(No, this is not about Kraftwerk’s eponymous album or the defunct class of express trains)
The local newspaper tells us that a delegation from the Development Section in the Executive Office in Umeň Kommun (see also this press release) will be visiting Berlin and Kiel for inspiration about different kinds of urban development and planning.
As always, this kind of official journey invites an fest of insults in the comments section and my immediate thought is that Berlin is a strange choice. The city may be an administrative centre but it also faces deep economic problems both with regard to the public economy and the industrial structure. In fact, a recent survey rated Berlin one of the weakest metropolitan regions in the developed world.
Transport, housing and infrastructural issues in Berlin would appear to be very different from those in Umeň – even if I like the idea of giving Umeň some touch of real urbanity: Today, even the town centre reminds me more of an oversized shopping gallery in some sub-urban new town than of a town centre in its own right.
Kiel appears a more suitable object to study: It is about twice the size of Umeň, but it is not a metropolis, it has traditionally been an administrative centre, just like Umeň it is placed in a peripheral region and it has a university about the size of Umeň University.
The train connection? Well, the press release informs us that the journey is designed to be environmentally friendly, so the delegation will travel by bus from Umeň to Sundsvall, by train from Sundsvall to Gothenburg and by ferry to Kiel. They will also get a taste of the ultra-comfortable and attractively designed German ICE-trainsets which operate the Hamburg-Berlin service. It would be fun to see some of those in regular traffic on Botniabanan – if that connection is ever finished.