The Berlin public transport experience

… is one of the city’s most popular attractions! For as little as €2.90 you can see for yourself what all the hype is about!
If you live in Berlin chances are that you heavily rely on public transport. The public transport network here is pretty good. In fact, it’s quite similar to that in Tokyo in that there usually are several connections that get you from one place to another, though some might be substantially more convenient than others. There are not many locations within city limits that you cannot reach by bus, tram, subway or train and a brisk walk of usually less than ten minutes – on a day without outages or cancellations, that is. Sure, you might have to change several times – the duck and I sure do – but that just means more opportunities to acquaint yourself with the Berlin-exclusive public transport etiquette (that definitely needs some getting used to, especially if you come straight from Tokyo). When two years ago we would walk around with our phone on permanent silent mode (because we were constantly taking trains and not disturbing your fellow passengers is rule #1 in Tokyo), now there are hardly any days that the duck and I do not get to witness some heated interpersonal drama on the train. Sounds seem to multiply here. I still vividly remember an instance when, in Tokyo, I sat opposite a Japanese businessman whose phone started to buzz. He quietly answered it (which in itself is not a typical reaction by Japanese train etiquette standards), hand in front of his mouth, telling the caller that he is on the train while he hectically bowed in all directions to apologize for the disruption. Because that was such an unusual occurrence he had a big curious audience. Compare that to a train ride the duck and I had two weeks ago where the standard noise level of casual conversations was drowned out by a person who had a Skype chat with their toddler who was watching TV rather than talking to them, all of that with the speakers at max volume! I turned up the volume on my ear-phones, ignoring the warning that pops up whenever you exceed the ‘safe levels’, and still couldn’t understand half of what was said on the podcast I was listening to.

Podcast duck

That’s Berlin public transport for you. Throw in the regular delays and cancellations (my favorite reason by far is wire theft, though the wire problem that initiated the duck and my Ikea odyssey last year was pretty interesting, as well) and the occasional wet seat and you have the ‘Berlin train experience’. The best part of it, at least if you ask the duck and me, is that the BVG (the main public transport company of Berlin) gladly embrace their reputation, as you can tell by some of their humorous commercials.
But all that isn’t really what this post was supposed to be about. Before getting lost in this long exposition, the duck and I actually wanted to share our latest discovery on a Berlin bus that made it truly fancy in our eyes (and I think that after reading about the image that Berlin public transport has you can understand why we were so excited):


Has this ever happened to you? You’re on your way to work and you suddenly realize that you forgot your laptop at home, and with it the PowerPoint presentation you are supposed to give today. Fortunately you have your phone with you but – what a shock! – the battery is at 1% and you’re not sure whether it will last for a self-deprecating email to your boss…. It won’t. But, lucky for you, you have caught one of the fancy buses with built in USB chargers! Now you can charge your phone and maybe even call your boss to avoid sounding sarcastic in your e-mail (which is a problem the duck and I have from time to time, maybe because people don’t expect us to be genuinely nice? I don’t know) when all you want to do is to honestly apologize for your stupidity! You know that you’ll be fired eventually, but maybe not today.

That would have been our post for today, if it weren’t for the COVID-19 precautions in Berlin.

Minimal-contact bus

A lot of Berliners (people and donuts) were upset that Berlin acted too late on the coronavirus threat, leaving clubs and bars open for way too long. The BVG, however, did take at least some precautions. They announced last weekend that they will try to keep public transport operation up to schedule for now but there might be some cancellations in the future. Even before the official announcement that schools will be closed until (at least) after the Easter break, the BVG announced that they would not let passengers board buses through the front door temporarily. And, in fact, the whole area around the driver seat has been closed off in all buses and a note informing prospective passengers of exactly that is posted on each closed front door. Other than that the trains and buses were a bit emptier last week, but still widely used.

Even though the duck and I are not among the toilet paper hoarders and, after the mothtrocity incident, have stopped buying pantry food ahead (which means we’ll be the first ones to starve in a major panic), we think that minimizing interpersonal contact within buses is a great way to slightly reduce the risk of infections while still keeping the service as convenient as possible for public transport passengers (if you don’t rely on buying tickets in the bus, that is). That shall be all we write about coronavirus on this blog (for now, at least). There are many better, more professional sources out there.

Let’s stay safe but positive and considerate, everyone!

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