Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘Wuppertal Germany

Update on my living conditions

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I have now owned an apartment (Wuppertal) for more than half a year and am approaching the one year mark of my rental of another (Cologne)—and feel the need for an update.

For starters, things have not gone as planned—but mostly in a good way: According to plans, my current project would end with the new year, I would give up the rented apartment, and take a few months off to (among many other things) set up the purchased one. In reality, I have received several project extensions, spent almost all my time in Cologne, and have done almost nothing to the new apartment.

Correspondingly, I have a lot less to say about the purchase than the rental, but let us start with the purchase:

What little I can judge already about the apartment (it self) and Wuppertal more or less matches expectations, apart from the property manager appearing to be extremely incompetent. There is one major disappointment/annoyance in the bigger picture, however: I chose Wuppertal based on rational deliberations where train connections featured heavily*. Here there has been a three-fold disappointment (contributing strongly to my hardly ever being in Wuppertal):

*I often travel heavily for work reasons.

  1. There are major construction works going on around the central station, which make it harder and more time consuming to get to and from the station. According to the information published in and around the station it self, these works should have been concluded in 2017/2018*, and I decided that this was an acceptable time frame, especially with the promised resulting improvements. Unfortunately, it appears that the claim of 2017 was limited to the planned shopping area** (a nice-to-have), whereas the overall works, what would have been relevant for my planning, was on a very different time scale. As is, even 2018 is a highly optimistic estimate and a worst case could conceivably land in 2020… Knowing that in advance, I would very likely have made another choice.

    Lesson: Ignore public signs and pull more complete and reliable (in as far as this is possible where construction is concerned) information from the actual, official plans.

    *Officially: 2017. Knowing how construction work tends to run in Germany: 2018.

    **I would speculate that the misinformation arose through a wish to brag about this selling point for the project and too little concern for other effects.

  2. Deutsche Bahn (“German Railways”) have arbitrarily decided to cancel all (!) train traffic to and from Wuppertal for a period of six weeks (!) starting around two weeks ago. To boot, they did the same thing for roughly two weeks earlier in the year. While the cause (long neglected maintenance work) is worthy, the way of doing this is utterly unacceptable, especially bearing in mind that the railway lines involved are among the most commuter heavy in Germany. To the best of my knowledge, this type of complete interruption, for so long a time, is without precedence.

    Those who have tried the “Schienersatzverkehr” (“rail-replacement traffic”; effectively, travel-by-bus-while-we-pretend-that-it-is-still-a-train-line), appear to be less than satisfied with the travel time and comfort—even when just comparing the planned level of Schienersatzverkehr-service with that actually delivered. (As opposed to when comparing with the original travel by train.) I strongly suspect, but have admittedly not investigated, that this is also economically to the considerable disadvantage of the passengers, with no discount being offered for the lesser service or normally lower price level of bus traffic—and even with such a discount many would be left without compensation, e.g. because they travel with tickets valid for a month or a year at a time (or a similar construct*).

    Lesson: Deutsche Bahn is a passenger hostile horror. (But that I have known for many years…)

    *I do not want to discuss various ticket models, discount systems, etc., here, but those with pre-existing knowledge might want to consider e.g. the effective value loss of a BahnCard 50 for someone who normally travels a certain line once a week and now chooses to go by car, as a better alternative to bus.

  3. (A mere annoyance in comparison with the above; especially since regional travel was not a planning priority.) To my surprise, it turns out that not all the “regional” trains that travel past my local station, just a few minutes walk from my apartment, actually stop there. All the “S-Bahn” and “RB” trains do, but the much to be preferred “RE” trains are inconsistent. The RE to and from Düsseldorf, my point of reference when searching for apartments, does stop; the RE to and from Cologne, which is far more interesting at the moment, does not. I now have the choice between going by “RB” (takes considerably longer) or taking the “RE” (or a non-regional train) to the central station and then going by some other means* to my local station some four kilometers away.

    Lesson: Do not make the assumption that Deutsche Bahn (especially; but likely many other entities in general) handles things in a consistent and reasonable manner.

    *So far mostly by the local specialty of “Schwebebahn”; occasionally, by foot or by S-Bahn; theoretically, taxi or one of the other trains.

