Monday, April 18, 2016

The Little Things: Getting Around

During my unexpected hiatus from exploring over the past couple of weeks--illness, followed by knee pain, followed by weather--I was thinking a lot about getting out. (Not necessarily to see things, just getting out of the house.)  ;)

Which of course led me to thinking about all of my options for enjoying a change of scenery...

I'm a big fan of using the power of my own two feet, but realistically it only gets me so far. These days I'm doing most of my power walking in the mornings at the park, where I frequently encounter ladies (it's mostly ladies) doing their Nordic walking, and my no-nonsense stride isn't so out of place.

After a short ride, 
Larry rests up 
before we conquer 
his German homework.
The need for greater range prompted me to get Betty, but the weather and short days have meant little chance to shore up my shaky biking skills. Thankfully the days are getting longer and warmer. Now I just need to get Larry to stop taking Betty when he's running late to the office.

One thing that continually catches my eye here is the posture of bike riders. I don't know if it's a difference in handlebar setup or no need for speed, but most cyclists sit ramrod straight while still looking like they're relaxed!

Hamburg could take a page from San Francisco's book on the whole bike lane thing, though.

I've gotten used to them being on the sidewalks, but they're not consistently marked. In most areas it's a brick lane, but in a city full of brick and pavers and cobblestone, it sometimes gets lost where pedestrians go versus bikes. Parts of the St. Pauli neighborhood have arrows and bike symbols worked into the brick. More of that, or the green bike lanes they're using in San Francisco, please!

The bus has been my most frequent go-to. It's part of the multi-pronged city public transportation system. It's super easy, and the line that runs from our place to downtown has book racks, Wi-Fi, and monitors with maps that show upcoming stops.

(Before you mock me about the usefulness of the book racks, I just finished an English-language book I picked up on the bus.)

Like in San Francisco, the bus operates on the assumption that you have a valid ticket when you board, and there are spot checks by transportation authorities.

Unlike San Francisco, people are allowed to eat and drink on the bus (and yet they're much cleaner than the bus I rode every day to work in the U.S.), and passengers are usually the ones unfolding the ramp at the door to help passengers in wheelchairs on and off the bus.

The city trains are part two of the three-part public transportation system. Again, they operate on the honor system, so there are no turnstiles or gates for entry, you just find your line and get to the correct platform. 

Some of the larger stations also handle regional and international trains, so there are a lot of easy options to get across or get out of town (although the non-local trains have a different ticket system and conductors that come through).

Like the buses, the trains are clean and ridiculously on time. But the one thing I'm still getting used to is that the doors don't open automatically at each stop. If you want off (or on) you have to press the button. If you're used to the door opening as a trigger, it makes daydreaming a risky prospect. :)

The final piece to the public transportation puzzle is the ferry. What this means is that if you buy a ticket and need to take the bus, train, and/or ferry to get to your destination, the ticket is good for any combination or all three. On one ticket!

I've only taken the ferry once. It was at night, during a field trip with my German class. It was smelly and seemed less clean/maintained than the buses or trains, so I haven't tried it again. 

Ha ha. Just threw this one in to see if you were still paying attention!
Maybe one sunny day this spring I'll give it a whirl, but to be honest it takes you from the downtown core across the Elbe to HafenCity, which is a BIG DEAL for Hamburg downtown revitalization, but I just think that area is too modern and ugly.

When we first got to Hamburg, Über was in operation and it was a good thing. Within days of our arrival, however, the Über times grew longer, they shifted their rides to taxi services, then they were shut down for good.

I've used a taxi app and it was easy and convenient, but probably something I'll save for airport trips or emergencies, given the cheaper public options (and the fact that I'm rarely in a hurry).

There are also several carshare services here. We live just outside the service area so I've been lazy about going to check them out, but have used one via a friend in Berlin and heard great things about their convenience from folks here in Hamburg.

There are a few times I miss being able to just hop in my car and get somewhere, or being able to load things up to transport, but gas is not cheap, parking spaces are costly (echoes of San Francisco there) and I don't think I would have discovered or appreciated so many of the little wonders about Hamburg if I'd been zooming from one destination to the next. 

It's definitely worth savoring the journey!

This is me on a lovely steamboat cruise
on the downtown lakes
(not the smelly river ferry).
Would definitely do this one again!


  1. Fun to hear about the buses! I mostly took planes, trains and light rail. I think the only bus may have been to go to Baden Baden from the train station to go to the spa. ahhh... spa....