As usual in our recent stay in Franken, Fred’s ‘Browse Breweries’ guide has provided an unrivalled asset in finding and visiting breweries new to us. However, there is one aspect of the site that has become a little outdated and that is the guide to public transport connections. Now I’m not suggesting that Fred should waste his time on any major revision to this aspect of the site because it is simply unnecessary now with the expansion of the VGN and its excellent web page.
For those who are not familiar with the VGN (Verkehrsverbund Grossraum Nürnberg), it is method of linking the public transport operators in a vast area that stretches from Tirschenreuth in the south to Lichtenfels in the north; and from Rothenburg in the west to Bayreuth in the east. Essentially, it provides a common tariff for all the operators in the area, allowing cost-effective access to most of the breweries favoured by followers of this Forum. The major breakthrough for us came with the accession of Bamberg Landkreis to the VGN in 2014, thus opening up another swathe of territory and clearing up a number of anomalies in the ticketing system.
There are two main ways that we can benefit from the system; firstly, via its very cost effective pricing structure; secondly, the provision of a relatively easy guide to connections. Starting with an example of the latter: if we look at Fred’s page on Brauerei Hönig in Tiefenellen, the guide states that ‘There are no convenient public transportation connections’. Now I am sure that this was true when Fred compiled the guide but now it is possible to quite easily visit this lovely brewery and beer garden by bus. If you open the appropriate VGN web page (‘Fahrplan’ then ‘Verbindungen’ or just ‘Timetable’ on the English-language version – the page is http://www.vgn.de/komfortauskunft/auskunft/), you can enter the details for your proposed visit. Say, for example, that you want to go around lunchtime on a Wednesday, simply enter 12.00 on the date you wish to travel. You are shown a number of connections but the most convenient is the 970 at 13.18 from ZOB, arriving at 13.39 at Tiefenellen (you can also get off in Lohndorf at 1336 but beware, Holzlein doesn’t open until 15.00 and, even then, sometimes takes a bit of prompting!). It is also very important to see that you can get back, unless you want a long walk! So, by inputting a suitable return time, allowing for a few Seidlas of excellent Hönig beer, so let’s say 17.00, and you will see that the 970 returns at 17.37 (the stop is on the Bamberg side of the brewery at the exit to the village), arriving ZOB at 18.11.
One thing that can be a bit tricky is that a number of the services to rural villages run only on schooldays, which can be a bit tricky to work out if you are using the printed timetables. However, as far as I can see, the ‘Verbindung’ section of VGN’s website is precise in only offering available services for the specific day/time requested. If you want to obtain printed timetables, the best place is the DB enquiry office at Bamberg Bahnhof (rack situated just inside the door, to the left). For some reason, the Bamberg Stadtwerke office in ZOB is a bit coy about giving timetables.
The VGN site pretty easy to use and the English language version has now been improved to include most (but not all) of the facilities of the German language version. In addition to connections, it gives the potential cost of the fare in incredible detail as follows (I’ll let you do your own translation!). The example shows an enquiry for travelling from Bamberg Bahnhof to Forchheim Bahnhof:
am 19.05.2015 um 11:36
Durchfahrene Tarifzonen to pass through (different tariff zones, see VGN map on website):
1101, 482, 481, 472, 471, 462, 461, 442, 441
Preisstufe 4 (basically, the price band) bei Einzelkarten, Mehrfahrtenkarten und TagesTickets - new fare 2016 after the slash:
Einzelfahrschein: 4,40 € / 4,60 €
Einzelfahrschein (Kind): 2,20 € / 2,30 €
10er-Streifenkarte: 4 Felder
TagesTicket Plus: 11,30 € / 11,70 €
This brings us to the other handy aspect of the VGN: the incredibly low cost of travelling from A to B and back. Obviously, you can just buy two simple tickets (Einzel-Fahrschein) to cover the return trip but, if there two or more travelling, the cheapest way for a one-off visit is to buy a Tages-Ticket Plus. However, the real bargains lie in the range of Mobi-Cards, which allow travel for longer periods. These are real bargains if there are two or more people travelling but there are alternatives for single travellers in the ‘solo’ category.
