Claus is a student on the master’s degree programme in technology-based business development and is on exchange in Munich, Germany, in the spring of 2022.
On a Friday morning in April Claus is sitting on train headed towards Hamburg. Two young Germans are occupying the seats facing him, and the three of them are chatting in half-English, half-German about what to see and do in Bavaria. Claus is on his way to Munich, where he will be taking a semester at the Technical University.
Stress-free train travel
There are several reasons why Claus has opted for the train for this long, border-crossing journey. Aside from being the most climate-friendly mode of transport, travelling from Aarhus to Munich by train does not take much longer than making the same journey by plane or car. In addition, the cost of travelling by plane versus train is more or less the same, provided that you buy your train tickets ahead of time. “And the train is a comfortable way of travelling, I find. Most often you are able to immerse yourself in a book or a film for many hours at a time, without having to think about the next change or other disruptions,” Claus explains.
The journey from Aarhus to Munich is almost non-stop, with only one change in Hamburg. The 45-minute wait until the next train is spent browsing the station’s cafés, shops and restaurants, where Claus buys a ‘brötchen’ (sandwich, ed.) and a coffee.
The second and final leg of the trip is less comfortable. The train from Hamburg to Munich is full, and Claus has no seat reservation.
In a survey conducted by Green Erasmus in 2022, 94% of students said that they are very concerned about climate change. In the same survey, 75% of exchange students said they had travelled by plane – rather than greener alternatives – to and from their exchange destination.
So he sits in the corridor, on top of his suitcase, until the train stops in Hannover, where many passengers alight the train and seats are free once again.
As darkness falls on the snow-blanketed Bavarian landscape, the train suddenly slows down. Through loudspeakers, the train conductor informs passengers that, due to the train in front of them experiencing a technical error, it will be necessary to drive with reduced speed the rest of the way to Munich.
A very Bavarian welcome
Claus’ train pulls into Munich’s central station at 10pm, an hour later than expected. At the railway station, however, tiredness and irritation vanish as quickly as the foam on a 'weissbier' (wheat beer, ed.), when Claus is picked up by his landlords – a cheerful, elderly married couple, who take him to a 'bierstube', a bar that serves food.
On a Friday evening, Claus washes the long journey from Aarhus down with a pint of German lager in good company.