Karlsruhe was only the sixth German city to get CallBikes -- the others being Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main, Cologne and Stuttgart.
Before going to Karlsruhe for the big VT meeting from May 30th to June 1st, 2008, I had never used the CallBikes before -- for the simple reason that I never had a cell phone aka mobile phone. So now I have acquired one (aargh!), but don't try to call me or leave me a message on it because so far I am only using it to rent bicycles.
You know a bike is free if there is a blinking green light on it (blinking red means it's occupied). To rent it, you whip out your trusty cell phone and dial the number on the bike, including the four digit bike number at the end. Then a pleasant computer voice says if you want to rent bike number so-and-so, press 1. Then it tells you a four digit unlocking code for that particular bike. You hear the unlocking code twice, but if you miss it for some reason (like your stupid cell phone is acting up again) you can press 0 and a real person will come on the line and tell you again. Then you type the unlocking code into a little computer by the back wheel, pull out the lock and away you go.
When you are finished riding you lock the bike again and tell the little computer by the back wheel that you want to return the bike (by pressing "ja/yes"). Then it gives you another four digit code and reminds you to make another call on your cell phone. This time you have to type the four-digit returning code into the cell phone, and then you're done.
This might all sound a bit complicated, but it's really quite straightforward when you get the hang of it. Personally I had more problems with my "new" cell phone (new for me, but in fact not a very new model) than I did with the CallBike procedure.
There are two systems for CallBikes in Germany:
Karlsruhe and four other cities are on the "flex" system, meaning you can rent a bike wherever you find one that is free, and leave it at any intersection within the city center when you are done with it.
Stuttgart, on the other hand, uses the "fix" system, meaning that you can rent or return a bike only at one of the fifty fixed pick-up points scattered throughout the city.
One crucial advantage of the "fix" system is that the first half hour is free, as in Paris and Lyon.
With the "flex" system you start paying from the first minute, in fact from the moment you dial the number of the bike you want to rent, before you even press 1 to confirm.
The cost for these bikes is six cents per minute if you have a rail card (as I do) or eight cents per minute without. My seven rides in Karlsruhe cost me EUR 9.78 which I think is roughly what I would have paid for the same journeys by tram or bus.
But in Stuttgart six of my seven rides would have been free, since they were under 30 minutes. Altogether I would have paid EUR 0.12 in Stuttgart, because one of my rides lasted 32 minutes, so I would have paid for the last two minutes at six cents each.
Either way, I can highly recommend the CallBikes for short rides around the city center. Whatever the cost, it's much more fun (and healthier) to ride around town on a bicycle -- much the best way to see a city!
Update 2014: The city of Karlsruhe has changed bike sharing systems as of 2014. Instead of renewing its contract with DB Call-a-Bike, the city has signed a new contract with the competing service NextBike, which now offers bikes in Karlsruhe under the new brand name Fächerrad.
Second photo: CallBike number 0133.
Third photo: A row of CallBikes in front of the main railroad station in Karlsruhe.
Fourth photo: Another CallBike near the station. Maybe I was just lucky, but I never had any trouble finding a bike when I needed one.
In 1999 and 2002 we lived in Weisenbach 50km southeast from Karlsruhe. During four days every morning we went to Wildpark Stadium by our car to see Bundesiegerzuchtshau and every evening came back Weisenbach.
We hadn’t a navigator in that time but the current Google navigator gives the following way which is the same we used when we were there.
1. Head northeast on Gaisbachstraße toward Fuchswiesenweg 300 m
2. Turn right onto Kelterstraße 100 m
3. Turn right to stay on Kelterstraße 60 m
4. Take the 1st left toward Hauptstraße/B462 52 m
5. Turn left onto Hauptstraße/B462 Continue to follow B462 19.4 km
6. Turn right to merge onto A5 toward Karlsruhe 23.1 km
7. Take exit 44-Karlsruhe-Durlach for B10 toward Karlsruhe/Stutensee 800 m
8. Turn right onto Durlacher Allee/B10 Continue to follow Durlacher Allee 1.6 km
9. Turn right onto Tullastraße 190 m
10. Make a U-turn at Gerwigstraße 210 m
11. Turn right onto Durlacher Allee 900 m
12. Durlacher Allee turns right and becomes Bertholdstraße 110 m
13. Turn left onto Bernhardusplatz 67 m
14. Turn left onto Kapellenstraße 50 m
15. Slight right onto Kaiserstraße 550 m
16. Turn right onto Waldhornstraße 300 m
17. Turn left onto Schloßplatz 550 m
18. Turn left onto Schloßplatz/Waldstraße 72 m
19. Take the 1st right onto Hans-Thoma-Straße 13 m
20. Take the 1st right to stay on Hans-Thoma-Straße 350 m
21. Continue onto Willy-Brandt-Allee 1.0 km
22. Turn right onto Adenauerring Destination will be on the right 1.5 km
You can watch my 2 min 22 sec Video Karlsruhe on the way to Wildpark stadion out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.Related to:
- Road Trip
Karlsruhe Welcome Card
For my 3-day stay I bought the Karlsruhe Welcome Card for € 9,50. There is a dense tram system in Karlsruhe and although the city isn't that large, it saves a lot of time to do stretches with the tram.
