You can’t take a viola on a German bus

You can’t take a viola on a German bus


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2018

From the Zurich Hochschule teacher, Liisa Tamminen:

I was today denied an access to Deutsche Bahn’s bus from Munich to Zürich. I was carrying my viola in the smallest possible shaped case. I offered to put in on my feet, or even take it out from the case, but the driver was only shouting me repeatedly that musical instruments are not aloud in Deutsche Bahn buses, doesn’t matter how small they are. She could not tell me any reason to this, except that that’s a rule. There were many other passengers with bigger and heavier hand luggage.

I booked the ticket from the Deutsche Bahn site, where they offer this as an alternative connection in the same page/time table where you can buy their train tickets.

Luckily the person I spoke with in the Munich main railway center after this incident was very understanding and I could change my ticket to the train, arriving few hours later to Zürich.

I have sent feedback to Deutsche Bahn but haven’t yet heard their answer.

Be careful on DB buses.


  • Andrew Powell says:

    Yeah, if you book sufficiently in advance, bus or train costs €19 each way. DB (German) operates the bus, SBB (Swiss) the train. Bus takes 3 hours, train 4½ hours. Nearer the date, the train cost climbs sharply.

    Personally I think the big new double-decker buses, especially upstairs, are a death trap. One of the type used by DB was rear-ended here in Bavaria about two years ago, burst into flames and incinerated just about everyone (elderly people) on both levels. I did the Zurich trip once by DB bus but would not repeat.

  • Brettermeier says:

    Wenn jemand einen Geiger-Witz erzählt, lachen die Zuhörer. Wenn jemand einen Bratscher-Witz erzählt, nicken alle zustimmend.

    Too soon?

  • Deborah Mawer says:

    =Too soon?

    Viola jokes. Gotta love ’em

    But – yes – it’s an awful situation. Sympathy with Liisa

  • Max Grimm says:

    Unfortunately this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this happening on a DB Bus.
    A word of caution to musicians traveling on Deutsche Bahn buses specifically, they have rules just as forbidding as airlines. While musical instruments aren’t forbidden per se, one is limited to 2 pieces of baggage, which are not to exceed 70 cm x 50 cm x 30 cm in size, and may not necessarily be taken into the passenger cabin but may be required to travel in the cargo hold of the bus instead.
    And Mrs Tamminen quite correctly points out that our bus-drivers here in Germany are world-renowned for their cheerful and amicable disposition [sarcasm off].

  • John Borstlap says:

    In Germany, the generous harvest of viola jokes have, with many officials, given the impression that the instrument is a liability to public safety. Hence the suspicions.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    That’s right. After all, a viola burns longer than a violin does.