Roland Dürre
Wednesday November 15th, 2017

The Future of the Planet

Today, I will not write about electric bikes or sex, but about politics.

The Jamaican coat of arms

Jamaica

Currently, many people develop a sudden interest in the land of Bob Marley. It is about Jamaica, which, naturally, is only a silly word-play. It is all about the “Coalition Discussions“ (Koalitionsverhandlungen) in Berlin. We call them Jamaica because the coat of arms of this country is identical with the colours of the parties concerned (black, yellow and green).

I must admit that I had been hopeful for the Green Party to be the positive factor in these discussions.

But what is the Green Party doing?

They went to Berlin with demands that were probably justified but it is clear that these demands cannot be successfully pushed through during negotiations (which has already been proved). The first of these demands was that the combustion motor be abolished in the year 2030 (1) and the second was that all coal-based power plants be closed by the same year (2). Especially (1) sounds more than utopian. Besides, we do not need general goals but actual measures.

Electricity must replace coal, not use it up!

I will not comment on (2). After all, it is evident that the only way we can and must end the “dark” era when fossil energy was burned using electricity. Yet replacing coal by electricity cannot mean that half of the electricity world-wide is produced with coal. This must (and will soon) become a thing of the past. However, I find (1) a lot more exciting.

Driving an automobile is out!

Everybody must realize that an “individual mobility” based on electricity cannot and will not be the same as many of us now use the car. Just like “autonomous cars”, too, will not be driven in the same way as MEN and WOMEN drive them now.

2030 will soon be here!

In only 12 years, it will have arrived – that is as many years as the life-span of a car used to be. In that respect, what the Green Party demanded would have been rather easy to realize.

Prepare for the exit!

One of the factors is to quickly establish a speed limit – if necessary, why not step-by-step so that people can get used to it – but with a clear end even before 2020 at a maximum of 30 km/h in closed built-up areas, 70 km/h on secondary streets and 100 km/h on motorways. And, also step-by-step, a truly relevant and drastic increase in taxes on fossil fuel (including kerosene for planes). And if then the gigantic subsidies on “business cars” (at least the huge practice of abuse) were finally restricted, then the entire scenario would make sense!

Slim end efficient!

That would be a slim and efficient solution and it would raise hopes for a “soft landing”. It would also make quite a few stupid ideas, such as road charges, obsolete. And the Green Party, perhaps for good reasons, does not wish to be unpopular. Mind you, I personally believe that being unpopular brings you more votes than it costs you.

Investing in the future

And the money you get from all these projects must not be spent for building even more new motorway crossings on two levels with up to ten lanes, which today apparently, as a consequence of the motorway expansion having to happen on ever more lanes, has become a necessity. Instead, we should invest these moneys in a public transport system and, of course, in the “energy change” – which basically only means the abolition of nuclear and coal-based electricity production. As I see it, we are actually already quite well under way in this respect.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday November 11th, 2017

Electricity on the Bike.

Time flies. Only one year ago, I was sceptical about electro-mobility for the bike. At least in Munich. Because here, everything (with the exception of the Isar banks) is rather flat land.

My e-Bike London from Utopia during its first train trip in the 
IC 2304 from Munich to Naumburg with the final destination Magdeburg.

Now, our household has 4 (four) electro bikes. And the electric support given to my bike absolutely fascinates me.

Basically, the bike itself was already a stroke of genius by combining humans and mechanics. But the e-bike combines this exciting combination with a motor. In doing so, it realizes a unique symbiosis between humans and machines. It is such a great thing that it was the last and determining factor that blew away any lingering fascination of mine for driving a car.

What a pitiful way of moving from one place to another is the car if compared with the bike!

For me, the physical activity has always been an important reason why I rode a bike. So there was the fear that said physical activity might suffer a little under the e-bike influence. But that is not so. After a long e-bike tour, I am just as exhausted – if in a different way – as I used to be with the conventional bike. After fifty kilometres on the e-bike, I would actually like to continue. And only after a few minutes of rest, I notice how exhausting it actually was.

Well, it is easy to find out the secret. On the e-bike, my pedalling frequency is much higher. It is easy going and does not harm the joints. On average, I ride about one third more than “without electricity”. In other words: I have the battery support, but I am going much faster. And I often get the impression that, physically, I actually achieve as much as before, if not more. And that the power from the battery mainly gives the higher speed – and yet I do not work less than without the electrical power.

If I go distances of 10 kilometres and less, I only take my conventional bikes. I keep the considerably higher pedal frequency I got used to on the e-bike. And, surprise, surprise, I am now faster than I used to be with my good old bikes. Which I find quite fascinating.

All my electric bikes are true e-bikes, i.e., the electricity only supports me when I pedal myself. It turns off at 25 km/h. Which is totally ok by me. Using my e-bikes in the economy mode, I do an average of 18 kilometres. Which means I need half an hour for 9 kilometres. And in Munich, this means quite a distance. For instance from my home in Neubiberg to the Isartor. Or from the Marienplatz to Riem. Munich becomes a small town. And all the advantages of the bike, for instance parking without a problem, remain the same for the e-bike.

If I am in a hurry, I can also do an average of more than 20 kilometres. It only requires a higher program. That means I ride ten kilometres in half an hour. And with the e-bike, just like with the bike, distances are mostly considerably shorter than with the car.

Consequently, the so-called S-pedelecs are not an issue in my book. I rather like speeds of around 25 km/h and they are absolutely sufficient for my purposes. I feel absolutely well and safe – and I definitely need no more speed.

Among my initial concerns were the range and the handling. Both are not at all something I need to worry about. It is quite remarkable how many kilometres and how much altitude modern batteries can go. And the handling is also quite easy. But I will tell you more and in more detail about this when I introduce the three bike types of our household.

It all started with an e-cargo bike. Then I purchased two “electronic mountain bikes”. And eventually a wonderful touring bike. I will introduce all three of them next week in the IF blog. They all have their individual technology and specialties. And I love them all.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Sunday June 25th, 2017

#AktMobCmp – July, 13, 2017

I propose a #AktMobCmp meeting for the evening of July, 13th, 2017.

Here are some ideas in preparation!

POSSIBLE TOPICS

For me, the following topics/theses are of interest.


Why do people still drive cars? Does it offer any advantages? Or is it just a huge case of self-delusion? Because we are being manipulated and fall victim to lobbyism?

A few days ago, I rode my bike around the lake Starnberger See. It took me a few hours. First, I went from Neubiberg to Starnberg by S-Bahn train. Then we rode our bikes around the lake and took the S-Bahn train back from Starnberg. It was a wonderful summer day, everything just beautiful. But near the lake, all the cars were hell. All the parking spaces were taken, nothing could be done about it. And there was no end of stress – among the car drivers.

I am fairly mobile. Especially in Munich. But also in Germany, Europe and occasionally even in this world. And I can always manage without using a car. Doing without a car as a mobility tool has only advantages. When all is said and done, you feel a lot better without a car!

Here is one question that might be worth answering:
What requirements must be met for a car journey to make sense, i.e. for it to offer considerable advantages over alternative mobility?


Why do people still dare to go places by car? In the process, they accept horrendous collateral damage, either without thinking or because they are arrogantly egomaniacal, not only in the social sector, both inflicted on third parties and on themselves?

Or:
Would the following metaphor fit? Driving a car is on the same level as smoking in public buildings, and not only if it happens in the city? Whenever I ride my bike, all those cars pollute my lungs, just like the smokers used to when they sat at the dinner table across from me.

When sitting behind the wheel of a car, we consciously take the risk that we might probably injure or kill other people. It still happens far too often.
When we drive a car, we produce pollutants that harm other people. People who do not want any involvement with cars at all.
Cars are noisy, which significantly reduces the quality of life where we live, both in cities and villages.

Cars give those sitting in it and especially the driver a whole lot of distress.
Going by car robs the people the opportunity to exercise and thus makes them obese.
Here is a tweet I read that is probably not all that hilarious: perhaps you should, before getting rid of them outside, first transmit the exhaust fumes of a car into the car.

At this point, I do not have a “moralizing” discussion in mind. Instead, I want a very basic and constructive judgement of values.


Pedelecs (e-bikes) are a stroke of genius!

The combination of body and machine
For rational and efficient mobility and logistics, e-machines are perfect.
Especially with lower speeds and for slim mobility, electric vehicles offer an excellent alternative.

Maybe we could make 90% of our intra-city individual and logistically necessary mobility a lot better, cheaper, healthier, nicer and more efficient by using e-bikes and other suitable electric vehicles (scooters, trucks, large taxis as part of public transportation,… )?

(I am well aware of the fact that electric mobility – e.g. the e-car – is not a solution individually. The very damage done to the environment and CO2 output that the production of a single huge battery – such as for a Tesla or even for an e-UP – creates shows that this will not be a solution for fast and long-range communication).

