German trams, or Straßenbahn, are urban, electrical powered mass transportation systems available in most cities. As the world becomes more sensitive to the environment, German trams are: simple to use; sustainable; and cost effective.
As Germany was rebuilding after World War II, there were options to either rebuild the light rail system or go underground with subways, or a U-Bahn. After understanding the costs, many chose to rebuild the trams. Some cities, like Munich, offer both. Hamburg is the largest German city without a tram.
German trams use articulated cars, or Kurzgelenkwagen, a multi-car set-up with flexible seams that sway with turns. These vehicles are low to the ground for minimal passenger steps. Power comes from an overhead electrical grid.
Many Germans and tourist purchase travel cards for tram fare. Tickets are available from kiosks at each stop, or passengers pay individual fares to the driver. Trams tour through a city on a loop with specific stops. Urban Straßenbahn are not to be confused with S-Bahn, similar-looking railways that transport passengers to suburbs.
German boulevards tend to be wide and the trams share lanes with other vehicles. While there is potential for chaos, the German culture is built on following rules. The system runs smoothly and stays punctual, a major cultural rule.
In Heidelberg I jumped on trams in wet weather to get to the company headquarters, or to carry my luggage and I from the train station to the hotel. While slower than a subway, trams are open to sunlight and they allow you to enjoy city views. Unlike many other European cities, German air is not filled with diesel fumes.
While traveling in Germany, hop on a Straßenbahn. You will enjoy the ride.