“Where’s the tram?” “it’s this way… no, it’s there!”
Confused? Well so was I…
For the sake of my job at Reinecker Vision I moved to Darmstadt, and for a long time I just thought “What a strange place”, and partially my point still stands.
What I discovered though is that Darmstadt can show itself from the very best side, but from time to time also from its bad side, which is where my hate-love to Darmstadt comes from.
The bad side concludes construction work that is rearranged multiple times, making it difficult following my usual route and finding new ways.
They also often make certain trams changing their routes. Although it just happens on a temporary basis, it can be confusing not only for me, but also for other sighted passengers who accidentally take the wrong tram, getting lost in the city.
The city itself is partially accessible. In an earlier post about Hamburg, I wrote that the train station of Hamburg Altona is a nightmare, because there were so many indicating strips that I in first place found it hard finding the right way. But hey, at least this place was actually accessible! Take a look at Darmstadt Luisenplatz, for instance, which is a large square surrounded by bus and tram stops. Despite clicking and talking terminals at each stop that tell you which lines you can catch here, it is a nightmare navigating on this square, as you cannot identify pavement and drive-way of the busses and trams, unless you come across the tram rails. However, you sometimes do not hear the trams or busses approaching until they are almost in front of you. Plus, depending on what line you got off from, you might have to reorientate yourself, as you might end up on the complete other side of the square.
Another example are very accessible tram or bus stops, but wait… where to cross the street to reach the actual pavement? In some cases, traffic lights look like street signs and don’t have any acoustic or vibrational feedback. So in worst case, you might be stranded on a safe island with cars, busses and trams passing by on either side. Therefore, I gladly accept if passing by people offer their help.
Some people, however, forget that I am blind and would rather point into a certain direction saying: “It’s this way…”
Also, inside the tram or bus, it is sometimes difficult to attract the attention of the driver or passengers when asking for the line number. Some drivers would just close the door in front of me, and some passengers would just try to drag me inside without listening to my questions.
Most of the time though – especially after the lockdown – I experience the better side of Darmstadt: Very friendly, helpful and open-minded people and nice places and events to hang out and have a good time. Another positive effect is that you are not trapped in your own home with Zoom anymore, and that many events to meet each other in person slowly but surely started to take place again!
As a result, I have met a lot of great people and made some new friends in Darmstadt, which is one more great and important step to feel more like being at home.
Last but not least, Darmstadt (which is also close to Frankfurt) is pretty central, making trips all around the country and even abroad shorter and easier, as there are less changes involved.
So all in all, my point about Darmstadt still stands: It can be a strange place, but somehow can feel like home anyway.