Monday, January 11, 2016

The Degrees of Train-Stations in Germany

As an American, I always have a fascination about certain things in Germany......which I tend to stand there and marvel about.  The Rhine River cruise boats, fasching episodes, Bavarian dinners (where they cram 2,000 calories upon one single mega-sized plate), beer that taste like beer should taste, liquor-flavored chocolates, and train-stations.

There are three ways of sizing up or observing German train-stations.

The first are the older stations built a hundred or more years ago, which are no longer functional, but they serve some purpose in the village (a local pub, a pizza operation, or a business front).  These are the older two-story brick buildings which note character, charm and history.

Fifty years ago, they were still functional....had some station-master, and a clerk selling tickets.  Today?  There's a machine out front, a closed-off toilet for the public, and a ramp area for passengers to board local trains to major urban areas.  In some rare cases, they might have a soda or coffee machine, but that's becoming rarer and less frequent.

The second type is the medium-sized in Wiesbaden or Mainz.  These are upscale operations....a dozen or more tracks....a ticket-sales office still in operation....various business operations (florists, fast-food, books, tobacco, and pubs), and a fair amount of passenger traffic which transit the station to buses or vice-versa.

Crime isn't a big occasional pick-pocket here and there, and a few drunks each evening.  Local Germans will say they are completely safe and cops will run a two-man patrol around these stations without much crime activity reported.

So, then you come to the third degree of major urban areas like Frankfurt, Hamburg, Koln, Munch, etc.

Tens of thousands of passengers will transit via a station like this in a brief hour.  Grocery stores operate there, along with various bars and pubs.

Crime starts to become an ongoing and daily issue.  You start to look around yourself, and pay attention to little things.  Pick-pockets are the least of your worries.  Drug sales are routine and go way beyond marijuana or hash.  You could bump into a dozen heron or LSD dealers.

I sat and read through a Focus (German news magazine) today.....centering on a Facebook comment by one ex-Koln policeman (now a boxer).  He'd spent an extended period as a patrolman in the train-station there in Koln.  His expression was that it was a chaotic place almost around the clock, with attempted-suicides, drug sales in the open, and rampant theft.  Nothing about the events of the 31st seem to surprise the guy.

In some ways, these urban train-stations are a reality show.  You could set up forty cameras, and have three or four camera guys walking around, and just center on bizarre events that regularly (minute-by-minute) which occur.  Shock for the normal metropolitan German transiting these stations?  No.  I think most people have adjusted to their local train-station and the chaotic threats that unfold.   For some rural German to pass through Frankfurt on a Saturday evening and just stand around out front of the station to observe meth or heron being sold on a brisk basis.....they'd be in utter shock.  But the locals have accepted it as normal.....and the cops as well.

So, I'm not trying to scare anyone over this reality.....but it's just part of the big picture.

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