Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bus Meister: Public Transport Priority Best Practices wiki

I have started developing the Public Transport Priority Best Practices wiki as part of my Bus Meister project. The wiki is being developed on wikispaces and here's a link to the page that describes how the Bus Meister game will calculate how long it takes passengers to board a public transport vehicle, and therefore how long the vehicle will need to stop at a station.

The page has links to the other pages too. Since it's a wiki please feel free to edit it ... it's quite easy really, but I may need to invite you, so just let me know if you want to help!

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Creating City-Scale Collaboration with Games

Jane McGonigal has developed this slideshow about using games for city scale collaboration. It's something I am working on as part of my Bus Meister project ( It looks like we are going to get a small amount of seed funding from the city of Vienna to develop a game and start the social network and best practices wiki database. More later, but McGonigal's work is extremely interesting and well worth seeing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Copenhagen Recommendations

copenhagen harbor tour june08-56
Last month I attended the CIVITAS Forum 2010 conference in Malmo Sweden. I arrived early and spent Monday walking around Copenhagen.

The region is very interesting because since the Oresund bridge was built the Copenhagen and southern Sweden area have essentially become a single region including Malmo and Lund in Sweden with Copenhagen. The regional train (S-train), Oresundstag, runs every twenty minutes between Copenhagen, Copenhagen Kastrup airport, Malmo and Lund. It's easy, convenient and fast.

Copenhagen Central Station 27sept10-6
I started my Copenhagen walk at the central train station and then headed to the neighborhood north of Tivioli and the main pedestrian street (Frederiksbergg). It's pretty cool with lots of cafes, hip stores and young businesses.

I walked to the Norreport metro/S-train station, it's a fairly typical urban station, the regional trains are underground - they travel underground through the center of Copenhagen. The station has lots of bike parking, but not enough for Copenhagen's seemingly limitless demand. At the Civitas Forum we saw a great photo of bikers in the winter - they were covered with snow and ice but biking!

Gryberg Copenhagen - 27sept10-3
From Norreport I walked to the King's Garden park through the center of town. I walked around a little in the neighborhood just to the west of the park, and wandered down a small street called Lille Strandstrædet until I reached number 24, the location of a wonderful bakery/chocolate producer called Gryberg. I had a coffee and they treated me to one of their dark chocolate-passion fruit (two of my very favorite things) truffle with the coffee.

Gryberg Copenhagen - 27sept10-4
The person working there told me this truffle had just won first prize as best in Denmark, and I could easily understand why. The store is located right near where the canal boat tours leave (Nyhavn). By the way, I took one of these boat tours in 2008 and it was lots of fun (see my flickr Copenhagen photo set).

Copenhagen Changing of the guard 27sept10-04
After my coffee I walked over to the Amalienborg Slot (Royal Palace) and quite unexpectedly I arrived just in time for the changing of the guard (actually I did not even know that they did this in Copenhagen!). The palace square is shaped in an octagon, and the west side opens towards the harbour.

Copenhagen Kastellet 27sept10-4
After viewing the changing of the guard, I walked over to the harbour and walked north to the Kasteliet, a fort with earthen walls and a moat that's still used as a military headquarters (although people are free to walk around and enjoy the views from the walls). Then on to the Little Mermaid statue ...

Copenhagen Little Mermaid is gone 27sept10-2
But, the statue was gone - visiting Shanghai for the worlds fair! I saw it on my 2008 boat tour, but still, it's funny to think that a city would give away its most famous tourist attraction for six months. There must have been some debate about that!

Trains at Copenhagen Osterport Station 27sept10-1
Then on to a pedestrian bridge crossing over the railway tracks north of the Osterport railway station. The main railway tracks go right through Copenhagen from the main station to Norreport station and on to Osterport station.

Through railway service is very convenient and makes railway service much more efficient for operators. I have written about Zurich's S-Bahn through service (Zurich is building another through line now), Malmo is also building a through tunnel and Vienna is building a new central through station to replace the old South and East railway terminals ... to name just three current through railway projects under construction.

Copenhagen Livable Street 27sept10-3
I walked through the Holmens cemetery to Oster Farimagsgade street. There I found a whole series of one block long streets with very simple and small houses but all these streets were woonerf streets. I have never seen such good examples of the woonerf concept. I love this photo of the playhouse and picnic bench in the middle of the block. Sorry it was a school day and too early for children to be outside, that would have made a good photo.

Copenhagen Aamanns take away 27sept10-2
By now it was time for lunch, so I stopped at Aamanns take away smorrebrod ... it's an informal place, with a couple large tables so you can eat there or take away. I had three of their open face sandwiches ... the Fish: Pickled herring with compote of plus, fresh plums and a dice of cabbage ... the Beef: Fried loin of beef with remoulade, crispy onions and horseradish,

Copenhagen Aamanns take away 27sept10-6

and ... Vegetables: New Danish leeks with fried potatoes, wood sorrel, carrot/celeriac emulsion and "fedtegrever" ... all washed down with a local draft beer from a brewery called Hersler Bryghus. It was a yummy lunch in very pleasant surroundings. The restaurant, next door, also looked fine. My lunch cost about 200 Danish Kroner, which is about 28 Euros.

Then it was time to walk back to the main train station for my train back to Malmo, the conference was about to begin and I didn't want to be late.