Is it possible that our massive switch from riding a bicycle to driving a car in post-war Germany was caused by all those many and strenuous inclines? And that, since the invention of the e-bike, the bad weather is the last remaining argument against riding bikes? And that it is actually quite easy to solve this problem (since it is part of being human)?

And is “high-power mobility” – being able to quickly cover medium and long distances – basically not about “shared economy” but about “shared mobility”? And has shared mobility not been invented a long time ago, although there is definitely room for improvement?


Here are the format and the method I suggest for our next meeting:
How about a practical exercise in building vexillae? All these topics can be discussed and processed using the technology of building vexillae. The ars construendi vexilla is a dialectic method for coming to reasonable agreements (rational consensus) in groups. And that is something you can – or better: must – realize in an agile way and at eye-level!

How do you feel about it? What would you prefer? Which topic, which method. Do you have better ideas and/or additional recommendations? Should I organize the planned meeting and invite people?

If so, I would organize a room for July, 13th in the Munich area, write a program and publish the time and program in Meet-Up and on the AktMobCmp-homepage .

Or should we just leave it be, because it does not make sense, anyway? And because there is not the slightest chance for a better life without air pollution and noise? Because the car lobby governs the world?

Then I would cancel the meeting and perhaps also terminate AktMobCmp.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Donated by Visual BrainDump (Christian Botta & Daniel Reinold). Click on the picture to enlarge.

Roland Dürre
Saturday April 15th, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Bicyclist – SHOPPING

New series, because active mobility is important to me.

Once in a while, I go shopping. For instance when I need milk for my coffee. After all, you only get top-quality coffee froth with excellent fresh milk. My favourite is the 3.8% fat milk you get at demeter. It is available in brown one-litre glass bottles. For me, it is important that the container is glass, because products like milk in the tetra pack or yoghurt in plastic containers are a no-go in my book as a matter of principle these days. Just like I also never buy beer in tin cans.

Close to my house, the milk I want is only available at a bio-market called denns. It opened some time ago on the Putzbrunner Strasse in Ottobrunn, not far from where I live. The shop is part of a bio-chain with the same name. They are probably quite the experts when it comes to really earn money with the label “bio” (unless they become their own enemies by offering poor service in their chain stores).

Careful! You do not necessarily get what you read on the label.

The entrance seems to welcome you, but that is a misconception. As soon as you enter, you see the PAYBACK machine to the right. – PAYBACK  are those who currently do the “ONLINE SHOPPING HAPPINESS WEEKS“. In my book, PAYBACK is a modern way of bullshitting customers. And as I see it, bullshitting customers is not really something that should go with “bio”, is it?

My other experiences in the same place, too, are in accordance with “pretty is what pretty does”. When at the check-out, I also always have (too) long to wait and the service persons are not particularly friendly, either (at least as far as I was concerned until April 2017). There is exotic fruit and non-exotic fruit at the wrong time of year. Everything looks too much “bio, bio, bio” to me. On the whole, it seems more appearances and show than anything else.

Usually, most of the customers come shopping in their big limousines, although they live just around the corner. That, too, is something I would not associate with the attribute “bio”. Here is a metaphor: the typical customers are not do-gooders wearing Birkenstock. Instead, we are talking the chic super-mom who, driving her SUV, looks more like a super-bum. However, some customers come by bike – and so do I.

In my opinion, a rather exciting criterion for determining “customer friendliness” is how bike-riding customers are treated. There is at least some symbolic meaning to be deduced from the fact that only the most simple of – alibi – bike racks can be found at a rather remote place. And if said bike rack does not even have a roof, although the entire building has a long overhang, then this is also a message.

The small bike rack is rather remotely positioned and has no roof (and currently it is not overcrowded).

But what is the “evil cyclist” supposed to do when there are many customers and the “cyclists’ parking” is chaotically overcrowded?

;-)Then we evil cyclists will park our bikes on a common parking space – if there is a vacancy. And why not?

Two bikes belonging to two persons (the same is actually true for three or four of them) only need as much parking space as one car (with one person).

The highly motorized Denns customers will probably not like this “evil” behaviour.

Generally, many car drivers get annoyed with all those bikes on parking places. Some of them get so upset that they start yelling at people – and, depending on the personality and stress level of the car driver, said yelling might be intense, aggressive or even offensive.

There is enough space with overhangs for dry bike parking, but they are reserved for more important things.

Whenever someone starts this kind of trouble, I remain polite. I do not reply to the accusing words of the car driver with my favourite expletive “What do you want, you car driver!”, neither do I stoop so deep as remaining unperturbed and saying something like “Again, you can see that car drivers are definitely the lowest of the low”.

In former times, that is what I would have done. But I have become older and more sedate. Consequently, I give them a very friendly smile and tell them ever so politely that “parking places, after all, are for parking vehicles, aren’t they? And aren’t bicycles also vehicles?”. Naturally, if there is a parking place that costs fees, I am more than willing to pay.

Trouble is pre-programmed. More and more bicycles will appear, among them also some for transport of heavy material. There is no other alternative if we want shopping to be possible in the cities. Even now, the problem – no bicycle parking – arises more and more often, not just in front of shops with many customers, for instance discounters, but generally in the public domain.

Even today, there are many shops where cyclists are appreciated and taken seriously. Here is a beautiful example, also quite close to my home, in Neubiberg.

At REWE near the Neubiberg S-bahn train station, the cyclists’ parking is directly next to the entrance and has a roof.

At REWE near the Neubiberg S-bahn train station, the cyclists’ parking is directly next to the entrance and has a roof.

At the Neubiberg REWE, there used to be just a very small parking place for bicycles. Now the management reacted and installed a big, roofed area for bicycles right next to the entrance!

There is just one downside: whenever many customers are shopping here, the new and really not very small bike rack is also too small. However, you could easily remedy this by parking in the second row as well (with a passage between the two rows). For the users, it would be easier if there were a marking on the tarmac to indicate where the second row is supposed to begin. How about this idea of mine to improve matters? Basically, a cyclist does not need a bike rack when shopping. The marked free area that cyclists should then use with discipline is a lot more important.

In this place, the friendliness towards cyclists is symptomatic for the entire service. Whenever I shop at the Neubiberg REWE, I notice with approval how nice the shop looks inside and how friendly and eager to help all the service persons are. Maybe there is a correlation between “cyclist-friendliness” and “good service for the customers”? And probably being cyclist-friendly is more and more profitable for the shops! Because there are more and more cyclists who have more money than many car drivers – and who very much appreciate quality.

RMD
(Translated by Evelyn)

Mobility of the Future – #agile #digital #lean #open #social

Future mobility will have to be totally different from today. Because it is quite obvious that we cannot continue in this way. Everybody more or less knows it.

Other countries, such as the Netherlands, seem to be on a promising path. We, however, do not seem to be able to incorporate the necessary change. After all, in the future, mobility should again be there for the people, instead of vice versa. We want to make a mental and active contribution.

Our Goal

We want to give new impetus to the #AktMobCmp (Barcamp for active mobility in everyday life) tradition with a series of evening events. We will start on Tuesday, April, 11th, 2017 at 7 p.m. A young and very exciting enterprise, the
accu:rate GmbH | Institute for Crowd Simulation | Rosental 5 | D-80331 München
invited us. For registration, click here: MeetUp or send an email to me.

On this day, we plan to have a moderated “lean coffee“ with a time-box following the 3×3 principle: (1) be precise, (2) negotiate in cooperation and (3) reap what you have sown. As an inspiration, there will be a few impulses given by Dr. Jessica Le Bris (GreenCity), Florian Sesser (Gründer accu:rate GmbH) and yours truly (Initiator #AktMobCmp) before the Lean Coffee.

Here are a few theories and questions to inspire you.

Theories

  • Agility and mobility are human needs.
  • The industrial revolution replaced agility with planning and Taylorism.
  • The belief in the omnipotence of humans due to technological progress starts to dwindle.
  • The era of hierarchies and Taylorism is at its end.
  • The individual and motorized mobility as we have it today is only allegedly agile.
  • The mobility of the future will be more rational, instead of emotional.
  • The motility of the future, too, must become “agile”.
  • It cannot be done without a considerable percentage of “active mobility” (moving under your own steam on foot, on your bike or with other supportive devices).
  • Active mobility is good for your body
    (we only have this one body and consequently should treat it in the best possible way)
    and
  • it makes it possible to make better use of our precious commodity: time.
    (our time is limited, it will not return after it is over).
  • ….

Questions:

  • Why do people prefer to stand in the congestion, rather than move in fresh air?
  • Why are parking spaces in public places so strongly state-subsidized?
  • Should two-stroke Otto engines be abolished altogether?
  • Do we all really need a car?
  • What should the smart city look like?
  • Is it really necessary that, every year, more than one million people have to die in traffic accidents, with even more being severely wounded and ending up crippled?
  • Did you know that half of all the head traumas happen to people sitting in cars
    and
  • yet those who drive a car need not wear helmets?
    What can we all do to make mobility softer?

