Moving art

I saw very little street art in Nairobi, but there was a lot of art on the streets. It was on the private buses and matatus which you can see everywhere on the roads. Here is a small gallery of this art, collected as I was driven around the streets of the city. I was told that some of the artists charge a lot for the paintings. It is clear why. Enjoy paging through the gallery; just click on any thumbnail to open it.

The Romance of Travel

Is there romance in travel? I’m old enough to have spent my youth traveling in trains and buses across the country when it could take a full day to get from Bengaluru to Mumbai, or two from Mumbai to Kolkata. Was that romantic? In hindsight, maybe. Most of the actual travel time was bothersome or boring. Bothersome when you ran out of water, or were trying to find a reasonable lunch; boring when you would stare out of the window at the passing countryside for two hours, framed by power cables in catenary motion.

Later, The Family and I took our backpacks on to state transport buses across the country, getting from one remote temple to another far-away ruin. This was also romantic only in memory. At that time we would cover our faces against the dust, and attempt to make desultory conversation with the couple sitting across us with a basket of squawking chicken on their lap.

On the other hand, when I look out of the window after boarding a flight and see other aircrafts lined up at the gates next to us, my heart still lurches. I forget my papers and meetings for a moment. The possibilities of travel seem limitless. Where are those others going? Indore, Imphal, Incheon? Jodhpur, Jakarta? Khartoum?

How we got around in Berlin

Germany has wonderful public transport, and Berlin is no exception. The underground (U-bahn, which runs over the ground on some stretches) runs from 4 in the morning till 1 at night. The rest of the time there are night buses which follow the same route. On weekends the U-bahns run for 24 hours. Trams run 24 hours every day of the week.

As tourists we were specially happy with bus numbers 100 and 200 which took us through most of the places we wanted to get to. These double decker buses are a great alternative to hop-on-hop-off tourist buses, at a fraction of the price. The featured photo was taken from a 200 approaching Alexanderplatz late at night.

There weren’t many lime trees left in Unter den Linden.

In Berlin the fare is unified across all modes of public transport. A single ticket fare is Euro 2.80. Unless you are doing a lot of walking, single tickets are expensive. We used the day ticket, which cost Euro 7.00 per person per day. There are ticket vending machines on trams and on U-bahn or S-bahn platforms. Unfortunately they take only coins. We got used to saving up coins for the day’s tickets. The date is printed on these tickets, and are valid only for the day on which it is printed. Post offices also sell tickets, and you can buy several day tickets at one go. If you do this then you have to remember to validate each day’s ticket at the beginning of your first journey.

Anyone caught in public transportion without a valid ticket must pay a higher fare of 60 Euros. Even people who forgot to stamp their ticket must pay the fine.
— Berlin Transport Regulations

In case you forget to validate a ticket, then it is counted as ticketless travel, for which there is a Euro 60 fine if you get caught. Since even a weekly ticket costs only Euro 30, traveling without a ticket is not worth the risk for a tourist. In every city I have been to, including Mumbai, there are stories of “traveller’s insurance” in which habitually ticketless travelers pay an insurance premium to an “agency” which reimburses their fines. I’m not sure that such elaborate schemes exist anywhere, least of all in Berlin. I guess that there must be forgeries, because the fine for forgeries is a really punitive Euro 900.

We heard Germans from other cities grumbling about how their tax money goes to commuters in Berlin. A quick check on the net showed that tickets in Munich and Frankfurt cost less than those in Berlin. It is a German pastime to grumble, and Berlin is always a good target.

One tip: the S-bahn is a fast way to cross the city, and these trains have toilets.