didn’t spend a dime the whole afternoon (although we definitely would have had we had more time).


We left Leipzig right after lunch, arrived in Magdeburg a couple hours later, and immediately walked out to the Elbauenpark, which felt just enough like an abandoned amusement park to scratch Derek’s itch of visiting one. It had a high ropes course as well as a lot of random, overgrown “exhibits” that we couldn’t quite figure out, but it was really fun wandering around.

photo 2

Entry was free until the end of February, but that also meant we weren’t allowed to climb the Millennium Tower (the white cone, and my new blog header, above), which would have been awesome.

ephoto 2

We walked back into town by way of several of the famous churches (one has been destroyed and rebuilt 4 times in its history).


This thing (namely, the Magdeburg Cathedral) was massive. Just take a look at Derek standing next to it:


It is, in fact, the highest church building in Eastern Germany.**

Our last stop was the building by Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser below, known as (quick multiple choice test):

A. The Green Citadel of Magdeburg

B. The Pink House

C. The Blue Castle of Otto’s City

ephoto 5

Answer: A. The Green Citadel of Magdeburg. Obviously.

With the sun setting and a friend making dinner for us in Leipzig, we left Magdeburg, not knowing if we’d be able to make it back, but both definitely wishing we could have spent more time there (specifically, visiting a museum dedicated to a different Otto: von Guericke, a scientist from Magdeburg who was known for his discoveries with vacuums***,  and a contemporary art museum in an old monastery).IMG_4924

Our heartfelt thanks to the German Olympic team for making this outing possible.

*Not really. See this recent post.

**I don’t know, but this feels like a baseball stat to me in that it’s super specific and therefore not really all that impressive. You know, this hitter is the only one to have 3 RBIs in a July game west of the Mississippi. It’s like they just need filler for the announcers (or in the case of the Magdeburg Cathedral, for the Rough Guide to Germany page for the city). Nonetheless, the cathedral was pretty big.

***Not those vacuums – he lived in the 1600s, after all. (Also, a photo of the museum, which has been integrated into some of the city’s original fortresses on the Elbe River, is the second photo in this post. At least from the outside, it’s a really cool combination of old and new.)



Filed under Germany, place, Travel, Uncategorized

3 responses to “how to travel in Germany for free

  1. Larry Brown

    Now I know why I’m such a happy person. . . I’m a Dane! Love, mom

  2. Pingback: It’s like a whole miniature world! | wert and art

  3. Too funny. I got the Bahncard too, didn’t get to use it though, but the sales pitch worked on me. 🙂
    Good for you that you made a day of it.

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