This past weekend I went to visit my cousin who recently moved to Stuttgart, Germany, joining the ranks of black American expats in Europe. My visit also 'happened' to coincide with the first day of Oktoberfest which was only 220 km away in Munich. (Warning: Bavarian flavored post coming later this week)
I always use mitfahrgelegenheit.de to find ride sharing opportunities when I travel within Germany. My loose translation of mitfahrgelegenheit is “affordable and environmentally conscience ride share”. The interface on mithrgelegenheit.de is easy to use. You can query for drivers originating in your city and heading to your destination on specific travel dates. Since there are so many non native Berliners here, there is a mass exodus on the weekends to visit family and friends, providing plenty of drivers to choose from. There are also people who drive up and down the autobahn as a business. This was not the original intent for carpooling sites such as these but you will find unlicensed long haul taxis. The key to success is reading the reviews and looking at driver feedback. Most drivers take the time to fill out their profiles and at least tell you if they are smokers and what type of vehicle they are driving. The reviews can also give you an indication if the driver is a speed demon or snail as well as their reliability.
Apart from convenience, it's also affordable. The six hour drive to Swabia cost me 25€ on the leg down and 35€ on the way up. The price of 60€ round trip was a bargain considering flights for this past weekend were over to 200€ and the trains were pushing 180€. As with anything there is some risk associated. Two different drivers canceled on me, so I had to rush and find replacements. My replacement driver on Friday evening had some issue with traffic on his way to Berlin and was two hours late. Judging from the fact that he was bringing people to Berlin from Stuttgart and then back again, I assumed this was his job. I prefer traveling with non-professionals (drivers), you tend to meet cooler people and aren't crammed into a van or sedan. His vehicle was nice but my issue was his speed. On the parts of the autobahn that didn't have a regulated speed limit he was going 220 km an hour. Yeepers!
Heading back to Berlin, my ride canceled on me early Sunday morning, grrr. I ended up with six other people in an old ass van that started smoking before we left the parking lot, I thought I was going to die from exhaust fumes. On the highway the van starting shaking as we approached 120 km. I just had bad luck this time around but arrived safely and without incident both times.
Traveling is all about the adventure and this trip surely kept my weekend interesting. I will still continue to use ride sharing whenever I can. It's affordable and not that horrible on the environment if you travel with a full vehicle. If you can't read German, no worries, the site also partners with rideshare.co.uk which operates in English. You can book rides within Germany or throughout Europe. I almost forgot, if you are a driver looking to bring some people along with you on your next trip you can also register to search for passengers. Happy Driving!
To hear about my adventures and much more, follow me on twitter @nicolenewblack