Wuppertal Introduction

This city is both poly-centric and a linear city. Along its axis is the 13km-long suspension railway (Schwebebahn), with around 65,000 passengers each day using its 20 stations. Alongside this is the heavy rail line with 400 train journeys daily through 9 stations, and below these is the B7 German federal highway. Crossing all of them is the Sonnborner cross-motorway junction, which at the time of its opening in 1974 was considered the largest inner-city motorway intersection in Europe. This place is very well connected.

The city is said to have no clear centre. It has two major urban centres (Elberfeld and Barmen) and five other districts, which are predominantly small towns with their own centres. The city of Wuppertal was not actually governed by a single city council until 1929, when 5 smaller cities united, then in 1975 it divided into 9 municipalities or boroughs, which are further divided into 69 districts for statistical purposes. (Hamilton is divided into 44 areas by Census NZ).

Wuppertal claims to be the greenest city in Germany, and is said to have two-thirds green space in the total municipal area. From any part of the city, it is only a ten-minute walk to one of the public parks or woodland paths. Here is an explanation of how it is measured. In total, 29% (4858 hectares) of the urban area is forest and open spaces, 7.8% (1318 hectares) consists of parks and green space, and 21% (about 3500 hectares) is used for agriculture. In addition, there are about 8000 allotments on 380 hectares and 46 cemeteries on an area of ​​160 hectares. The Wupper River also now flows clean and is alive with wild life, unlike two decades ago when schools would need to close because of the bad smell coming from it. As a benchmark of how green Hamilton is: ‘Currently, Hamilton has around 2% indigenous habitat cover.(p28) … at least 10% (preferably 20%) of remnant habitat cover is needed across a landscape to protect biodiversity and maintain the functions of ecosystems (p44)’. From: Community, Services and Environment Committee 30 Oct 2018

A bit of history on the cities of Elberfeld and Barmen, which together boasted 189,489 inhabitants in 1880, then the conurbation was regarded as the sixth largest city in the German Empire after Berlin, Hamburg, Breslau, Munich and Dresden. Cologne (144,772 inhabitants), Dusseldorf (95,458) and all cities of the Ruhr were well down in the bottom rankings.

From 1874 a horse tramway served the local traffic needs of the valley. But the local traffic problems continued to increase. In June 1903, the suspension railway opened. Bench-mark this against the world’s first electric elevated railway, which started in 1893 in Chicago when its population  was over 1 million; in 2012, the average number of weekday boardings on the Chicago Green Line was 70,554.  The Chicago model was proposed for partner towns along the Wupper River, but there were protests from the horse tramway company and a public discussion on the possible disfigurement of the cityscape, so the Schwebebahn was built.

What we need to ask ourselves is can we take on a project like this? Hamilton city is moving toward the population that Elberfeld and Barmen had 100 years ago. The people of these cities allowed themselves to let their interests overlap into each other’s cities. Even more impressive is the fact at a regional level the ‘Verkhrsverbund* Rhein-Ruhr’ (VRR) rail and ticketing extends into neighbouring regions and a neighbouring country (The Netherlands). Now look at the Hamilton to Auckland link. Our leaders have been living in silos and only recently allowed themselves to think about the overlapping benefits public transport links give to the regions. They now need to be ambitious. In 1887, the Elberfeld and Barmen councillors chose a ‘commission for examining the project of an elevated railway.’ Sixteen years and 16 million gold marks later the Wuppertal Schwebebah begain providing Wuppertal a public transport service, which has now been in operation for over a hundred years. (*means ‘Transport network’)

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.