All my photos - from my harbour tour in 2008 and this trip are available on my flickr Copenhagen photo set.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Berlin Recommendations

Kollwitzplatz Berlin 22sept10-3

I was in Berlin last week for the Innotrans conference. Berlin's one of my favorite cities, it's a very special place - especially when the weather cooperates as it did on this trip.

One of the reasons I like Berlin is that I really have learned my way around - 3 one-month long German courses at the Goethe Institute helps a lot. I think I have walked through all the city neighborhoods and the Goethe Institute's culture program introduced me to the museums and the city's history.

Berlin S-Bahn sept10-10

Riding the S-Bahn above the city from Charlottenburg to Ostkreutz is probably the best urban rail experience in the world. You pass all the main Berlin sights including the Reichstag (with its transparent dome), the new government buildings, the fantastic new main train station (Hauptbahnhof), the historic art museums on Museum Insel and of course the Spree River. Many of the stations are works of art in and of themselves: Freidrichstrasse, Hackescher Markt, Alexanderplatz ... I could ride this line all day long ... but alas, I had work to do at Innotrans.

Innotrans is a huge exhibition for all types of public transportation. All the major manufacturers of buses, railway vehicles and equipment, vehicle components, software systems, consulting firms, ticket machine vendors, ... you name it, they are there. It's almost too much, even for a public transport guy like me. The main reason I attended was to help the Rail Technology Cluster Austria (RTCA) with a couple projects.

On my trip I returned to several old favorite restaurants and tried two restaurants recently reviewed in the Financial Times - all were great and were a wonderful antidote to public transport overload. I had an appetizer of cold smoked trout served on potato salad with bacon the first night. I enjoyed a really fresh draft Augustiner (Munich) beer with it. The kitchen and bar at Alte Europa (in Mitte) is quite creative and the food is always great.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-3

On Tuesday I went to Kurpfalz-Weinstuben (photo above). The restaurant has a limited menu because one person, Rainer Schultz (the owner), cooks. I spent a long time discussing the menu with my waitress and finally selected the 'wild' soup (wild is meat that traditionally is hunted: deer, boar, etc. and is generally available in the fall). My soup was made with boar and wild mushrooms. It was delightful.

Did I mention the wines? The restaurant is justifiably famous for its wines - they offer probably 50 wines by the glass. I asked my waitress to make recommendations for me, and she did a great job. A very dry Riesling with the wild soup.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-2

My main course was a kabob of pork fillet and pieces of apple wrapped in bacon (actually Tyrolean dried ham). The meat had been marinated and was as tender as could be. It was served with a potato salad made with apple cubes and tiny diced pickles. I don't like heavy potato salads, but this was incredibly light - Chef Schultz told me he made it with creme frache instead of mayonnaise. I was bad and asked if I could taste the sauerkraut (a side dish that accompanied one of the other main courses). My waitress brought me a large bowl full and it was wonderful: very light and fresh tasting, not at all sour, again, home made. That's Herrn Schultz in the photo below.

Kurpfalz-Weinstuben Berlin 21sept10-5

I ended the meal with honey parfait which was the perfect compliment for all the food and wine I enjoyed. Kurpfalz-Weinstuben is a wonderful place. My meal with wine was about 45 Euros without tip.

Berlin Schwartzwaldstuben 22sept10-3

On Wednesday I returned to a place in Mitte called Schwarzwaldstuben. I actually lived on the third floor of this building on my last Goethe Institute course, so I had eaten here several times. They specialize in cooking from the Black Forest (in German: Schwarzwald) and also have Rothaus Beer from the region. I had the lunch special shown in the photo above, Wild Goulash - goulash made from deer meat - that was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It came with green Spätzle - perfect for soaking up the wonderful goulash sauce.

That evening I went to another restaurant recommended in the FT: Weinstein. It's located in Prenzlauerburg and is also a wine lover's paradise. One of the nice things about this restaurant is that if you order three courses they give you free mineral water and coffee, so I ordered three courses!

I started with celery soup: bright green with little bits of sausage in it. It went perfectly with the Pfaz wine recommended by my waiter.

Berlin Weinstein 22sept10-4

My main course was deer fillet served on top of a bed of green beans (which were cooked with bacon and onion) surrounded by four oven roasted cherry tomatoes (at the corners). The meat was so tender you could cut it with your fork and the vegetables were cooked well enough to stand up to the meat. Incredibly, the recommended wine was a Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel ... my favorite California Zin from my ZAP days in San Francisco ... served by the glass! You know what I drank.

Berlin Weinstein 22sept10-6

Dessert was mini quark cakes in a compote of plums marinated in cinnamon. The quark cakes were little balls, light as a feather, served warm in the bowl full of compote. Yum. The recommended wine was a sweet German Riesling from the Mosel region, and while I am not normally a sweet wine drinker, the waiter said it was really worth trying, and he was right. While sweet, it also had a touch of mineral taste that gave it more depth than many sweet wines I have drunk. My meal cost about 52 Euros without tip.

Weinstein also has a tasting menu on Monday to Wednesday that lets you try small portions of their seasonal menu, perhaps I should have done that since everything I ate was superb. The price for the tasting was 36 Euros (without wine and tip).

ZRH Airport 23sept10-1

I needed to fly through Zürich on my way back to Vienna, and our flight was quite delayed leaving Berlin. But, I just caught my flight from Zürich to Vienna (I was one of those guys running through the airport and they closed the door right after I walked on - thanks Swiss!) and arrived at home to ask Christa when we can go to Berlin for a holiday.