We appreciate all input. We also want results. Here is how it could happen.

  • Share our knowledge;
  • Experience and realize things;
  • Gain new insights;
  • Formulate our ideas clearly;
  • Develop ideas
    and
  • start to shape a fresh world of ours.

Target Group

AktMobCmp wants to reach mostly those who feel dissatisfied with the current mobility situation and its consequences.

 

Xlick on the picture to enlarge. Donated by Visual-Brainddump. We would like to thank Christian Botta and Daniel Reinold.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday January 23rd, 2017

Inflation in Local Traffic

I did not pay too much attention to the latest Deutsche Bahn price increase at the time when the schedule changed from summer to winter. I just had made a mental note that the “Deutsche Bahn increases its prices for long-distance travelling by 1.3 per cent on average”. That is what the SZ, too, had written.

The Shuttle Munich-Nuremberg Today on Arrival at Nuremberg.

But it turns out that was a myth!

On Saturday, I wanted to go to Augsburg with three other persons. So I ordered a Bayern-Ticket on the internet. My eyes almost pop out: it now costs 25 €. A very short time ago, it was 23 €. That means it is more expensive by 2 €, which is an increase of around 9 %.

Well, I can survive that, can’t I? But then comes the other surprise: all travellers sharing my ticket (up to four are possible) used to cost 5 € per person. Now they cost 6 € per person. That is 20 % more.

Consequently, the Bayern Ticket for our small group is now 25 € plus three persons à 6 €, which is 25 € plus 18 €, in sum 43 €. Well, that is no less than the price I occasionally pay for two long-distance DB tickets to Sylt (for instance in February).

Formerly, I paid 23 € plus 3 persons times 5 €, which was 38 €. Consequently, the price for the four of us increased from 38 € to 43 €. Well that is 5 € more, which means an increase of 13 %.

I also admire the “rounded prices” they so easily come up with. To be sure, cents are inconvenient and more and more shops simply round the sum when you purchase products. But simply obscuring the first digit after the comma – after all, we are talking 10 cents, that used to be 20 Pfennige – is a little strange to my way of thinking.

Incidentally, there is also an inflation on special tickets for all kinds of things: with and without local traffic in transport associations, for special regions, between cities or for a maximum distance. This is how they make everything more complicated. And if you include the basic moon prices and the similarly introduced low prices (special offers in long-distance travel), then the price policy of Deutsche Bank gets more and more bizarre.

This is how empty the shuttle looks at 4 p.m. – I always carry my chrome book.

However, I only get annoyed once in a while and later continue going places by train, because, for me, there is simply no alternative to railways. Consequently, I am also going to Nuremberg and back with the Bayern Ticket today after having paid my 25 €. After all, the train is a good place to sit and answer all your emails and write all your articles. That is something you cannot do when driving a car.

Basically, driving a car is out of the question for me these days. According to social research, the majority of our people are embittered. I, too, would be bitter if I had to spend one or more hours behind the wheel of car each day. I prefer going by train and enjoy seeing how google waits in front of the A9 traffic jam. It is my morbid delight in the failure of a stupid system.

Going by bus would be an alternative to going by train. But that is not my idea of travelling. I am a little spoiled because of the mostly rather empty DB region trains and do not enjoy being squeezed into narrow busses that are often forced over the streets of this republic in self-suicidal mode by their drivers. Besides, meinBus and flixBus had to cut their networks considerably and drop quite a few connections from their list of destinations, because the venture capitalists who own the companies no longer felt like permanently making up for the deficit.

So here is what I will do: I will continue to go by train and hope that the density of train services with the resulting mostly empty trains will remain the normal state of affairs. …

Incidentally, the German railway is not the only company where these enormous price increases can be observed. You can also find it in public institutions and quality food, as well as with some everyday articles. And in real estate.

Yet now I hear that, allegedly, the inflation rate is still less than 2 %. Basically, I do not believe they lie to us on purpose. But I certainly do not believe the 1,X % – and I think they are not really interested in telling us that our savings dwindle. Which also means that the chasm between the rich and the poor continues to grow. We already have ample opportunity to see the consequences and can speculate on more of them to come.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

The shuttle to Munich on January, 23rd, 2017 at Nuremberg Central Station, platform 12.

Roland Dürre
Tuesday January 10th, 2017

BICYCLE Culture – an Interview with Roland Dürre

I basically know Franziska Köppe from the EnjoyWorkCamp. It is a very nice barcamp promoting a new understanding of work that is held annually in Stuttgart. Franziska interviewed me about my bicycle enthusiasm. The result is something that is very important in my life – which is why I revised it a little bit and then saved it in my IF blog, as well. However, I tried to leave those parts that came from Franziska as they were in the original version.


 

Active Mobility – Promotion and Request

January, 3rd, 2017 – Are car drivers the coachman of our times? Mobility is undergoing change. Since the 1950ies, the automobile industry has been strongly promoted – especially by politicians. The sector is said to be “system relevant’”. It is closely linked to many providers, as well as with traffic planning and lobbyism. But is that “system relevant”? Start-ups and the crowd economy, as well as cultural changes with respect to the behaviour of not only our young generation threaten conventional business models. I talked about bicycle culture and his own contribution towards our future mobility with the entrepreneur and mobility activist Roland Dürre.
(introduction by Franziska)


 

The Interview

Franziska: Hallo Roland, please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and what exactly do you do?

Roland: I do not know who I am. It feels to me like I am a human being, an activist, a blogger, a coach, a maker, an entrepreneur. I love life and my family. I try to be courageous and to very much enjoy what I do. After my retirement from the InterFace AG, it is – even more than before – my task to hand down experience and, if possible, to help others – especially younger persons – to become happy and successful. I am grateful for all the beautiful things I experienced in my life and will be happy if this gratefulness will further increase during my remaining years.

Franziska: One of your passions is riding your bicycle. What is the meaning of the word BICYCLE culture for you? What connotations does it have in your life?

Roland: Both culture and RIDING my BICYCLE are beautiful things. They go together well!
But let us look at what car culture brought us. Driving a car, I am totally isolated from everything that is outside my car. Other people become anonymous objects in other cars. I actually know people who, conscious of their own isolation when sitting behind the wheel of their car, use swear words they would never use in their normal environment. That is something I can easily understand.

Riding my bicycle, I am used to greeting cyclists I encounter. When standing at a red traffic light, I often start a conversation with persons riding on the bike next to me. I try to be considerate. As I see it, pedestrians should always have right of way before cyclists. But then, cyclists should also have right of way before cars.

Riding my bike, I see more that is happening around me. That is true both if I am on a bike journey in foreign countries and in Germany. Social contacts are quickly established. Riding my bicycle, however, I also see how many animals, such as toads, cats and dogs are killed by cars. It always makes my heart bleed.

Consequently, I see a correlation between driving a car and being ruthless and inconsiderate. Whatever is in the way of a car will be killed. Carbon dioxide is emitted, fine dust produced – and it all happens just because people want to be comfortable. It is normal to have 1.400,000 million fatalities world-wide, because you cannot do without a car. But the truth is: you can! I experienced it in a self-experiment. And you definitely feel better without a car.

Here is a cultural provocation: Car drivers are the coachmen of our times. Coachmen were not very well-liked, because whenever any of the common citizens were in their way as they drove through the narrow streets of the cities, they used their whips to beat them out of the way. In those days, coachmen were considered “scum and riff-raff?!

BICYCLE culture – a quiet and clean world with happier and healthier people.

Franziska: It is probably true that most of us – especially those living in big cities – consider mobility as something that has to be connected with a car. Mind you, not too long ago, it was a matter of course that people went by bicycle whenever they had to go somewhere that was more than five kilometre away. Let us return to bicycles. What kind of world would come to mind if you were permitted to dream BICYCLE culture?

Roland: A quiet and clean world with happier and healthier people. From a change in mobility concepts, progress in other areas of life would automatically develop. One of the things I like to say is: If someone cannot even get a grip on his or her mobility, how are they supposed to get a grip on their entire lives? After all, you cannot get anywhere without the “desire and ability to live a responsible life”.

Roland Dürre on his way from Salerno to Pisciotta

Franziska: So far so good. Except that the reality in everyday life does not look quite so blue and rosy. You already said it: That is one of the reasons why you are actively promoting “active motility”– AktMob, as you call it  ..

Roland: That is true. I know many streets in Munich where it is no fun at all to ride a bicycle. And on my big tours, it also happens time and again that I have to struggle through a street where I am really afraid I might die.

