Category Archives: Transportation

Christmas markets diary notes

This November and December my wife and I have been travelling, mainly in Germany and the Netherlands, but we did include a quick drive to Krakow and Prague. We will be back in New Zealand in time for Christmas at home with the family. This post is essentially a diary.

In mid-November we were in the Ruhr Rhine area and Osnabruck, where the markets, street lighting and building decorations were being put up. Point to note: Health and safety is about being ‘reasonable and practical’; Germans are not keen on hi-vis vests, cones and cordoned-off areas. Photo below from Wuppertal Von-der-Heydt-Platz

Back in the Netherlands, Christmas was more personal in terms of the displays, with the lighting of streets, houses and window displays.

Near the end of November we were in Berlin. The retail stalls were still being set up, but the drinking/eating areas of the markets were busy and crowded. We then moved on to Krakow, where the market was ready to open but waiting for the official opening date.

On 1 December we had a day in Prague. It snowed, and it was picture perfect. The photos below are from Namesti Miru square, where there are about 50 small stalls selling a mix of decorations, food and drinks. It was a really nice place to be, and stayed comfortably busy well into the night. Point to note: evening public transport that is reliable and frequent is a must if you want a lively city in the evening

In Rothenburg there was a fantastic Christmas market band playing; the setting was like being in a Disney movie.

Heidelberg had six markets along its main street, which added another reason to visit this beautiful city.

Baden Baden was different again; here the quality of the merchandise was above average. It felt a bit like Queenstown without the lake.

Then there is the Karlsruhe example. There are two Christmas markets, the larger in Friedrichsplatz and the smaller in Marktplatz. The photo below is of Marktplatz, where they do the opposite to what we have in Hamilton with its focus on a large tree; Marktplatz’s focus is on social activities, drinking and eating, without the large Christmas tree.

The advantage for Marktplatz is in having a frequent public transport network as part of the market, so no-one thinks they need to drive.

Something to think about: is there a link between public transport and social place – Boxing Day buses free in the Waikato – go shop, eat and drink.

Lunch in Graf Wilhelm Platz: Solingen

Graf Wilhelm Platz area in Solingen ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to town centres. First, it has an attractive bus terminal area (more on this below). It also has a town square, used as a market place for entry-level retailers, in addition to which there is a car-free on-street retail area (Alter Markt), an open mall (Muhlenplatz), and very good enclosed mall (Hofgarten). The city itself is known as the “City of Blades”, and is the centre of the German cutlery industry; about 90% of the German cutlery industry is located in Solingen. The name of the city was protected by law 1938. This makes Solingen the first city in the world to protect its name and products.

Photo from https://mapio.net/pic/p-20271125/

The Graf-Wilhelm-Platz bus transport centre serves 6 trolleybus and 16 standard bus routes, with a good number of these routes overlapping into neighbouring cities, making it very easy to get to. It provides the heartbeat for the centre of Solingen.The traffic passing through the transport centre is on a double road, similar to a train station (but it works without the tracks and synchronized switch points). There is a three-leg roundabout at the southern end, with one leg being a double road, with a cross-over where it connects with the roundabout. Basically this creates an unusual entry/exit to the roundabout, which works. At the Northern end again there is also a cross-over, plus three pedestrian crossings (see drawing below). The magic here is that there are so many conflict points along these bus stop areas/routes, but humans driving and walking in this area can and do adapt to this example of ‘good confusion.’

Now back to the start of this post about this town centre ticking a lot of boxes. Walking through both Alter Markt and Muhlenplatz there were many empty shops. In Muhlenplatz the local art community is trying to full this space with art displays, but it felt like art for the sake of art. Sadly this doesn’t feel like it is revitalising the city centres.

To finish, here is some population data on Solingen. In 2012 the city had 158,908 residents (down from 177,899 in 1971)  and a population density of about 1,800 people per km2. Looking at the local population density near the city centre, in 2015 the Solingen-Mitte district had 41,836 residents in an area of 12.51 km2, giving a density of 3,344 people per km2. This is similar to a number of places in Hamilton, when looking at census unit area data (see link).

I only visited this city for a few hours; the Hofgarten mall and transport area was nice and busy, but my visit was too short to understand why other parts of the city were under-performing (Note: rain and cold is normal and does not change the feel of city centres).

 

The problem in Solingen looks short term, most German cities work really well and Solingen should also. This link is good example of what the future looks like for Solingen. Solingen, the City of Blades – Business location for your future