KAISERLAUTERN:

Fans from around the world have been catching the World Cup live and soaking up in the atmosphere enjoying a range of free cultural events. Some of the adventurous ones have been traveling throughout the country and following their teams courtesy Germany’s best kept travel secret - ridesharing.

Ridesharing, called Mitfahren in German, links up drivers and passengers, and is the cheapest way to get around the country. Drivers usually charge about five euros per hundred kilometers, which is cheaper than the train.

There are thousands of agencies online in Germany, but the two biggest are itfahrzentrale.de and mitfahrgelegenheiten.de . They are simple to use — you just have to put in your departure point, your destination and the date of travel. With a couple of mouse clicks and a bit of luck, you can locate a driver. Write e-mail, text message or simply ring up to see if there’s still a seat in the car.

I met Kenneth Bosch a freelance journalist from Kent, England who had used the service on his previous visits to Germany, and using it this time around too. When asked about the reason for using this service Bosch said, “ I am a freelancer and on a shoestring budget and this way it reduces my travel expenses.” Bosch had unfortunately missed out on getting accreditation for the World Cup as he had applied late. FIFA this time around has granted free travel on German trains for the accredited journalists for the entire period of

the World Cup. Through Bosch I came across several soccer fans who have been traveling together with him on this service.

Trudy Hartmann is a neighbour of Bosch and has been traveling with him throughout Germany and enjoying the fan festivals. She says, “ Even I am on a budget and the reason I am traveling with Bosch is that it is my first time and it feels safe that you are traveling with somebody known.”

According to Mitfahrzentrale.de large number of fans have used this service in the past fortnight, though the figures could not be known.

Ride-sharing agencies first started in Germany in the mid-fifties. Although it’s difficult to know exactly how many people rideshare in Germany, when mitfahrzentrale.de http://mitfahrzentrale.de> launched seven years ago, it only had a couple of hundred users. Today, the figure has jumped to 650,000 users a month.