Mind you, AktMob is not just about riding a bicycle. It is about any sort of mobility that is not horse-drawn carriages, combustion motors or electronic cars. All that matters is that you are moving under your own steam. Be it with roller-blades, skate boards, hiking or using the

Franziska: In the traffic sector, cars as individual means of transportation have been promoted since the 1950ies. It was based on the political concept of the economic boom in Germany. Unfortunately, even this short time was enough to make our cities inhuman. Strange as it may seem, pedestrians and cyclist no longer belong to traffic in the cultural sense. Especially a look at kindergardens and schools every morning shows how absurd this sometimes is: children are driven by car because, due to all that traffic, it would be too dangerous for them to walk. How grotesque is that?

Cars as status symbols in the economic boom world.

Roland: What a good example! Cars were, indeed, not just an object that took you from A to B – especially for men. As soon as you had a driver’s licence and a car, you were at long last grown-up. It is certainly not totally wrong to call a car a phallic symbol. And sitting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle, men in particular feel omnipotent. Can you imagine anybody not liking that feeling?

But even more than that, the car was a status symbol in the economic boom world for Germany and the world where everybody was recuperating. The car is perhaps the best metaphor for bought happiness as a substitute for needs not being met.

When we were still young men and had no cars, we always got the impression that the beautiful young girls clearly preferred the men who owned cars – while they looked down their noses upon us non-car owners.

But the car was also a symbol for freedom – like the cigarette. And it was also a new private space – in the US, for instance, they say that there were several years during which more than half of the children were made on the backseats of cars. Even the Kinsey report said so. And these motorized vehicles certainly also were a nice thing when it came to our laziness. Well, and that such a god-like vehicle – especially when its marketing was also optimal and emotional – won over everything else is rather clear, isn’t it?

The critical mass – riding bicycles together

Franziska: With activities “We Are Traffic”, there are so-called Critical Masses on a monthly basis, both in Germany and world-wide. Cyclists make use of §27 of the StVO, which says that, as soon as they are more than 15 (critical mass), they may drive together. I am quite happy that this movement gets more and more popular in D-A-CH. For instance, it was a peaceful and joyful event for 3,290 cyclists last November in Germany. This year in July, the number had even increased to 13,371 [source: Daniel via itstartedwithafight]. Everybody can join – even if they only want to ride a short part of the way.

© Radlhauptstadt München – cyclists’ night 2016 [picture taken by Andreas Schebesta

Roland: I rather like Critical Mass! In particular, I appreciate the movement because it seems to be truly grass-root. And I am convinced that the only way to cause change is “from the bottom”. Politics and administration are paralyzed by lobbyists and their own rules and have neither a chance nor the desire to try anything. But – without someone trying something, nothing will happen!

Franziska: And yet you can find some bicycle enthusiast among the politicians, too. For instance look at your hometown. The city of Munich aspires to being called bicycle capital. This is also due to the commitment of Wigand von Sassen, who has now been responsible for the city bicycle campaign project since March 2009. Since they started with intense bicycle promotion, there has been a considerable increase in the relative number of cyclists among the total traffic. For instance, there are regular bike checks where you can have small repairs for free. In October, you had the cyclists’ night, in September the RadCouture… This is a lot of commitment in favour of BICYCLE culture. It shows a lot of courage and stamina.

But let us think in more modest terms. What can every one of us do? You do not always need grand gestures.

Driving a car – nothing but a bad habit?

Roland: It is definitely time for something to happen. However, I do not think the higher percentage of bicycles is due to an “intense” promotion of bicycles. In fact, I think that more and more persons discover that there are better ways of being mobile than using a car and also that a car eats up a lot of money. I see all those many cars as a prosperity reserve for the future where many of us will feel more “tightness”.

Driving a car is nothing but a bad habit. Basically, it is necessary for us to be willing and able to change our habits. Smoking is a good metaphor for the process. It is not easy and for many smokers unthinkable to become a non-smoker. And then you can do it against all the odds – and you will quickly feel a lot better.

Currently, I myself am a good example for how hard it is to change patterns you were used to and actually liked. On regional trips up to thirty kilometres, I only go by bike. But unfortunately also for short distances. So my personal mobility program is now “get off your bike and back to walking”. I want to do more hiking. And it is very hard for me to give up the old habit and not automatically mount my bicycle, even if I only have to go a short distance.

Franziska: It is certainly not easy to change behavioural patterns. When I was still an employee, I found it easy to mount my bicycle every morning and ride to the firm. To this day, it is not a problem for me to take the bike when I have business meetings (except if they are too far away, then I use public transportation).

It was easy for me because I knew I had to be there no matter what. But ever since I work in my home office, I find it very hard to mount the bicycle every day – just because I want the exercise. The requirement of having to go from A to B is missing. That makes it more natural for me to do my hiking round through the vineyards in the evening. It gives me peace to ponder and structure the day’s ideas.

Now I integrate this exercise into my working day. On the one hand, I offer public network meetings. We call it Walk to Talk. We meet at a green place and see what topics everybody brought. And then we run through urban greenery for 90 to 120 minutes.

I particularly delight in the fact that the people I coach, my mentees and my supervision partners appreciate this way of talking just like I do. That means that I can enjoy this exciting discourse surrounded by greenery (“Gehsprächs” im Grünen) between four and six times each month. But I would not object to it becoming more.

Incidentally, I would recommend this format to everybody – especially as a welcome deviation from meetings that far too often happen in closed rooms and sitting down. Which brings us to the topic work world = life world.

You have been an entrepreneur for a long time. What can a boss do in order to promote a BICYCLE culture? What are the important factors?

BICYCLE culture in the mobility and health management of enterprises – not an easy task for the boss

Roland (laughs): That is not at all easy. I am sure the most important factor is that you do not offer business cars as an allegedly attractive part of the salary. Unfortunately, I did it up from 1984. The InterFace AG has far too many so-called “business cars”. And it is not at all easy to take away acquired rights.

Services such as bicycle racks with roofs and/or showers in the basement are to be recommended. And you have to be a good example yourself. You have to infect people with your own enthusiasm for bicycles and for riding bikes.

Franziska: Riding bicycles is, indeed, catching. The last time I made that experience was when, in the company I last worked for, we founded an everyday cycling group. It worked like a bus line. The experienced cyclists offered to ride alongside the beginners. In no time, we had an ad-hoc bicycle repair shop and organized (after work) bike tours. Through joining in, I learned about shortcuts and secure routes to work, as well as all kinds of bike tricks.

It filled me with pride to notice how much I already knew after some time and how I could advise others. That was a huge motivation boost towards also surviving the wet-cold rain days with temperatures around the freezing point. There are considerably more dry days than rainy days. And as soon as you are on your way and have ample rain protective gear – the rain does not matter anyway. That is also something I only found out through riding my bike on a daily basis. Mind you, this is still not considering all the many natural panoramas and the intense experience of the seasons of the year.

In your experience, what is it that makes active mobility in everyday life hard or impossible? What – perhaps small – helpful advice can you give to overcome those obstacles?

Roland: Many things come to mind. There is, for instance, the wrong belief that children and heavy objects can only be transported by car. That is not true. Children are happier on the bicycle than in a car. Shopping is a lot easier if you take a bike trailer or a cargo bike instead of a car. Even two bike panniers will go quite some way.

Regularly taking a look at your mirror and your weight, perhaps even at your blood pressure, will soon convince you that it makes sense to exercise more often.

Franziska (laughs): Correct!

Let us get back to entrepreneurial thinking. Since many employees are determined by numbers, data and facts, I am often expected to ask about it. What advantages do you see for the boss to consider “active mobility”?

Roland: Well – it has been proved that persons who exercise regularly in fresh air have considerably fewer sick days. Isn’t that something to convince you? They will also arrive at work in a better mood and more emotionally balanced. And riding a bike also gives them an enormous amount of creativity.

Strong together – AktMob promotes active mobility in everyday life.

Franziska: Early in 2016, you had the AktMobCmp in Unterhaching in order to bring active persons around “active mobility in everyday life” together. In 2017, you will organize evening events and the next AktMobCmp is also currently being organized. What are the topics you will discuss there? Who were – and who are – the participants?

Roland: The invitation addresses everyone who thinks in terms of taking responsibility for our future. The way we think about mobility directly reflects on our way of life. AktMobCmp is a BarCamp – which means we do not know the topics and sessions in advance. This openness, however, makes it possible to get many nice and tangible results on the personal level.
AktMobCmp 2016 — BarCamp for active mobility in everyday life.

Franziska: In other words, you organize and moderate the ActMobCmp as a BarCamp in order to provide space for everybody’s topics. What is special about this particular event format?
Roland: The Barcamp format is characterized by the persons who come organizing their meeting and their sessions according to their individual needs. There are no invited presentations that have been selected by a committee. Everyone is allowed and supposed to contribute. The organizing team only has the role of host who makes it possible to meet at all. The social control is with the participants. I already experienced several times how a session that was abused for marketing purposes was empty in no time.

Franziska: And then there are sessions where humans are made to work intensely and productively in order to solve a shared problem. That is what I like about BarCamps. Especially if the organizers believe in the self-organization and self-control of the participants practiced in those anti-conferences.

