This past weekend some friends and I made a last minute decision to visit the Leipzig Book Fair. Leipzig is just a few hours south of Berlin and it’s a city few of us have spent much time in (despite it’s pretty hip reputation among the young & trendy). The book fair seemed as good an excuse as any, so with a bit of pushing and prodding we had a small group interested in going.

The plan was to buy a multi-person ticket good for up to 5 people, a “Happy Weekend Ticket” as the folks at bahn.de call it. It’s one of the most affordable ways for train travel in Germany so long as you can split the ticket among a group (or make fast friends with other travelers on the train platform). The ticket essentially gives you unlimited train travel on Germany’s regional trains for up to 5 persons during a single day. And all for just 42 euro!

Hauptbahnhof Berlin
Hauptbahnhof Berlin

Well, that was the plan: get to Leipzig. But as we all know, travel plans often don’t come to full fruition. Taking an early train on Saturday morning is hard enough, but we all managed to show up on time. (I only had to set 4 alarm clocks to wake up on time!) A quick breakfast in the Hauptbahnhof train station and we were soon waiting on the platform for our early departure. That was until we noticed the train was cancelled. CANCELLED. Unfortunately with our special ticket, alternative options were limited and while we could’ve caught a train in another hour, we opted instead to just simply go somewhere else. The ticket was only valid for the day anyways.

We were going on an adventure.

Sometimes the spontaneity of a travel decision is half the fun. Standing there in the (very cold) train station, we had a decision to make. Since we only had the day, did we give up and go home? Did we wait around for a different connection? Or do we throw all caution to the wind and head in the complete opposite direction? And to a town none of us really knew much about at that!

Obviously we went with option C.

After a bit of back-and-forth and a last-minute scramble to see which connections we could easily make for a day trip, we settled on taking a train up north. It would lead us to the Baltic Sea where we rightfully assumed we could, at the very least, enjoy a fish lunch. With no time to research our new destination, we hopped on a train and headed north. We’d figure out where to get off the train afterwards. Two-and-a-half hours later, at the stop in Schwerin, we decided to get off the train. The city seemed popular enough and actually, a quick WikiTravel search made it seem downright interesting! And though we may have missed the book fair we stumbled upon this in our new destination:

Schwerin Castle
Schwerin Schloss (castle)

Making our own travel adventure at the last minute? It was a success!

Have you ever made last-minute travel plans to a destination you knew very little about? What was your experience? This is something I definitely plan to do more of!

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11 comments

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  1. Rob

    Ah, the Scönes Wochenende ticket…I loved it when I lived in Germany. Back then it cost 25DM and was valid for the whole weekend. We were very bitter when they changed it to just the one day.

  2. Love the Happy Weekend Tickets! (Sounds so funny in English translation!). These kinds of adventures are wonderful. After all, Leipzig will still be there for another time!

  3. Ah, the Schönes Wochenende Ticket! Unfortunately, I don’t have 5 people adventurous enough to do that, otherwise, that would definitely be a good and cheap idea for a daytrip. There’s also the Berlin-Brandenburg Ticket, which I’ve used before. In November, I wanted to cheat on my visited country count, and so I bought a Berlin-Brandenburg Ticket and showed up in Hauptbahnhof really early to catch the earliest train to Szczecin, Poland (Yep, you can use the BBT all the way to Szczecin, even in the trams and buses in Szczecin). I didn’t have a Poland guidebook, I just looked at Google Maps and found the Old Town and printed it a day before and pretty much walked around the city. The weather was favorable, and I even found a good place to eat real Polish pierogies.

  4. Patrick Smith

    Great post again Adam- loved it. It was like I was experiencing your disappointment then conversation on what to do. we don;t do well in rain, so while we were in Vienna, we decided the rain was not going to cut it, so we went south- ended up in Lublianja, Slovenia. Stayed there for 4 days-loved it!!!!

    • Adam

      I’ve heard great things about Lublianja! Sounds like you had a spontaneous and serendipitous travel experience as well :)

  5. Adam, I’ve never been to Schwerin, but have made a few spontaneous trips that ended up being quite rewarding – Santiago de Compostela in Spain comes to mind, as does our current spot – Trogir, Croatia. It’s delightful having this town (with 2,300 years of history) all to ourselves during travel’s off season! And to think, we almost didn’t come here.

    • Adam

      Glad to hear you do the same, Tricia. I think visiting small towns during the tourism off-season is a lot of fun. There was a beach town in Rhode Island, USA I used to love visiting in the winter even though everything was shut down.

  6. Oddly enough, Adam, Schwerin was (is!) on my lis. I had read and seen some good things about the city; I’d also seen a segment about the city on DW’s “Hin und Weg” magazine. I hope you enjoyed the city as a “surprise”!

    • Adam

      Nice to hear that Henry. The castle is pretty famous I guess (and definitely photogenic). Hope you make it there eventually — it’s a decent place for an afternoon of exploration! I think it’d be a great place during the summer, too.

  7. Well, Schwerin is not Leipzig (where I’ve lived for 6 years) but since that train got cancelled you certainly made the best of it. Most travelers never make it to Schwerin I guess :)

    • Adam

      Yep, I’m pretty sure Schwerin doesn’t have much of an international tourist scene — but we had a perfectly enjoyable afternoon there!

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