Wuppertal is a real delight, nestled as they say in a picturesque valley of Nordrhein Westfalen less than an hour from the great city of Essen. It’s famous for its unique hanging cable cars which are called the Schwebebahn, great fun to take a spin on and see the city and its attractions from above and in comfort. The overhead track follows the course of the Wupper River and runs in only two directions so that even an idiot like me can’t lose themselves on it.
God knows what visitors to London make of our trains; it takes them hours just to work out the cost of their proposed journey and then figure how to work the machines. There are stories of cannibals living in tribal groups somewhere in our tube labyrinth, descendants of visitors who got lost down there years ago. The disused stations and tunnels are also supposedly haunted by the ghosts of old employees hit by trains and by tourists who forgot to ‘mind the gap’.
When I visit Madrid it’s such a pleasure to simply buy a bunch of 1Euro tickets, each of which lasts for one journey no matter how long it is. I can get on at the airport and go to the opposite end of the system for 1Euro. Compare that with London, if you dare, and it becomes obvious that the reason our tube and rail pricing is so expensive and complex is that it’s easier for them to shaft us if we haven’t got a clue what’s going on.
As I never tire of mentioning to anyone who can be bothered to listen, businesses are like dogs and they should be muzzled and kept on a short leash, otherwise they’ll end up harming people. They don’t know when to stop and morals go completely out the window. Look at the price hike by the energy companies, ten per cent just like that. Behind such probably lethal decisions are almost always overweight, grey men in suits who go home to their frustrated spouses in the evening and bore them stiff about their day at the bloody office.
Anyway, on the Schwebebahn you can get a day ticket for about 5Euros, called a Tagesticket (good, regular language German). To buy a day ticket for the London underground you have to practically remortgage your house. The route twists and turns through a number of stops, and if you have a hangover from the previous night the constant swaying may induce projectile vomit. The football stadium is next to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo, just a few yards off the track.
Not many people know that Friedrich Engels used to live here. You can see his attractive and (as always in Germany) neat and clean house with distinctive green shutters from the Schwebebahn. Engels’s rich dad supplied his son with funds to support him and his mate Karl Marx when they moved over to London to plot the overthrow of capitalism. If he’d just told him to sod off and get a job the history of the twentieth century might have turned out completely different.
The opera house is around here too. I saw Tristan und Isolde in it a few years ago. Half an hour into it I noticed that my four companions had all fallen asleep in their seats. After what seemed like a millennium we put our coats on and left with everyone else before realising half an hour later that the rest of the audience was going back in for the second half. We headed for a pub instead.
Time travel is easy. You don’t need to get close to the speed of light. Just go to see an opera by Wagner. Despite years having seemed to pass you’ll look almost the same as you did when you went into the theatre.
I almost forgot to mention that Germany’s most famous choreographer, Pina Bausch, also lived and worked in Wuppertal from 1973, staging sellout productions at the Tanztheater. She died in 2009 aged 68. If she hadn’t smoked she may have lasted longer, but you never know do you? They were saying on breakfast TV here a couple of weeks back that doctors have decided after 40 years of giving the opposite advice that eating fat is good for you. I expect an announcement any day now. ‘New scientific research suggests that by smoking forty cigarettes a day teenagers can significantly reduce their risk of developing lung cancer later in life. And now over to Moira for the day’s weather. Anybody got a fag? Shit am I still on air???’