For you, this belief grew over the last few years because you experienced it yourself. Because this AktMobCmp is not the first BarCamp you have organized. You are one of the fathers of the PM Camp movement that brings together people all over Europe who exchange ideas on project work. What fascinates you about the BarCamp idea?

Roland: The great thing about BarCamps is that you discover many new things. After all, all the participants are willing to open up and share their knowledge. As a general rule, all participants will go home happy and richer. What you experience will continue to have an effect on you. You have made new friends with whom you remain in contact. This is how, on BarCamps, humans and movements are linked and thus gaining more and more strength.

Franziska: I know exactly what you mean! Since some of my readers are BarCamp newcomers, can you give a few examples?

Roland: Well, there are movements such as eye-level (Augenhöhe),  intrinsify.meEnjoyWork with EnjoyWorkCamp, entrepreneurial democrats (Unternehmensdemokraten), common good economists (Gemeinwohlökonomie) and many more, all of whom I met at BarCamps. Along with those who support and promote them. This is how I made new friends at BarCamps, for instance  Nadja Petranovskaja, Dr. Andreas Zeuch, Dr. Eberhard Huber, Gebhard Borck, Dr. Jens Hoffmann, Maik Pfingsten, Dr. Marcus Rainer, Dr. Niels Pflaeging, Roger Dannenhauer, Dr. Stefan Hagen and many, many more.

We, too, first met at a BarCamp (EnjoyWorkCamp?) didn’t we? You will find posts, podcasts and videos of all these persons online. Reading those will automatically make you understand why you need to connect yourself with others and do things together.

Franziska: I think the first time we met was at the Dornbirn PM Camp. But our first really intense discussion was during the “EnjoyWork” initiative. Consequently, I find it even more exciting to have gone into more detail about a few topics we share. Many thanks, Roland, for the exchange of experience.

I wish you well and for your ACtMob to be a huge success – and a good bike-chain at all times.

Roland: Many thanks – it was a true pleasure!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Some more links:

Or is that already true for the present?

On January, 3rd, Franziska Köppe interviewed me for her blog FAHRRADkultur.
Here is the result:

Franziska’s message is “bike-riders will live longer lives”. Consequently, I certainly hope that she is right and that our life will not be terminated ahead of time by some motorized vehicle. And that it will not happen that, to make up for it, one more white bicycle will be sitting on a street or crossroad.

I hold Franziska in very high esteem. Consequently, I was a little cautious during the interview. My worst provocation was perhaps (citation from the interview):

“Car drivers are the coachmen of our times. Coachmen were not very well-liked, because whenever any of the common citizens were in their way as they drove through the narrow streets of the cities, they used their whips to beat them out of the way. In those days, coachmen were considered “scum and riff-raff“?!

I abide by all I said in the interview. Let me add that the more I live (and I mean “live” in the truest sense of the word) without a car, the more I am aware of how stupid and irrational it is to drive a car.

And that is true for many dimensions:

  • For the lie behind the image and reputation you subconsciously want to gain through owning a car.
  • For the challenging work you have to do as you sit behind a steering wheel, although you have grown used to it and thus ignore how strenuous it is. More than this: you actually lie to yourself and claim that you “enjoy the experience of driving” or “relax behind the steering wheel”. Your car is perceived as your “best friend” and a place where you “feel at home”.
  • For the horrendous deprivation of exercise and fresh air you subject yourself to as a car driver. That is also true for the physical damage caused by constantly sitting and the negative consequences, including spinal problems.
  • For senselessly wasting time, especially if you drive a car. Using public transportation, you could take far better advantage of that time.
  • For the physical (considerably more than one million fatalities and far more seriously and not so seriously wounded persons) damage world-wide every year, as well as the psychological risk (double stress for instance when using the telephone while driving a car).
  • For how unfree a car makes you – it is the millstone around your neck – because you always have to go back to where it is parked.
  • For how you depend on the car: whenever there is a problem and it does not work, your personal world is under threat of destruction.
  • For how much of a burden a car is: How often do I hear people say – I have no time because my car needs to be picked up from the service/taken to the service. And the weekend is spent polishing it because you love it so much.
  • For how ruthless car drivers treat their environment and society. Neither pollution nor waste of energy are considered, the external additional costs of mobility are considerably higher if you drive a car than if you go by any other means of transportation. And we all pay the price.
  • For the fact that you accept the risk that you might kill or injure people, doing enormous damage to yourself in the process.…
  • … and for a lot more …

For me, driving a car thus gets more and more synonymous for living your life the wrong way. But:

Life is too short to live it the wrong way!

I know from personal experience that people who consider their car part of their own body like a wheelchair that has become essential to their life will under no circumstances agree with many of the points on this list. I can also relate from personal experience that it was very similar with smoking for me … you only really understand how bad it was when you no longer do it. But you know how hard it was to break with the habit.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

In this article, I will tell you about the second week of our cruise through the northern Caribbean on the MeinSchiff 4. In an earlier IF Blog Post, I wrote about my adventures from the first week of this trip, between December, 9th and 16th. Those first seven days were over on December, 16th with our arrival at Roatán in Honduras. We had explored the area on our own and had taken a long and beautiful walk along the Westbays.

From Roatán, we started the second week in the evening with a day at sea on December, 17th. Puerto Limón in Costa Rica was our first destination.

December, 18th – Puerto Limón – Costa Rica – – BOAT, BUS, ON FOOT
Arrival time 7:00 /departure time 22:00; organized trip

Today is the fourth Advent Sunday and we arrived in the beautiful and warm Costa Rica. We booked a one-day trip.

The first leg is by boat to the Tortuguero Channels and then up to the Varagua Rainforest by bus. We are lucky, because our guide is from Germany and her name is Susanne. As a young girl, Susanne got stuck in Costa Rica in 1981, where she married a Costa Rican. Consequently, she has spent 35 intense years in this special country. And there are quite some stories she can tell.

Today, she is a grandmother and lives in Costa Rica with her family. It is her true pleasure and happiness to feed the hens with her grandchildren.

Apart from that, she is active in organizations that promote environment protection and trying to make tourism beneficial for the local population. And she works as a guide for ship tourists.


I said we were lucky because there were three groups doing the same tour. The second one was listed as English-speaking – which meant it was only for people who actually understood English. Unfortunately, however, the guide of that group hardly spoke any English (and, of course, no German). The third group was “German speaking”. However, their guide hardly spoke any German (and no English at all).


Bad news for nature …

This is a sad trip to the Tortuguero Channels, because what you see will soon no longer be …

The things Susanne told us about the Tortuguero Channels makes me rather sad. Costa Rica has a unique richness in species – perhaps due to its geographical position. Even from the boat, we can really appreciate it. You can see sloths with two or three toes, special water birds, crocodiles and much more, all of which we see at the riverbank. We admire the Mangrove Forests (Mangroven-Wälder) and understand how important they are for the eco system.

And then she tells us that this entire idyllic scenery will soon be no more, because at exactly this spot a new gigantic container terminal for the new and rather big industrial harbour will be built. And that the houses along the riverbanks are so dilapidated because the inhabitants have left the area a long time ago.

Apparently, the Costa Rican administration believes that such a gigantic infrastructure will be necessary in the future. Nobody really knows why. But that is irrelevant. And now, the big project will be realized after many years of protests, which means many hopes are shattered. It happens regardless of intense and international protest with many good arguments.

It was my general impression on this trip that most of the cranes in the harbours of Central America I saw seem to sleep an eternal “Big Sleep”. Even later, in Panama, which, as we know, is an important business and reloading point for merchandize, most of the cranes were idle.

But this seems how matters are on this world. Politics – pushed by lobbyists and industrial corporations – believe they can boost the local economy with huge infrastructure investments. And as soon as the things are built, they usually experience the great hang-over.

Intel produced many chips in Costa Rica. Now the Asians produce them. Who else? When all is said and done, countries such Costa Rica need tourism to survive. And tourism needs nature (incidentally, even in Panama, tourism does more for the economy than the cash cow Channel).

Regardless, the Costa Ricans are quite upbeat. They greet people with “Pura Vida“, which means something like “pure life”. Whenever people meet in Costa Rica, they tell each other “Pura Vida” and are happy. That is what I, too, will do in the future.

After the boat trip, we continue by bus to the Varagua rain forest. Even the trip by bus is an adventure. Through extremely bad and narrow streets with many sharp corners, the bus fights its extremely slow way up the hills. The bus driver exudes a serenity that is absolutely imperturbable. He gives no indication of impatience, regardless of the fact that, occasionally, this trip really makes you breathless.

As soon as we arrive at the top, our mood improves. Not only are we served a fair local meal, but it is also a beautiful place. The sheer nature experience of seeing the rainforest leaves us stunned.

