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Greg’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 14 Apr 2007

Location: Wiesbaden, Germany

MapI have transportation, and I donít mean my train pass. I bought a bike last week but had issues with inflating the tires. Seems they always sell bikes with near-flat tires and the valves do not necessarily match those of the air pumps at the gas stations. For some ungodly reason they actually sell 6 different types of valves. Anyway, I have a hand pump and air in my ďrideĒ so Iím off!

First stop, the Wiesbaden fire department. Wiesbaden is a town of approx 275,000 people and the department is staffed with approx 250 firefighters and a 50 person support staff. They are a career department with POC assistance in the outlying areas. I found Station 1 and met a gentleman by the name of Heinz Schosmer. He is the officer on duty today and the best person at speaking English. He gave me a very in depth tour of the station, their trucks and the German way of firefighting, which by the way, requires a minimum of 19 people. They have a very detailed plan and everyone must be there for it to work. Funny thing about the station, from my experiences here, space is at a premium. The Germans have a way of utilizing every imaginable nook and cranny when it comes to space. However, the station is massive as is the grounds it sits on Ė it just never seemed to end. The use of space was wasteful even by US standards. Having said that, their trucks are completely opposite. It was amazing. Their main truck, what we would call the Engine or Pumper is roughly 20ft long, cab included. It can carry 1600 liters of water, 9 crew members, a massive supply of foam, technical rescue/extrication equipment, not to mention ladders, hoses, SCBAís (including spare bottles), hand and power tools, ventilation equipment and medical supplies. Their Ladder trucks are very minimal. No water, no pump, no secondary ladders, just the main ladder and a few miscellaneous tools including two PPV fans. It has a reach of 30 meters up and 24 meters to the side when fully extended. They also have what he called ďcommon carsĒ which are basically officer vehicles and command vehicles. Lastly, and the one I found most interesting is they have two trucks that are just cabs. The chassis is outfitted with a set of posts welded to it and they have a series of 6 units that can be placed and secured onto the chassis based on the need for the call. They are stored in a garage behind the station and Heinz claims a good driver can get the truck over to the garage, drop the unit onto the chassis, secure it and be on the road in less than 4 minutes. The units range from powder supply for electrical fires to a full kitchen for incidents that may last so long that feeding the firefighters becomes necessary. One last interesting note, their response to emergencies is completely determined and outlined by a computer which is programmed with their SOPís. When a call comes in, the info is entered into the computer by the dispatcher (today it was Nikolus) the computer sounds the alarm and on a board in the center of the apparatus bay, it signals whether it is a fire or tech rescue call, what trucks respond, lights and sirens or not, and the general location based on zones of the city. There is a computer printer as you make your way from the common area to the apparatus bay, on it prints out all the info from the call, along with directions to the address. It is quite an impressive system.

Next stop, Neroberg. Since everything is in German and I cannot read it, itís difficult to give a proper description of what exactly Neroberg is and/or why it is of any significance. However, having said that what I do know is that at the top of Mount Nero there was a temple built in 1851 called? Neroberg Tempel of course. Not much of a temple, but I can see why this location was chosen. The view from the temple is awe inspiring. Perched high above Wiesbaden, you can see for miles in every direction. Along with the temple is an amphitheatre, another questionable title. Itís a tiered hole in the ground, but when something is built more than 150 years ago, even a hole can be impressive. Whatís more impressive is the Germans policy of total access. There was nothing off limits on Mount Neroberg except the old fire watch tower, which is now privately owned. Just to the south of the temple is the Nerobergbahn station. I railway built in 1888 climbs a total of 80 meters in height over the 440 meter ride. I, of course being the sadistic person I am, rode my bike up the winding roads that lead to the summit. Yea, that is not an advisable decision for a novice bike rider. Maybe Lance Armstrong could have done it without any issues, but my out of shape butt had to stop about every 100 yards! Letís backtrack a bit shall we? First it was quite an effort just to get to the base of Mount Nero. Between wrong and missed turns I found myself at the base station for the Nerobergbahn. Thinking to myselfÖ Self! Youíre not fat lazy American, donít take this silly train. No way! Ride to the top, itíll be easy, and think of how easy the trip down will be! Anyway, after about 35 minutes of torture I made it to my original goal, the Russian Church. Known as the Greek Chapel, it was built in 1847 for the remains of the wife and child of Duke Adolf from St. Petersburg. The Grand Duchess and her baby died shortly after the childís birth. It is unfortunate that they do not allow photos of the interior because it was amazing. The entire chapel is very small, maybe 35-40 feet square. The inside has a marble sarcophagus for the Duchess and her child along with numerous candelabras and walls lined in gold and ornate carvings. Another 20 minutes of riding and I made it to the summit. There I took in the sites, had a few beers and some curry-wurst and checked out the rope challenge that was built just off the side of Mt. Nero.

So that was my adventure in a nutshell. Oh yea, the trip down from Mt. Nero was much faster than the trip up. I made it down in 6 minutesÖ I think it took an hour to get up there from the fire station.