Public Transportation

This year abroad is giving my family and me an opportunity to experiment with our lifestyle. We traded a rural village in New Hampshire for the capital city of Germany.  Owning a house for renting an apartment.  Croissants from Burdick’s for broetchen from the neighborhood bakery.  And a car and a pick-up truck for…public transportation.

1 double-decker bus 2 riding the front 3 buses are fun

We don’t own a car in Berlin.  In fact, one of my goals, which is not necessarily shared by the rest of the family, is to refrain from buying a car while we are here.  The public transportation system in Germany works well.  We enjoy biking around the city.  Car-sharing services like Car2go and drive-now are available. Annette’s sister and her parents have cars we might borrow.  We could always rent a car in a pinch.

Prior to moving here, I was already familiar with the subway (U-bahn) and tram (S-bahn) services in Berlin. However, since our apartment is not close to stops for either, we have all been getting comfortable with the bus system.  It turns out that Google Maps is smart enough to know which buses go where, and when they leave.  And the buses generally seem to run on schedule.  Most of the buses that serve our neighborhood are double-deckers. Our favorite seats are on the upper level, all the way to the front. The views are great, and the motion of the bus, especially around curves, is exaggerated in a fun way.

Using primarily public transportation may sound good in theory, but there are times when I do miss having a car.  I am late for an appointment, I just missed the bus, and the next one is not for twenty minutes.  I want to get to IKEA to pick up a flat-packed set of desk drawers that would be unwieldy to carry back on my bike, but the trip that takes 15 minutes by car is over an hour by bus and subway.   Rani has volleyball practice across town that ends after dark, and she has to walk blocks through a graffiti-bedecked neighborhood to reach the S-Bahn station. Annette and I are headed home after a late night out, the buses have stopped running, and taxis are scarce.  Okay, that last one happened only once, but still…

New Hampshire Engineering

Segway wheelchair

Segway Rollstuhl

I was biking back from across town with a just-purchased used guitar under my arm when I saw this vehicle.  I stopped and did a double-take. Were there really just two wheels?  A Segway wheelchair?!

The man graciously agreed to my taking a photo of his rig.  We chatted.  He loves his Segway, because he is not able to use a regular wheelchair. Yes, it takes some getting used to, but it’s not too difficult.  He asked about the guitar.  I had found it on eBay.  He plays jazz keyboards with a friend who is a guitarist.

In the United States, German engineering is synonymous with quality.  One of my goals in coming to Germany is to learn more about energy efficient materials, systems and technologies that may be years ahead of what’s currently available in the US.  I was pleasantly surprised to find  here, in the form of an unusual wheelchair, a wonderful example of innovative engineering that originates in New Hampshire.  In 1999, inventor Dean Kamen founded the Segway Company, and subsequently built the company’s headquarters and manufacturing plant in Bedford, NH.


Biking in Berlin

Annette and I love biking in cities.  Our daughters do not, yet, but often we talk them into it.

P1070232 (Medium)

Sunday morning outing by bike

Berlin is the most bike-friendly city I have experienced.  The city’s transportation infrastructure encourages biking.  The plentiful bike lanes are usually located between the streets and the sidewalks.

P1070103 (Medium).        P1070106 (Medium)











The bike lanes have their own traffic signals.  Bikers here generally obey the traffic signals. This is hard for me to do, but I am trying.  It helps that the car drivers seem to be quite respectful of bikers.

P1070149 (Medium)

Bike traffic lights for both directions

Bike traffic lights for turning left and turning right


Two reds mean you really, really have to stop.

Two reds mean you really, really have to stop.

I love biking in Berlin

I love biking in Berlin!