We have a very diverse program. Night animals such as the red-eyed frog can be seen in a building where it is night in the daytime. There is a wonderful voliere for many colourful butterflies and a small zoo with all kinds of reptiles. We learn a lot about the colours of butterflies, the poison of frogs and snakes, life in the rain forest and much more.

I am a little thoughtful as I climb the 350 steps up from the Puma waterfall to the cable car station.

One of the highlights of this tour is the presentation given by a young gentleman. He tells us what he as a scientist and his institute do to ensure the survival of, for instance, frog species that are threatening to die out. He explains his Spanish slides in Spanish. Susanne gives us excellent translations of what he says, just like all her explanations are always valuable and entertaining.

Another highlight is the way down into the valley by cable car that goes down steeply to the Puma waterfalls through the rain forest. Among other things, we see numerous monkeys doing gymnastics on the trees at eye-level with us. It is the “pura vida“ – even if it makes me a little thoughtful that we no longer can experience the beauty of the original rainforest with its gigantic trees. Instead, all we see is the secondary or tertiary rain forests. Because the huge tree giants of the original rain forest were removed by homo sapiens a long time ago through overexploitation.

As an alternative to this trip, we could have booked a journey with an old-timer train. That is also one of the things Costa Rica has to offer. Apparently, the railways were destroyed during the great earthquake in the early 1990ies. The company that did the calculations about whether or not re-building would be profitable was the biggest coach owner in Costa Rica. Consequently, the only small stretch that was rebuilt for tourist purposes was in Puerto Limón. The rest was abandoned.

December, 19th – Colón – Panama – – BUS, BOAT
Departure time 7:00 /arrival time 17:00; organized trip;

Taking nine hours, the journey from Puerto Limón to Colón was on the short side. And we had booked another organized trip in Colón. After all, Barbara and yours truly wanted to be on the Pacific Ocean again – even if only for a short time – and see the skyline of Panama City. More than anything, we also wanted the experience of sailing on a segment of the Panama Channel.

Apparently, we were not the only ones who wanted that. The trip was rather overbooked. Sixteen busses were waiting in front of our ship exclusively for the ship passengers. The passengers were assigned to busses in an almost military-style way in the ship theatre. Everybody wants to ride on the Panama Channel (or at least on some of it). And, as I see it, the trip was well worth the money.

From Colón it is about one hour’s drive to Gamboa. We have a wonderful guide. She exudes pure life. To be sure, her English is a little limited, but you can easily understand what she says. Her presentation is great, once in a while she even shows considerable cabaret talent. It is a true pleasure to listen to her and time flies during the bus ride.

We pass Manuel Noriega’s jail. To me, the building looks like something between a castle and a stronghold. Gamboa is almost exactly the midway point of the 82 kilometres of length that the Panama Channel measures between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In Gamboa, we were transferred to two huge ferries (at least they are considerably bigger than the tour boats we were used to). They are to bring us to the Pacific Ocean. These are simple ships with open decks on two levels. Since the day is warm and the ships are rather crowded, the seats under the shadow are very sought after and quickly become a rare luxury.

Unfortunately, the guide on the ship is nowhere near as good as the guide on the bus was. The loudspeakers have been set too loud and the journey is rather tedious. They cannot exactly predict how long the ride will take, because it depends on the traffic. If a water giant comes along, she will be given right of way. After all, these huge ships also pay enormous amounts of money for the transfer. For the really huge ships that, due to recent construction projects, can now also pass on this part of the way, the toll fee is allegedly up to one million USD.

The duration is an estimated four to five hours. Passing the water-gates on the way to Panama City, even though they allow us to overcome a difference in altitude of around thirty metres, does not really fascinate us. After all, we are quite experienced with the house boat and consequently know about water-gates. Besides, we have often experienced the quiet Rhein-Main-Donau Channel and, a short time ago, we visited the Oder Ship’s Lift during our bike tour from Penemünde to Berlin. Consequently, the sluices are less impressive in our eyes than the artificially created lake scenery.

The narrowest part of the channel, the Gaillard Cut, is part of our way. The two peaks – at least one of them has been cut – are really worth seeing. Near the sluices, we pass rather crowded channel observation points. There is plenty of activity.

As we are on the way into the Miraflores Lake there is an announcement that comes as rather a surprise: today, passing the channel was very quick and we will be at our destination in 45 minutes. That would mean only 3.5 hours total traveling time. But before we pass the Puente de las Américas the channel administration stops our ferry.

We have to wait for a gigantic container ship. We wait almost two hours for her to pass, then we continue on our way. This is how, eventually, the trip is almost five hours, after all.

As we exit the Miraflores Lake we are on the Pacific Ocean until we come to Balboa, which is the most remote of a small series of islands that are connected with the mainland through a dam. We are standing at the stern and see the Puente de las Américas get smaller and smaller. On the larboard side, the silhouette of Panama City slides past. It is all rather impressive.

In Balbao we leave our ferry and again board our bus. Our super guide is there to welcome us and makes the time on board the bus pass quickly. The bus runs on the motorway all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean until we are back at the ship – on time for our departure at 6 p.m. Said departure is particularly enjoyable, because at 18.00 hours local time you can still see quite a bit of Panama in the light of the setting sun.

December, 20th – Cartagena – Columbia – – ON FOOT / TAXI
Arrival time 9:00 /departure time 20:00; private tour;

The last two days were spent doing two one-day trips that actually were quite exhausting. Consequently, we want to be a little leisurely today and thus set out on our own.

Shortly before the old city after a longish hike from the container harbour. One more bridge – and then we will have reached our destination.

With more than one million inhabitants, Cartagena is a truly huge city. The silhouette of the city contains many skyscrapers and is no less impressive than that of Panama City. However, there is also a comfortable old city – partly still enclosed in the original, well preserved city walls – that beckons with many museums and other attractions.

Our ship lies in the container harbour. The city map at the harbour information centre lets us conclude that the way to the old city is almost ten kilometres. However, the way looks pretty straightforward, so we start walking. And again, many taxi drivers try to tell us that the way is far too long on foot. By now, however, we have quite a bit of experience when it comes to resisting the calls of the sirens …

The traffic is dense on the two-lane one-way road. The pedestrian’s paths, too, are rather full. More often than not, we walk faster than the cars can drive. We feel relieved when we pass a bus with an “organized trip” from our MeinSchiff 4.

Many small yellow taxis are also stuck. In this country, they are considered public transportation. But there are also many public busses. I discover that quite a few of the yellow taxis are electronically powered. They are the KIA brand.

It is a very impressive hike to the old harbour. We pass the entrance and see a huge portal in the city wall. Here it is: the old city. It is rather tempting: there are museums, bars, pubs and shops.

We take a lot of time strolling around and window-shopping. Afterwards, we are really tired. So we want to go back to the ship to enjoy the time and look for a taxi. We quickly find it and later spend a wonderful late afternoon on board the ship.

Now our journey will soon come to an end. We have to go back from Columbia to the Dominican Republic. Our next to last destination before the return flight from La Romana is Santo Domingo. It is quite a way to go there, which is why we start our last day at sea, on December, 21st, at 8 p.m..

It is a wonderful exit. We can see the lights of Cartagena and Columbia for a long time and slowly take our leave from Central America. Even though we are no longer in Panama, I buy myself a Panama hat for the German and Greek summer of 2017.

Barbara also weakens and gets a wonderful lady’s hat – also for the hot summer of 2017. After short but determined haggling with the flying hat merchant, we get both hats for the total sum of 14 USD. At the airport, my hat is 20 USD – the ladies’ hats are a lot more expensive.

December. 22nd – Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic – – ON FOOT
Arrival time 8:00 /departure time 20:00; private tour;

Two days left until Christmas Eve.

The end of our journey nears. There is one full day on the Caribbean left, along with one night on board our ship – and then we go back, away from this warm weather. We want to arrive in Munich on Christmas Eve and then celebrate with our children and their partners.

Today, we take another walk. This time around, the way from the harbour to the city seems rather short. So this is our last stroll in Central America. Not at all far from where our ship lies, a swimming bridge spans the arm of the sea that leads to the harbour. And then we arrive.

Regardless of Santo Domingo being a huge city – with many people living around the city – it also has a really charming old city. It really invited us to do some strolling. It is not very extensive and has only flat buildings and a few parks.

In one of the parks, they are recording a film. Parts of the street are kept empty, which takes a huge effort by the filming crew. There is a lot to see for us. Again and again, we meet a group from our ship with the guide walking at the front and holding his sign over his head.

Bars and pubs with “free WLAN” can also be found. Consequently, we go and drink a coffee, at the same time giving our cell-phones some nourishment. The invoice comes in local currency and also in USD and EURO. What a small place the world has become!

Incidentally, the abbreviation for the Dominican Republic is R.D. – my initials. I see baseball caps, t-shirts and other products to remember the place by all over the place. They all carry my initials. Consequently, I succumb and buy an R.D. baseball cap. It will be a Christmas present for my son Rupert Dürre (another R.D.)
As for the rest of the day, we enjoy being together and look forward to Christmas.