The following table shows the card that you have to use for the journey from Bamberg to Forchheim:
Tarifstufe 4+T bei Zeitkarten:
7-Tage-MobiCard: 38,50 € / 39,60 €
31-Tage-MobiCard: 131,50 € / 135,30 €
9-Uhr-MobiCard: 68,00 € / 70,10 €
Solo 31: 118,50 € / 121,90 €
Abo 3: 112,30 € / 115,50 € per calendar month
Abo 6: 106,10 € / 109,10 € per calendar month
JahresAbo: 93,60 € / 96,30 € per calendar month
JahresAbo Plus: 102,50 € / 105,40 € per calendar month
Wochenkarte Ausbildung: 29,80 € / 30,70 € student weekly
Monatskarte Ausbildung: 89,00 € / 91,80 € student monthly
We have found that the best offer is the 9-uhr Mobi-Card, which allows travel within in the VGN area, depending on the number of Tariff zones purchased. For example, we bought at 10-T ticket (which allows travel anywhere in the VGN area) after 09.00 for the period of 31 days for two people, two bicycles and a dog (!) for €92.50 (95,40 € in 2016) – believe me, we got our money’s worth out of it! There are a lot of variations on this theme, depending on how many tariff zones you want to buy but we found that, based just outside Bamberg, that the 10-T version was the best. You just need to work out how far you are likely to travel and where you are going to be based to find the best ticket for you.
Another section of the VGN site (best on the German language version) can be found under the heading ‘Freizeit (Freetime). Click on this and you will find downloadable brochures for all the special routes, including a number of ‘beer tour’ routes. Most of these only run from May 1 to October 31. Always check whether your chosen route is operating on a specific date. We were once left standing at the bus stop (Haltstelle) at Bahnhof Hirschaid waiting for the Sunday Special (977) that goes to Rossdorf (Sauer), Geisfeld (Krug and Griess) and Buttenheim (Loewenbrau and St. Georges), as we had missed that the bus had been cancelled that day due to roadworks. This was shown on the VGN website and we would have found it if we had looked for the bus on that specific day in the Connections (Verbindung) section. Mind you, it was in very small print and very hard to spot!
Another thing to look out for is the ‘Anrufsammeltaxi – AST’ (in Bamberg, it is known as ‘Anruf-Linen-Taxi’ – ALT). On the VGN website, you can find it under ‘Fahrplan and ‘Anrufsammeltaxi – kurz AST’ – it only seems to be shown in the German language version. Translated from the German, the explanation reads:
‘The Anrufsammeltaxi - short AST - continues when no regular connections by bus or train exists. A taxi will pick you up from the station, for example, or at a bus stop and will take you right to the door of your desired destination. The trip request must be ordered by phone, generally, 1 hour before departure.’
This service operates late at night, usually on Fridays and Saturdays, after the normal service has ended. There are several variants on this theme but, essentially, a taxi covers a portion of a bus route. For example, the service 907, from Bamberg ZOB to Memmelsdorf and Drosendorf usually terminates at around 19.15 but, on Friday and Saturday, you can pick up the 901 to Hauptmoor Nord, where a taxi will collect you and take you to Memmelsdorf/Drosendorf. I understand that you purchase a ticket on the first bus and that this is good for the taxi (you can also use your Mobi-Card, etc.). Note that this is not a ‘bespoke’ service but part of the normal schedule and you must book the taxi part 60 minutes before you need it. I have never used this service but Mosquit reported on the Franken Forum that he has used it three times in Bamberg. The operators at the call-centre were able to speak English, which was good as ‘…my German skills were somehow lower after couple of Seidlas!’ An explanation of the service in Bamberg is provided in all the bus timetables.
I hope that you find this explanation of the VGN as useful in your beer hunting as we have – Prost!