On to the rented apartment, specifically revisiting some items from my earlier post (see there for background information):

  1. There have been no real temperature issues so far. If anything, likely aided by the comparatively cool summer, temperature has been less of an issue than in most other apartments I have had.
  2. The noise levels, e.g. through out-door music, have been considerably worse than average—but nowhere near as bad as I feared. It is certainly an improvement over my old Düsseldorf apartment. Likely, I just had a bit of bad luck during the short time preceding my original post.
  3. (Unpleasant content warning) The “platform toilet” has proved to be far more problematic than expected: Often, notably after I had eaten fiber-rich bread, simply flushing (once) has not been enough to move the feces on from the platform. On a number of occasions I have had to flush half-a-dozen times (annoying, time consuming, and bad for the environment); several times, I have actually given up, grabbed a piece of toilet paper and shoved it on manually… It puzzles me how such an idiotic, and so obviously idiotic, construction ever saw the light of day.
  4. The electronic key is and remains a disaster. The problem has been mitigated by some experience, specifically that it pays to not turn the key immediately after insertion. Still, this combines the weak points, but not the strengths, of both regular and electronic keys. I am amazed that they have not changed this idiocy, with the long term savings easily exceeding the short term costs—even user friendliness aside. (Note that the key contains a battery that has to be replaced now and then; that maintenance requires more specialist knowledge, which reduces the number of potential contract partners; that the solution is likely inherently more expensive than an ordinary key/lock; and that since there are other general locks with keys in the rest of the building, it is not necessary to switch out the keys—just the one lock.)
  5. The elevators have mostly lived up to the early days, but there have been exceptions. Notably, there was one time when I first had to wait for a perceived eternity for the elevator to arrive, then had to share it with four people who all stepped out on different floors—and then had it halt at the 23rd floor, one short of my floor, because someone going down had pressed the wrong button… I would have been faster walking* the 24 floors. Over the last few weeks one of the elevators has also had problems getting the doors on my floor closed.

    *Recently, I have done this twice for the exercise/out of curiosity and plan to do it once a week or so for the remainder of my stay. While hard work, this turned out to be less grueling than I had anticipated: I took two breaks the first time, one the second; but, contrary to my expectation, was not forced to give up half-way.

  6. The view remains amazing, it self almost worth the rent—or it would be, had I not grown jaded over time. One of the problems of having something great is that a just appreciation rarely lasts. (But will I miss the water once the well has gone dry.)

    Even apart from the greatness of the view in general, there have been many specific instance where I have been brought an experience that would not have occurred with an ordinary view. A few examples:

    A few weeks ago, I had not one but two very long and extremely impressive fireworks in perfect sight on the river, possibly two hundred meters from my window. (During the local “Kölner Lichter” event.) Barring the people in the 25th and 26th stock, I may well have had the best view of these fireworks of anyone in the city. To boot, there have been a number of smaller and/or more far away fireworks on the river over the months.

    Having the house surrounded by so dense* a fog (several times) or rain (at least once) that nothing else could be seen—no ground, no surrounding buildings, no whatnots. When I was a child, I sometimes fantasized about touching a cloud—now I have**.

    *Keep in mind that it is exceedingly rare that a fog grows so dense that not even close-by objects can be seen—but here there are no close-by objects. The ground, e.g., is almost a hundred meters away. Even so, this fog was unusually dense, giving me a better understanding of why fog is occasionally referred to as “pea-soup”.

    **Barring some technical differentiation between cloud and fog that is uninteresting for this purpose.

    Having had, in contrast, days with a sky so clear that I could see for many miles; days with incredible, border-line scary, storm clouds; days with mixtures of heavy rain in one direction, sun shine in another, dark clouds in yet another; days with unbelievably majestic constellations of clouds; … (Apart from standing on very large hills or actual mountains, there are very few opportunities to really see something of this level through just being “in nature”. The land would have to be very flat and free from obstacles, and it would still likely fall short.)

    A winter’s day where the pond beneath my window became one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. While a description can not make something like that justice, imagine a circle of ice-free water (kept so by a water spout), a ring of birds (most likely ducks) resting on the ice immediately next to the water, the remaining majority of the pond being covered by very white ice, and on that ice near perfect, very dark reflections of the near-by trees—and then the actual trees and a layer of snow around the pond. Escher* would have gone nuts over the scene.

    *Note that much of his work was not geometrically surreal and that he had a particular interest in reflections.

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 6, 2017 at 4:53 pm