Monday, May 26, 2008

The Streets of Karlsruhe

A few days ago I said:

At the first glance, Karlsruhe is hardly impressive: it’s neither old enough (built in the 18th century) to have the picturesque castles, etc. from the older times, and nor it is new enough to have modern and sleek looking architecture.

But I stand corrected. The city of Karlsruhe can be such a wonderfully picturesque place - when I walk beyond the part where I live (Südstadt) and beyond the confines of "traditional" tourist places. During my walk to the south-west part of the city, I was constantly delighted by the variety of buildings on all kinds of streets, large or small. It is such a nice change of scene from the American style, newer clusters of houses, where the same pattern is repeated from house to house, from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Karlstraße, a major street

A small street off Südenstraße


another small street

Kriegsstraße, a major street

The streets of Karlsruhe in general are quite different than their Baltimore counterparts. While bikes in Baltimore (and perhaps American cities in general) are seldom a major ingredient of street culture, here in Karlsruhe (and seems to be the same throughout Germany as I heard) bikes are a fixed part of the cityscape, including dedicated bike lanes (see picture), bike rakes everywhere often with many bikes parked, and signs for bike riders everywhere, and the biking population comes from people from old to young, men and women, children and babies with their mothers. Biking is fairly convenient and useful, especially considering the colossal price for gasoline, but the public transportation here also is very convenient.

The major vehicle for public transportation at Karlsruhe is the Tram, which runs on tracks and are somewhat like subways except not underground. The Tram track runs between two directions on major roads, or just in the middle of the road at Kaiserstraße, where no cars are allowed since it's a major shopping street; the Tram could be somewhat dangerous if one is not aware of them (I almost ran into one once!). I really wish that the Tram could be underground, as I'd prefer less noise and less cables (which the Tram runs from) between me and the sky...

The traffic here seems well organized, although the cars seem to be less yielding toward pedestrians - or maybe it is just the impression of someone like me who is very much pampered by the absolute priorty of pedestrians over cars in the US. The pedestrians here do mostly follow the traffic signs, which interestingly exists on both directions on the same road and are not always synchronized. The buttons for pedestrians are there for almost all crosswalk (and they do work!), unlike those in the US which are found only from time to time and most of times seem to be non-functional.

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