Melanie had kindly dug out all the bus maps and timetables so that I could figure out how to get into the city centre for a walk about. The public transport around here is pretty good, with new buses and trains which stick to good timetables. It’s not cheap, though – around UK prices but the standards are higher.
I hopped onto the number 24 and paid my â‚¬2.10 for a ticket into town, then sat down. It took me some time before I realised that everyone else getting onto the bus was validating their ticket in a little stamping machine. I’d not known about this, so by the time I got into the centre I had a ticket still valid for the next journey. I guess the driver couldn’t be bothered explaining to me that my ticket needed stamped and assumed I’d tyrow it away after I got off. Ah well.
Bielefeld bills itself as “one of the twenty major cities in Germany” and “the principal city of Eastern Westphalia“. It’s pretty enough, though as with many places in Germany a lot of the buildings date from the late 1940’s for some reason *cough*. There is a marked line between the old and new cities with the former having nice windy roads and the latter being all straight lines.
I checked out the train station so I knew where to go when I left the next day, and walked around to the Stadhalle Bielefeld which has what looks like an enormous empty picture frame erected on the grounds. I assume that’s what it is, but I can’t find any photos of it with a cavas or anything in place. I guess it’s used for exhibitions or displays.
From there, down a beautiful street lined with yellowing trees to the Sparrenburg Castle which is perched on a little hill at the south end of the city. It’s only small as far as castles go, but it’s a pretty building and is quite popular for wedding photographs. One happy couple were being snapped in various places around the grounds as I was there.
Again, I think I’ve picked a great time of year to visit this part of Germany as the leaves on the trees covered every colour from green to red, orange and yellow. I’m rather happy with some of my photos! The view over the city from there is nice, too, though the aforementioned trees do block the best view of St Mary’s Cathedral and it’s twin spires. There is one lookout that I think would provide a decent view of it, but it’s undergoing maintenance so I couldn’t check it out.
Back nearer sea level, I checked out the cathedral a little closer up and then took a walk around the older area before struggling to get some cash out of an ATM. Germany uses “EC” (Electronic Cash, I think) and some machine will point blank refuse to accept Visa cards. Of course, they’ll let you go through the whole process of entering your PIN, choosing the amount, asking if you want a receipt… then saying that you’re card is invalid. This is also the case when buying train tickets from the machines in the station. Rather annoying.
After an expensive lunch in McD’s (it was convenient), I walked up to the Kunsthalle (art gallery) where there’s currently an exhibition of stuff from loon and ex-Beatles-hanger-on Yoko Ono. There’s a charge to get in so I didn’t bother walking around, but it’s a nice building from the outside and one of the exhibits/pieces is on display outside – a hearse, or “coffin car”. As part of the display, you can be driven around the town centre for 15 minutes in a hearse. For â‚¬5 per person.
Essentially, this means you’re paying money to advertise the gallery. Sneaky marketing and I’m sure some muppet art lovers will fall for it. After the “intellectual” comments I heard from some idiots viewing the new cathedral windows in Cologne last year I’d not put anything past them.
And finally back on the bus again out to Melanie’s. Using my *cough* “recycled” ticket.
Oh, apparently Bielefeld doesn’t exist. It’s some weird German joke that I don’t understand, but I can tell you that it does. And though it’s not as cool as Cologne or as bouncy as Bonn (or as big as Berlin from what I hear), it’s a lovely little place. Nice for a stop-off if you’re in the area.
[Update – a nice person on CouchSurfing who lives in the area has pointed me to the Bielefeld Conspiracy article on Wikipedia. Apparently the town was accidentally / deliberately missing from a map published some years ago]