So what’s the point of travel if it isn’t to find out how other people in the world are doing things and bring those ideas back home? It was good enough for Sir Walter Raleigh, it’s good enough for me.
Germany is a greener country than Britain. Not just because it’s bigger and has more space but because it doesn’t appear to see green issues as the preserves of cranks and people with dreadlocks. Better transport, better options for living in the city just make more sense in the 21st Century. Embracing environmental concerns and doing something to improve things IS progress where as our own government is stuck in the past, telling us time and again that environmental concerns stand in the way of progress.
Last week on my trip to Hamburg I saw a transport system that appears to work. The train links with the underground which links with the buses. The buses were not just populated by pensioners, children and those too poor to own a car, as appears to be the case in Britain, but people of all ages and backgrounds.
True my friend, Wolfgang is a master of the public transport system of Hamburg, seemingly keeping a completely updated timetable in his head, but things just seemed to work more efficiently there. The trains were double decker and, my God, they ran at weekends as efficiently as in the week. Who would have thought that was possible? The buses were regular and even had a free book swap shelf on board. I could not imagine this happening in Britain. Something so sensible and altruistic. In Britain someone would be trying to make money from such a scheme.
In contrast today, I find my local train once again not running due to engineering works which seem to never be completed and only appear to serve the interests of commuters into London not people wanting to move around their local towns without a car. I cannot buy a ticket online for the next train only one for a train which leaves two hours after I wish to travel and the replacement bus service is not stopping at all locations.
Also last week I saw many attractive forms of city living in Hamburg. City centre apartments which come with an option to own a beautiful Gartenhaus. A wooden chalet down by the river with enough room to grow your own vegetables. These apartments did not appear to be the preserve of the wealthy but were, I believe, within the means of ordinary people.
It was as if in Germany it was just accepted that being locked in an urban environment was not good for ones soul and their was a human need to get out into the sunshine and stick your fingers into the soil. Further into the city I saw beautiful houseboats along the canals. Who would not want to live on the river or have somewhere natural to escape to on a summers evening in London.
But here in Britain we are sold the line that living in London is just too expensive for ordinary people and the only solution is for these people to move out of London into new housing estates built in the countryside and commute ever further into work, loosing a big chunk of their day stuck in overcrowded and inefficient trains.
It feels at times as if the government have thrown their hands in the air and resigned to the fact that they have no control over the London property market, as if they no longer have control of the capital. They probably don’t. The capital is ruled by business and foreign investors but the solution can’t be to bleed the life out of our cities and transport people elsewhere.
Instead of supporting building on our green spaces the government should be investing in inner city housing solutions, new ways of living, better public transport. I am clearly not a politician or an economist, I am just someone who senses that things are wrong. It seemed to me that the Germans are ahead of the game once again.