The Welcome Card gives free and unlimited transportation for local train, bus, and tram. The card is valid for 3 days. Additionally you get a voucher booklet. Now here's where it becomes interesting... The booklet contains 24 vouchers, which give discounts on museum entry and freebies like an espresso at Brasserie Weinbrenner, a free ride on the Standseilbahn in Durlach, free entrance to the Prinz-Max-Palais museum, and 1 free beer at both the Badisch Brauhaus and Hoepfner Burghof.
A day card for transportation (inner city) costs € 4,50 (without voucher booklet). The same card, but for up to 5 persons, costs € 6,80.
A one-ride ticket costs € 2 (2 zones). So you see, the Welcome Card is worth the expense.
Note: Remember to validate your ticket in the tram when you enter!
I bought it at the KVV Kundenzentrum, just outside the main station (Hauptbahnhof).
Each tram station (as far as I could see) also has a ticket machine that takes coins.Related to:
- Budget Travel
You can go by tram almost everywhere in the city and also outside.
Trams and many trains run on the same tracks. In fact, when I came back from Baden Baden I noticed that the train I was travelling on stopped outside the train station.
You can buy your ticket at some newstands or at the machines you find at almost every bus stop. A single ticket costs 2 euro per person (2008 price). If you're going to travel by tram more than twice you had better buy a Citykarte. This entitles you to travel unlimited times by tram for 24 hours. Don't forget to stamp your ticket the first time you use it.Related to:
- Road Trip
Karlsruhe is considered to have an exemplary public transport system, of which the trams are a key element. A large network of lines criss-crosses the city. At first glance it can look confusing (well, it did to me!) but once you’ve developed some sense of the city’s layout and the way the map, downloadable from the website below, works, it all falls into place. The large interchange points such as Markt Platz and Europaplatz are served by quite a few lines, as can be seen by the bar connecting them all on the map. You need to be aware that lines running in different directions (i.e. east-west or north-south) have different stops, but again the map makes that clear when you study it. Trams with just a number, such as 2 or 4, serve the inner city, while those preceded by an S, such as S6, also travel out to the suburbs and to various towns beyond, where they run on regular train lines (a concept that was apparently invented here in Karlsruhe).
Tickets can be bought at the machines found at every tram stop. There are a number of different tickets available, and it pays to plan ahead and buy accordingly. For instance a single trip within Karlsruhe is €2, a ticket for 4 journeys costs €7 and a ticket valid for 24 hours €4.50. When travelling in a group of four, we bought a four journey ticket and validated it in all four sections, thus saving ourselves €1 each time.
But if you’re planning to use the trams a lot, it pays to get a Karlsruhe WelcomeCard. This costs €9.50 and entitles you to free travel on all buses and trams in the inner city over a 3 day period (at weekends) or a 2 day one during the week. There are also additional benefits such as reduced entrance fees for some museums, free coffee and beer at certain places, etc. You can buy this WelcomeCard at the Tourist-Information Office next to the main train station.
The trams themselves are clean, apparently have plenty of room and were a pleasure to use.
Using the trams
The Karlsruhe tram (strassenbahn) and bus system is not limited to the city of Karlsruhe.
It's amazing how far you can travel with the modern trams and the regional public transport.
Mannheim, Heidelberg, Neustadt, Speyer, Strasbourg, Offenburg and Stuttgart are some of the possible destinations.
You can use a Eurp 9,50 Karlsruhe Welcome card (For sale at the Local Tourist Office at the Main station) or buy a 24 hour Citykarte for Euro 4,50 )at the KVV ticket machines).
Like the trams the ticket machines are modern and computerised. They have an easy Man Machine Interface in several languages.
Within the city of Karlsruhe you never have to wait long to catch a tram; it's just an ideal means of transporationRelated to:
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
Even though Hans and I had the use of our rental car, we basically parked it at the Hotel for the whole weekend and made use of Karlsruhe's excellent public transportation. The best way to get around Karlsruhe is th use their TRAM system. The closest tram station to our Hotel Blankenburg was "Ettlinger Tor" - a mere five minute walk.
The best option is to buy a day pass for Euro 4,50 for one person, which is valid for 24 hours of unlimited travel. A single ticket is Euro 2,00. For a group of five people travelling together, the ticket is Euro 6,80. You can purchase your tickets at the machines located at most tram stations. Don't forget to validate your ticket when you board the tram.
Another option is to purchase the Welcome Card for Euro 9,50 which gives you unlimited transportation over a 3-day weekend period. These can be purchased at the Tourist Information next to the train station.
Getting to and from Karlsruhe
Getting TO Karlsruhe is no problem. The ICE train (InterCity Express) from Frankfurt takes just over an hour if it’s a through train, and hardly longer if you have to change in Mannheim because your new train will be on the other side of the same platform.
