"What's the dinosaur doing here?" the young girl asked her mother at the DB Museum in Nuremberg. "Taking his most important selfie of the year," laughs the tall man as he takes off his colourful dinosaur mask to reveal a stubbly face. He types a message on his phone and slips it into his pocket. "Sorry, us dinosaurs have a lot to do. I've got to go now." Where could he be heading? To his next favourite place in Bavaria's second-biggest city. Max is currently the explorer-in-chief for his best friends Anna and Tim. When they were children at kindergarten, they learned that exploring together is the best way to see the world. Anna loves places high above the ground, Tim has a taste for little-known and exotic destinations, while Max is fascinated by places under the surface of the earth.

A different kind of paper chase

Today, Max has to create an entertaining itinerary for the three of them in their hometown. For years, they have taken turns at arranging trips like this: they choose a town or city, then one of them comes up with an action-packed plan that the other two have to identify from photos taken by the organiser. What are the criteria? There are really only two: there has to be a railway station, and the programme has to include things that they loved as children. They might all be grown-ups now, but their excursions are always like a little journey into the past they all share. Back then, they often went on train trips around Bavaria with their parents, learning about the region.

Explorers take the train

The first stop is one that's made for Max: Nuremberg's underground prison cells and passages. He might not have become a speleologist as he once planned, but he is still drawn to dark tunnels and mysterious corners. Travel is something else that has always fascinated him. When he was young, he was eager to see more of the world than Nuremberg, and his ideal trip entailed just catching a train and getting off at a stop he didn't know. In those days, Anna and Tim were his travelling companions on regional trains throughout northern Bavaria, but later, he crossed Europe with an Interrail ticket and then set off on a trip around the world. Now he lives in Nuremberg again, and he's discovering his home town anew. Enjoyment takes many forms, so he also has to come up with some tastebud-tingling ideas. Luckily, there's the Eis im Glück ice-cream parlour, which sells the perfect creation for Anna's sweet tooth: quark, sesame, caramel and gingerbread ice cream. He takes a photo and then heads for the station to collect his friends.

Bavaria, access all areas

"Rooaargh!!!!" A huge dinosaur head pops up in front of the train's door. Anna involuntarily lets go of the handle and, for a moment, she is back at her very first birthday party, when the same monster lay in wait for her between the coats by the front door. She was dressed as an astronaut, but her bravery deserted her and she was reduced to tears. Grown-up Anna knows different, and she gives the dinosaur a big hug. "I'll have to get my own back," she laughs. "When you come to see me in Munich, I'll have a treat in store for you." The Hi-Sky big wheel, 78 m high, in the new Werksviertel neighbourhood is now open. Anna has already been on it three times, and she knows that if Max gives it a go, his usual big grin will be replaced by something closer to a look of terror. Mumbling under his mask, Max says, "I like treats. Especially ones I can eat. But maybe Tim's the person I should ask about that..." The third person in the group could easily pass as a restaurant critic – he knows the best places for food all across Bavaria. His interest in other people's cultures is as strong as ever, and he loves taking weekend train trips across the region to explore unusual places. Wherever he goes, he knows the perfect place for a meal.

Every meeting is marvellous

Getting out of the train, he scans his surroundings on the platform. His two friends, people who are as much part of his life as his own family, are already waiting for him. Anna, blond and beaming just like she was 25 years ago and Max, disguised with a dinosaur's head. Max was once the smallest of the group, but now he towers over the others. "Let's get going," he shouts after a round of delighted hugs: "I'll show you the first photo now." "Take it easy," laughs Tim. "Let's start with a sausage at the Bratwurstglöcklein restaurant. Then we'll be able to follow Dino wherever he takes us." Arm in arm, the friends leave the station. They'll be the best of buddies forever, because sometimes it only takes one train ticket to bring past, present and future together.

 

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