Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ingolstadt and Germany continued... with pictures!

First, let's see some pictures starting with more of the Munich airport buildings and plaza:

The roof structure inside was amazing.  I couldn't believe how few supporting columns there were holding it up.  Plus parts of the building have solar panels that generate enough power for 155 homes each housing four people.

Trees on the second story of the plaza...

Just to prove I was there... and still conscious after staying awake on the airplane for most of the flight...

The room at the Enso hotel was pretty nice and very modern.  One thing that you will frequently experience in European hotels is that you must place the room key in a holder next to the door in order for the rooms electricity to operate.  This is a means of conserving energy since you aren't able to leave anything on.

Ingolstadt was a wonderful city to walk around.  In fact, both Erlangen and Ingolstadt are about 100,000 people so roughly the same size as Westminster.  However, you could drive from one side of these cities to the other in about five minutes going around 30 miles per hour.  These were very dense cities not because they had tall buildings but because there was very little space dedicated to car related land uses.  There were no drive-thru restaurants, a handful of surface parking lots with most parking in "ein parkhaus" or parking structure.  Pedestrians and bicyclists ruled the streets.  In Ingolstadt, most people were travelling by foot in the "stadtmitte" or city center.  I'm sure you are coming to find that some German terminology can be easy for English speakers to understand but I'll be introducing some other words later that are a real mouthful.  As with most European and especially the German cities,  most started as small kingdoms ruled by some kind of duke.  There would be some sort of castle with a wall built around a small area to protect the peasants from invaders.  Peter gave me a basic history lesson on Ingolstadt.  The city built its first defenses and castle sometime in the 1500s and used the "Donau" or Danube River as a means of protection to its south.  The only major attack on the city before the second world war was during the 30-years war when the Catholics were fighting the Protestants and a Swedish king attacked the fortifications. Legend has it that a canon or some other sort of projectile struck and killed the kings horse on the third day of the siege and he retreated.  Thus, Ingolstadt likes to say that it was never truly conquered.  However, Ingolstadt was bombed extensively although most of the ancient fortifications remained intact.  To give you a sense of the city structure, I have included a map of the zoning map and the city center map below.  The purple area in the center of the zoning map is the old part of the city, the city center or stadtmitte.

You can see the more Medieval street network in the middle and then a ring of fortifications, then a green belt interspersed with surface parking lots.  Nearly all of the parking lots that I saw used an impervious paver of some sort and sometimes with grass growing through it.  Aspalt was mainly used for bicycle paths and roads, however, nearly all of the hardscape within the city center was some sort of paver, stone, or cobblestone.  It felt classic and historical despite the fact than most of the built environment was renovated or rebuilt within the last 60 years or so.  When Peter campaigned for mayor in 1972, he was determined to save the city center. Business was declining and people were moving out.  One source of the problem was that there were two substantial highways that ran right through the heart of the city.  He said that the first thing he would do was to take these roads out and turn them into "fussgangerzonen" or pedestrian areas.  There was pressure from the federal government to expand the highway traffic through the middle but like some American cities, they said no and in this case, created a couple blocks worth of pedestrain and bicycle only zones.  Over time the length of this area was expanded and even in the middle of a weekday, there are lots of people walking, shopping, and sitting at the numerous cafes and restaurants.  There are almost no vacant spaces and where there are some its only because the space is being prepared for a new business.  I took a lot of pictures on this street and more than I could fit in my blog but here are some photos of the city.

Below is a picture of the main Catholic church in Ingolstadt.  The organist who was playing while we were inside was amazing.  The church was not as big as originally planned because the town ran out of money so the tower is much shorter than originally planned.  Still nice.

The old city hall, or "Altrathaus."

Sunset on the Danube and over the old castle.

Also, in 1996, a park was created around some of the fortifications.  My hotel, the hotel Enso, was only a ten minute walk from the city center and the fastest route went through
this park.

As I mentioned before, Audi moved their operations from east Germany to Ingolstadt in 1949.  They were a very small company at this point and only began to see some moderate success in the 1970s.  In the late 1980s, Audi was thinking about moving away. Peter and the planners did something that was rare at the time and subsidized the acquisition of property for their expansion and did what they could to help speed up the federal government's approval process. It only took 9 months to get approval when typically it could take two or three years.  Audi stayed and expanded and is the primary employer in the city.  They also have a substantial teachers college.  During the last 30 years, Ingolstadt has gone from one of the poorest communities in Bavaria to one of the wealthiest.  They have an unemployment rate of 3.5% and still maintain a good quality of life from what I can tell. They still have problems and many seem to be the same that we have in the US.  Peter set up a meeting with the chief planner, Renata, to discuss some of the current challenges.  Honestly, some of it is confidential and I cannot specifically discuss it but in general, the problem is to continue to develop in a way that won't take up a large chunk of land while retaining viable employers.  Suburbanization and a form of strip commercial development has been occuring on the outskirts and many of Ingolstadt's citizens are sensitive to this issue.  At the same time, many also want to preserve the character of the city center.  Of course, there are many cities in America that face this same challenge only I think we have more flexibility in our decision making because in most parts of the country, we do not have as much history and what you could probably term as "cultural investments" in our land use patterns.  We have plenty of 1960s office buildings and surface parking lots that could be developed.  We also have more regional government cooperation in the US.  Many of the government officials that I met wish there was more dialogue and regional cooperation to address growth pressures.  Instead, some regions are facing the Boulder scenario where growth spills over into the what would be the Louisvilles and Lafayettes surrounding Ingolstadt and Erlangen.  Overall, Ingolstadt was a great place to visit and I learned a lot about Peter Schnell and German perspectives on many aspects of life.  While they can be a bit reserved, many people do say hello to each other as they pass by in the street.  Because everyone is on foot or bicycle, there is constant chance encounters amogst friends.  While walking, Peter and I would frequently stop to enjoy a quick coffee or maybe a good beer in a traditional beer garden.  The city felt alive.  While walking around we randomly ran into some of Peter's friends, the owner of the local professional soccer team, and the wife of the president of Audi with the current mayor and the wife of a regional federal representative.  There is a lot of details that I could add but I think you probably get the idea at this point.

On Friday evening, Peter dropped me off at the train station.  As a show of appreciation, I gave him a ceramic pitcher that I had made.  One point that we continually returned to was that even though neither of us could speak each other's language very well, we could get by and we both enjoyed good times with good friends.  It was a good exchange of ideas and everyone involved learned a lot.  I'll write more soon.

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