December, 23rd – La Romana – Dominican Republic– – BOAT
Arrival time 8:00 / Transfer to the airport 14:45; organized trip;

This is our last day. A few days ago, we booked an organized trip for this morning. It is a boat trip including snorkelling and visiting the beach. It is scheduled to be finished at 2 p.m., which should give us enough time for the direct transfer to our plane.

We already packed yesterday evening. The luggage had to be in front of our doors by midnight and has already been picked up. I also added my backpack with the warm clothes. Consequently, we are all set and all we have to do at the airport is identify our luggage and then hand the two suitcases over at the check-in counter.

Again, the trip is well organized. Our boat is already waiting for us at the stern of MeinSchiff 4. We have a crew of three, a lady from Switzerland and two locals. Everybody is really in high spirits. On the way, we get cola, sprite … and lots of rum. Cuba libre! For food, they took Pastelitos, that is some kind of filled pastry.

Our first stop is for snorkelling, then we drive to the beach. The area with the blue reclining chairs is for us. It costs 2 USD to use the reclining chair, lying at the beach on your own towel and swimming in the ocean are included in the price. A “Costa“  cruiser is sitting on the beach and busily “tendering” guests to the mainland who apparently are mostly Italian. The place is as busy as the Munich Marienplatz

This is the day before Christmas Eve. It is all about eating, drinking, sunshine and enjoying the water, along with “being at leisure”. We particularly enjoy this last time of the tropic atmosphere on the ocean and go into the water more often than on the entire trip. Then the boat takes us back to the ship – adieu Caribbean!

The boat gets us back to the ship on time. On the 12th deck of MeinSchiff4, we eat our last hamburger at the grill bar and wash the remainders down with Corona. Then we go to our bus that takes us to the plane. After all, we want to celebrate Christmas at home under a green tree tomorrow.

At Christmas Eve, we are at the airport S-Bahn train platform at 8.30 a.m., waiting for the line 8 to Munich East. There is no problem with changing to line 7, all trains are on time. Around 10 a.m., we arrive in Neubiberg. My first activity is riding my bike to Butcher Schlammerl in Ottobrunn and buying some Weißwürste. Then I ride to Baker Schlank in Putzbrunn to buy Brezeln to go with them. Lunch is on – and – Christmas Eve can come!

The hotel that was our abode for 14 nights and drove us through the Caribbean.

This is all! I will write another article and give some advice on the cruise ship – and then I will get back to other topics.
For instance what is basically the system-theoretical problem in our society.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Generally speaking, cars dominate the “mobile life” in Central America, too. I was well aware of it. And yet I was surprised when I saw the number and frequency of congestions in the big and small cities. The same is true for the (probably only imagined) dependency on all kinds of combustion motors.

Let me first say something about cruises:

Well, we did an entire round through the Caribbean on the huge TUI ship “MeinSchiff 4“ – with four days at sea and ten days on shore. This ship does the same route several times between December and February, another “MeinSchiff“  does another round in the same area with other destinations. Then they go to new waters and cruise those. Cruises have become a sort of “regular service”, which certainly facilitates the logistics. But it also makes the travelling experience a little more “convenient”. And, of course, there are ships from many shipping companies doing business in the Caribbean.

World tours individually designed, for instance from Hamburg back to Hamburg stretching over a time frame of nine months with new routes, have become scarce. That is true for all the shipping companies I know, such as Costa, Celebrity or MeinSchiff (TUI) – and the same is true for the small ones.

However, this is not bad news, because travelling on a ship has a huge advantage. Throughout the day, you will see many places in various countries and you can actually structure your day quite intensely and individually. The often inconvenient transport happens at night and is very comfortable. That means a ship is basically a mobile hotel where you wake up at a new location every morning.

I am well aware of the problem of cruises (and far-away vacations in general). As a general rule, only flying long distance will take you there – and a ship is definitely a strong “environmental sinner”. That means one cruise every year will destroy all the efforts I make towards getting a more environment-friendly carbon dioxide footprint. Even the fact that I no longer drive a car or go by bike or public transport in Germany is little help.

Let me explain step by step:

During our two-week cruise through Central America, the people check in and out of the ship at one of two harbours: La Romana and Montego Bay, both of which have a harbour and an airport in Jamaica.

As a general rule, you leave the ship where you boarded it. That means that these convenient cruises expect you to return to the place where you originally arrived. Consequently, you will not need an open jaw ticket. We boarded our ship in La Romana in the Dominican Republic (R.D.), where we also left the ship. Luckily, that meant the shortest flight from Munich to the Caribbean.

We wanted to see as much as possible of the country, rather than just collect impressions through car and bus windows. What we wanted was get into contact with “the country and the people”. And that is what we also accomplished. We often went places on foot and – unfortunately – only once rode bikes. We used cars (taxis) three times. We took four organized tours, for which purpose we often used a bus and various-sized boats. Once, a cable car was our means of transportation.

How it started:

On December, 9th, around 4 p.m. and after more than ten hours on board, our plane landed at the airport of La Romana in the Dominican Republic. From the landing strip, the bus took us to the harbour, which was about ten minutes for the few kilometres. The luggage was delivered directly from the plane to the ship cabin – which means that, in terms of logistics, the transfer from home to the ship was really optimal.

However, the check-in at the ship took rather long. On this route, the ship only has two “change days” (they used to call them arrival and departure days) and that means that around 1,000 new passengers will arrive from their own charter flights in a short time interval. We were just about the last. That means it took some time before we were on board, even though the check-in, too, was rather well organized with many desks. But, as I said before: the good news was that the luggage was sitting right in front of our cabin.

The voyage starts!

We arrived on December , 9th. The 10th of December was a day at sea en route to Jamaica. That was quite well, because it was a needed day of leisure after the long flight. We arrived at Ocho Rios harbour in the morning of December, 11th.

December, 11th – Ocho Rios – Jamaica – – ON FOOT
Departure time around 7:00 / arrival time 20:00

This is the first mainland day on our trip and my first time in Jamaica, the country of Bob Marley!

One of Ocho Rios’ attractions is the Dunn’s River Falls. They are “waterfalls” where the water flows down on a plateau-like descent. You can climb up through the flood of water from down on the ocean for around fifty metres. It looks spectacular – in fact it looks a lot more dangerous than it actually is. .The sweet water is pleasantly warm, which makes the entire adventure a nice joke. Finding the shallow places is no problem, which means you can easily do it without a guide.

Barbara at the Dunn’s River Waterfalls on her way up!

On board the ship, there is a “day’s itinerary” for each day (printed in paper, too) and, with the exception of days at sea, there is also “harbour information”. It contains useful information and a map of the harbour. On the map, we can see that, apparently, it is not too far from where our ship is docked in Ocho Rios to the Dunn’s River Falls. Our estimation is that it might be between five and ten kilometres.

Consequently, we set out to hike the way. It is a little cloudy, which is naturally good news for our December paleness. Again and again, it rains. But that is not a problem for us, because the rain is warm. In fact, we consider it nice refreshment. Once in a while, we seek shelter and thus have our first chance to get in touch with the local population.

For us tourists, the admission fee for the Dunn’s River Falls is 20 USD per person. There is no discount for retired persons. Many families who live in the country with their numerous offspring are also standing in the queue. In their faces, you can see how they are looking forward to the experience. They pay half. The organized trip from the ship to the waterfalls would have cost us around 50 USD, but that would not have been hiking. Instead, we would have had a bus and a guide.

Early in the afternoon, we are back on board. On the whole, we hiked perhaps around 15 kilometres, which is not bad, is it? Later in the afternoon, we go to the “village”. Most of the shops are closed. After all, it is the Third Advent Sunday. I would like to buy a Bob Marley T-shirt. Actually, due to the Sunday, many shops are closed, but there are still enough open.

Bob Marley is truly worshipped here. He is the national hero of Jamaica. In general, T-shirts are cheap, only buying Bob Marley comes at a higher price. After having looked in several shops, we find an official T-shirt I rather like. However, depending on the shop, it costs between 20 and 36 USD. As opposed to this, a “normal” T-shirt can be bought for five or even (considerably) fewer US dollars. The salespersons strictly refuse to sell the Bob Marley shirt for less than 18 USD. It seems to me that selling the national hero for little money is definitely sacrilegious.

Our ship takes off after darkness has fallen and continues to drive along the coast of Jamaica to Montego Bay (Mo Bay). And a nice red original Bob Marley t-shirt is sitting in my “suite”. I will wear it on Silvester Eve at home.

December, 12th – Montego Bay – Jamaica – – ON FOOT, Taxi
Departure time 7:00 / arrival time 22:00; doing our own tour

This is how a Christmas Tree looks in Jamaica. The one you see here is being erected in the centre of Montega Bay.