Getting back home FROM Karlsruhe after the opera is a bit tricky, though, because the last through ICE train leaves at 22:00 (10 pm), which is much too early for opera goers. All the connections after that are very slow or very late, or both.
Of course you could always get a hotel room in Karlsruhe, but that’s more of a bother and can easily double the cost of the excursion.
Occasionally they put on afternoon opera performances at 15:00 on Saturdays or Sundays, so the best solution is to go to one of those if there is one.
Second photo: A first class coach in the ICE train to Karlsruhe.
Third photo: You can tell that this is one of the original ICE 1 trains that have been in service since about 1991, because the dining car has an attractive high roof with skylights. Attractive, yes, but aerodynamically disadvantageous, so to reduce wind resistance and save energy these bulges were eliminated from the more recent ICE 2 and 3 trains.
Fourth photo: A second class coach in the ICE train to Karlsruhe.
Fifth photo: The BordBistro in the ICE train to Karlsruhe.Related to:
Getting to the theater in Karlsruhe
If you don’t feel like walking through the zoo you could also walk past and over it. From the front of the main station, just walk straight ahead along the Bahnhofstr. and turn right onto the footbridge that goes over the zoo. From this footbridge you might even get a free glimpse of an elephant or a llama, since their cages are nearby. At the end of the footbridge turn left onto Ettlinger Str. and you will soon reach the theater.
You could also do this by bicycle, which has recently gotten a lot easier now that numerous CallBikes are available for spontaneous short-term rentals right at the station and all over the city center.
You could also go for a ride on Karlsruhe’s exemplary public transport system. Just get on one of the streetcars at platform A or B outside the main station. The S1, S4 S11 and S14 all go to the theater, as does the number 2. It’s only the fourth stop on any of these lines.
The tram lines starting with an S run as streetcars in the city, but then switch to traditional railroad tracks and go far out into the countryside. On the S6, for example, you could go all the way to Bad Wildbad for the Belcanto Opera Festival.
Luigi Colani - he even designs trucks!
Prof. Luigi Colani is a famous designer, who lives in Karlsruhe part of the time. He designs everything from cell phones to kitchens to trucks.
There was an exhibition here in Karlsruhe, but you can also drive by his house and see some of his "inventions" right at the spot!
Here is a designer truck.....
By train from Frankurt Int'l airport (FRA)
You can take the train right from Frankfurt am Main airport to Karlsruhe. The ICE train departs from the track "Fernbahnhoft" on terminal 1, level -1. You can buy the ticket at the DB ticket office on the way to the train platforms 5 to 8. Note that there's a travel agency right in front of the DB office, that sells those tickets, but they have a commission fee of about 3 euros.
The trip to Karlsruhe takes about 1 hour, and there's abotu 2 or 3 stops on the way. Note that there are some non-direct trains that have Mannheim as the end of their journey and then you need to change trains to continue on to Karlsruhe, but normally the train is at the other side of the platform.
As of Dec 2009, a one-way ticket for an adult cost 36 euros.Related to:
Cycling in Karlsruhe
1. New red cycling lane on Ettlinger Straße
2. More cyclists on the new red lane
3. A somewhat older red cycling lane (already a bit faded)
4. Crossing safely on a red lane
5. Pedestrians and cyclists crossing the street and tracks
Like a lot of other cities, Karlsruhe has been making considerable progress lately in improving its cycling infrastructure. This is the 21st century, after all, and even the most obtuse city officials are starting to realize that they can't go on stuffing huge numbers of automobiles into a limited amount of public space.
In particular, they have started painting red cycling lanes at intersections where cyclists are in danger of being run over by right-turning motor vehicles. Now motorists have to cross the cycling lane before they get to the right turn lane, so they have a much better chance of actually seeing the cyclists. And the markings make clear (to any drivers who happen to know the traffic laws) that the cyclists have the right of way here, and the cars have to wait until they go by.
GPS 49° 0'12.88" North; 8°24'12.68" East (first two photos)Related to:
We found the trams very useful for getting around Karlsruhe. We bought a 24 hours family pass that was good for more than the two of us. The tram to the suburbs on a Saturday night was very crowded and there were many stops, so it seemed to take a long time to get out several miles from town.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Food and Dining
- Arts and Culture
The tram service in Karlsruhe is excellent, cheap and safe and will take you to small towns/suburbs like Durlach and Bretten and you can use it for sightseeing as well. They go very frequently during the busiest times of the day.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Karlsruhe has amazing transportation means. Trams and buses follow a strict timetable which can be seen at every bus or tram stop, there are basically no delays except maybe when some extraordinary happens and I have yet to witness that. There trams connecting different parts of the city and also trams connecting nearby town, like Karlsruhe - Ettlingen or Karlsruhe - Bad Herrenalb, that's very comfortable. Tickets are available at pretty much every stop, there's a ticket machine with detailed information about prices and duration of trips. A bus or a tram can even take you to Baden Baden which is 40km away, that's rather convenient.Related to:
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