European Travel with Limited Time/Budget - Ideas?

Germany had a lot of selling points for us when we decided to move here.  One of them, the one that everybody really pounded into us, was "OOHHHH you'll be right in the middle of everything!!  You'll be there for at least two years?  You'll get to see all of Europe!!  You can just make weekend trips to Rome and Paris!!!!  Travel is SO EASY!!!!!"

I kind of feel that I was sold a lie on this one.  My husband is a post-doc.  His salary is disturbingly low.  I am a student, paying tuition (low, but not so low as to not be a factor).  I work part time only so I contribute virtually nothing but health insurance.  We live in one of the most expensive cities in Germany so rent is killer.  And my husband has to do a lot of work in just two years before his fellowship ends.

How will we find the time or money to travel?  The only other country we have been to so far is France, and only because we are so close to the border. It seems the trains are quite expensive, even with our 50% off BahnCards.  We have no airport and it's a two hour bus ride to the nearest one served by Ryanair, so cheapie plane tickets end up costing a lot of time.  I know hostels are cheap but they're often so far outside of city centers and we have to pay to get there, and then have to pack bulky extras like our own towels etc.

Any travel tips around Europe for people who will probably never be rich enough to come back if they return to the home country, and so have to see it all now on no money and no time?  I feel so much pressure to do it, but I don't know how.

One thing that might help is house-swapping, there are some fairly reputable groups out there that do it...that covers the cost of housing anyway...if you are willing.

One of the things I felt arriving in France, was the same you did! Waw! I can travel!!
I've always travelled back and forth since I am a tiny baby, but after a couple of years in South Africa, you really feel *free* living in a country where transports are great.
Lucky me, I have family ever*single*where! I only pay my train ticket, and half price since I am a student. From Portugal to Netherlands, from Germany (for the World Cup) to Italy, I've done it all ;)

There are train trips like two days in each big city worth trying, I guess... Have you tried it? I never did low-cost planes (maybe this Summer), but I know the thing about distances and airports in the middle of nowhere.
What about a roadtrip? They are fun ;)

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