Incidentally, the second change day of this route was in Montego Bay. This means that around 1,000 persons leave the ship and 1,000 new arrivals board. However, this does not concern us. After all, we want to go back to the mainland.

The “harbour information” map shows us that the way to the centre should be around seven kilometres, which means that it is definitely possible to hike.

So we start: first along the Southern Cros Blvd, then turning left onto Howard Cooke Hwy. This time, there are hardly any clouds and practically no shadow. Regardless, we arrive at Montega Bay Market after little more than an hour.

Our Mo Bay amusement tour is rather long. The return trip seems to be longer than the way out when we are half way. Perhaps it is a good idea to take a taxi? At this very moment, a taxi driver sitting at the kerb asks us if he can take us to the ship. He will drive us for free, because then he can enter the harbour taxi area. If you are parked there, you can earn real good money. Later, we will learn that going by taxi from the ship at the harbour to diverse destinations will always be several times as much as is normally charged. We are a little exhausted and gladly accept the generous offer.

Late in the evening, the journey continues to Mexico. Between Mo Bay and Cozumel, however, there is the second day at sea on December, 13th.

December, 14th – San Miguel/Cozumel – Mexico – – RIDING OUR BIKES
Departure time 6:30 / arrival time 20:00; doing our own tour

Cozumel is an island sitting before the eastern coast of the Mexican peninsula Yucatán. We leave the ship rather early and first stroll towards the centre of the small village San Miguel. On the harbour information map, the way looks considerably shorter than the one to Montega Bay (and that turns out to be true). Regardless, the number of taxi drivers who tell us that it is too far to walk feels like a hundred.

However, we do not manage to get to the centre, because we discover a bike rental next to a motorbike rental (exclusively letting Harley-Davidson machines) on the right side as you walk into the town. The bike rental will close at 4 p.m. (after all, darkness falls early), but since this is early afternoon, there is enough time left.

They offer very simple bikes for 10 USD – only equipped with a brake and lacking both gear shifts and an additional hand brake. For 15 USD, you can get some sort of trekking bike, which has a gear shift and free-wheeling. And then there are some electronically supported “fat boys”. You can hire them for 20 USD. Prices are for one bike and one day.

Well, I rather like the idea of trying an electrical fat boy. However, the salesperson warns us that the batteries are just in the process of being loaded and that this will take some time. Since I feel a little “unfamiliar” with only a pedal brake, we take two “trekking bikes” for 30 USD.

A nice long bike trip brings us to the northern beaches of Cozumel Island on the coast of Mexico.

The bikes are well-oiled, the tyres have enough air. The bottom bracket of my bike seems to have a problem, since it makes strange noises. Regardless, we very much enjoy riding the bikes.

First, we continue on our way to the centre of San Miguel. We look at a few shop windows. As everywhere, there are many jewellery shops, specializing in diamonds. They will continue to haunt us throughout the entire trip.

Then we go back in a northerly direction, passing the bike rental and the ship and then onto a street going north along the eastern coast. We ride along exquisite hotels that look quite expensive and seem to stand sentinel on the way like pearls, except that the distance between two of them is mostly a few hundred metres, occasionally also one or two kilometres. We ride quite a far way along the ocean and we really enjoy it – then we get hungry and thirsty. We turn around, again pass the ship and go to the bike rental, where we hand back our bikes. Then we walk a little more than one kilometre back to the ship. It was a great day. In the evening, we depart for Belize.

I almost forgot:
In Cozumel, shortly before the bike rental, we visit a small bar on a minor road, where we have “free WLAN”. In return for drinking two cups of coffee and one bottle of water for three times three USD, we can use the internet and read and send emails. Answer chats. Download the SZ and do whatever else has accumulated.

December, 15th -– Belize City – Belize – – BUS, BOAT, ON FOOT
Departure time 9:00 / arrival time 20:00; organized trip.

It seems that Belize City does not have a harbour that can be accessed by ships as huge as the MeinSchiff 4. On this one visit of the mainland, the ship does not enter the harbour as usual. Instead, it lies at anchor far out. Consequently, it has to tender. Normally, that is a procedure where the ship’s own lifeboats are launched, and then they have to commute between the ship and the mainland. In Belize, they provide a regular tender service for this. Since we booked an early organized trip that departs early, we can use the second tender to the mainland.

Our trip seems to look quite attractive to many passengers. We need two busses. Everybody wants to see the Maya heritage. We are early, the busses have not yet arrived. Consequently, we wait in the harbour building. It feels a little like when I was in primary school – we stand in rows of two and wait. Then our bus arrives and we are transferred to Tower Hill. This is where, at long last, we get “local treats” – chicken with inlaid onions and delicious vegetables. Along with it, we get the standard “wedding” – that is rice on black beans. I know the “wedding” from our Cuba bike tour two years ago. Since I do not like rice, I pass on it. However, all the other dishes are really tasty – simple and delicious.

Now we are full and content, and thus move into small but very fast boats that are supposed to take us to Laimanai. We are the last to board and consequently sit at the very rear. The boats hurry to Laimanai at tremendous speed. All we can see to the right and left are the water fountains. On or way back, we will apply a different strategy.

At long last: the Lamanai Maya Temples.

This is what we do. On the return trip, our seats are at the front of the ship. And the view is spectacular. Also, the boat no longer seems to go quite so incredibly fast
The Maya city of Laimanai was truly very impressive. On the way back, however, there are some small problems. First, our captain has to help a boat that cannot move on. And then our bus gets stuck in a mega congestion.

This is how the end of the shore trip is as late as 7.30 p.m. .There is no time left for a stroll through Belize City.The only things we can report are those we saw from the bus. To us, Belize looked very British, not just because you drive on the left-hand side. That was something we already knew from Jamaica.

As soon as we arrive back on the ship, it sets out. To be sure, it is not quite as punctual as usual. It is a little after 8 p.m. We had to wait for another tour group that was a little late. Now we set out for Honduras.

December, 16th – Roatán – Honduras – – ON FOOT, Taxi
Arrival time 9:00 / departure time 20:00; by ourselves

View from the ship – looking towards West Bays, which is where we are headed.

Roatán is an island situated half an hour by ship from the mainland of Honduras. Today, we want to go to the “Westbays“. Because they say the beach is particularly nice there. And, if possible, we would also like to ride bikes again.
First we enter the small town east of the harbour and ask the local population where we might rent a bike. The answer is: not on this side, but perhaps on the northern side of the island, that is behind the mountains. That is where you might find a bike rental. We can go there by taxi.

But that would not make sense, would it? Then we try to find out how far it is to the “Westbays“ . We get different answers and eventually agree on the number seven. But we are talking miles. So we start out. And before we leave the town, we discover a very special place. It is a small park area with benches that seem to be dedicated to friends of Honduras from Taiwan. There is pretty good public WLAN. We are online for the second time on this trip and download all we need.

Then we start out on foot. Back to the ship, passing the ship and going towards the “Westbays“. Time and again, it rains. Initially, we take shelter under palms that line the streets. Since that is not much use, we eventually continue hiking even when it rains. After all, the rain is nice and warm.

All the time, taxis stop next to us and offer their service. And they warn us that the way to the “Westbays“ is quite far and also rather arduous. Then we are beyond the half-way point. We take a break and enter a bar. And we drink several bottles of Salva Vida, which is one of the local Honduras beers. And we enjoy the sun of Central America on the pedestrian overpass. If paradise is half as nice …

So far, the street had no inclines and went straight along the southern coast. It was a nice path. Now we will have to turn inland. We wonder if it would be a good idea to turn around. Or should we go to our destination and then let a taxi transfer us home?

Again, it rains. Rather heavily. So far, we were always dry again by the time the next shower came. Now this no longer works. The rain finally drenched all our clothes. Now the path leads into the mountains. The view gets nicer and nicer – the path steeper and steeper. Initially, it is only up, then suddenly first down and then up. Extremely often. And as soon as, after a steep decline, we think that now the way must go down to the ocean, the next incline waits.

On our way, we see many tourist attractions. Several “Flying Dogs““Cool Runnings“, a Monkey-Park and similar things are supposed to lure the hiker. However, all those places seem to be closed – perhaps due to the rain.

Finally, we manage to arrive on the beautiful Westbays beaches. They certainly look nice, but they are also full of reclining chairs. On the water, the boats are sitting nose to nose. This is a little sobering. But then, we managed to get here and reach our destination, didn’t we?

It was a strenuous hike. Now we are really soaking wet. We find a taxi. For 10 USD, it takes us home to our ship. We are cold in the taxi. So the air conditioning is out and the windows are open. This is better. What a great day!

Wet to the bones, a little exhausted but very happy: our arrival at the West Bays Beach in Roatán/Honduras.

This was the first week! In my next post, I will tell you about the second week, which was from December, 17th to December, 23rd. It will start with a day at sea.

RMD
(Translated by EG)