Oberursel’s shiny new (restored) station building

Many towns in Germany face the same problem – their station building.  Not on a scale with Stuttgart, but given that many of them were built in the 19th Century, they often suffer similar fates such as underused ticket offices, high running costs due to the old building materials, and general desire from travellers and locals for the buildings to be put to better use and provide more services.

At the same time, they expect them to look good and still retain their 19th Century character, and not get covered in graffiti.  With many of them being listed buildings as well, this is not an easy task.  Another complication is that the buildings are often owned by Deutsche Bahn, reducing the lack of influence that local towns have over how they are used.

Oberursel’s station is one of those that had suffered this fate until recently, but for the past three years things have started to change.  An organisation called SEWO, who were originally created by the town itself to re-develop the Camp King area, were able to buy the property from the railway. [Read more…]

Oberursel’s War Memorials

The 11th November is a strange day to be in Germany.  My instinct tells me it is Remembrance Day in many parts of the World, and when I first arrived here there was even a shop in Frankfurt taking part in the Poppy Appeal.

And yet in Germany the day means something else to most people as ironically it is the official start of the carnival season!

This does not mean that people in Germany do not remember their war dead, they just do it at a different time.  Volkstrauertag, the equivalent of Remembrance Sunday,  is the second Sunday before advent, which usually places it a week after everyone else.  This year (2011) it happens to fall on the same day.

But another difference can be found in the attitude towards war memorials.  I would image that most people of my generation who grew up in the UK would know where their local war memorial was as they can be found in most towns there.

In Germany, however, I admit that this is not something I had taken much notice of until recently.  I certainly could not have said where one was to be found in Oberursel, let alone in most other towns, and I do not know how many of the local population could either.

And yet they are there, as I recently found out on a guided tour of some of Oberursel’s memorials. [Read more…]

Cologne’s City Archive

There’s been quite a bit of news from Germany that has made in into the UK headlines recently.  One of the items closest to use, geographically speaking, was the collapse of the Cologne City Archive.

The city archive in Cologne was the largest archive of its kind in Germany, containing not only important documents such as the building plans of Cologne Cathedral, but also the personal documents of a number of well-known German citizens such as Heinrich Böll and Konrad Adenauer.

Just over 2 weeks ago, the building collapsed burying about 90% of the archived material and tearing away parts of the adjacent residential buildings which lead to the death of two people.  Since then, the media have been reporting almost daily on the progress of the hunt for the bodies, the rescuing of the archive material, and trying to find out who is to blame.

The building was opened in 1971 with modern methods such as controlled air-flow and lightling to protect the documents contained within its think walls.

Almost immediately, the media attention turned to the unterground rail line that we being built under the road in front of the archive, when it was suggested that part of the ground under the archive may have collapsed into the tunnel and caused a whole for the building to fall into.  After much speculation, this week information surfaced that there had indeed been problems with water in the tunnel in September of last year, which in the eyes of many confirms their opinion that this was indeed the cause and, had the problem last year been investigated, may well have avoided the collaspe and the subsequent deaths.

Of course, what do you do when you are building an underground railway and suddenly found out that you cannot go the way you wanted to, because the water table is too high?  Cologne is similar to London, in that it is divided by a large river, in Cologne’s case the Rhine.  Unlike London, there have not, until now, been many attempts to tunnel under the river.  Most tram and rail lines cross the Rhine on bridges, and new tunnel in question was not actually going under the river, but running parallel to it.

Surely the unexpected water in the tunnel last year should have made someone sit up and take a look at the plans, to see if they needed changing.  I’m no architect, but perhaps they should have gone deeper, or maybe the ground is just unsuitable for tunneling?

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