Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Stuttgart Bus tour

Today began with a more theoretical beginning to my tour of Stuttgart. I was reading about 'Markers' in Dean MacCannel's The Tourist a book that has proven to be quite an inspiring read. He talks about the way sites get made into something through these markers which are applied to them through a number of different means: brass plaques screwed into the wall, inclusion in tour guides, numbered dots on maps, stickers etc. With this in mind I following the official Tourist circuit that the city map suggests and looked for visible markers. Here are a few from a short section of the route:  

Credit card signs like these ones are important as they guarantee secure international payment, something that the tourist values. They also act as a general sign that indicates the place is somewhat established in contrast to places that have a notice "cash only" on their window.

An accumulation of signs is a sign in itself. If a place only has one or two it will probably be less marked on various maps than a place displaying five or six. Inclusion in Google maps usually goes with the accumulation of these markers.

Always worth looking to see what year the place was included in the guide as it is often the case that they leave the sign up to reflect past glory. I've seen signs from 2008 and 2009 as well. Though their value diminishes with time the out of date signs still have a residual value.

I was attracted to the un-official markers too, such as this one. They describe a very different sort of network to the others pictured. I had the idea that I should try to include a range of these markers in my survey so that I could sample the different sorts of people who come into and out of this city.  

It is interesting how there is competition among markers, some have local impact while others are global in their reach. They must reflect different constituencies I suppose, some being high end markers and other budget markers.

This was an amusing one for me to notice as it includes in its logos (bottom right) INIVA an arts institution from the UK that I am familiar with.

There is definitely some gastro-tourism in the city, promoting certain establishments and the city in general as an attractive place to come to and sample the local food and wine. These labels are to reassure visitors that they are not walking off-map into some very local place of potentially questionable quality. 

This is an example of a place being marked in a guidebook: the square is one of the points of interest in the official tour and includes a note as to its significance. What a nice tourist photo I took!

And now onto the Stuttgart Tour bus. This is the red bus in the background and it takes tourists round in two circular routes with a hop on and hop off service. The service also includes an audio guide available in six languages. 

The driver has to follow a clock that tells him where he is with regards the ideal schedule + 1 minute 10 for example or - 30 seconds. The route took in the obvious tourist destinations and climbed up the steep hillsides. What was shocking however is that the information on the German audio guide was not the same as on the English one. We passed the Schweine Museum in silence but I could hear it being mentioned on the German audio channel, which the driver could listen to. Did they not want to admit to having a Pig Museum in their city to foreigners? This was very strange and a conspicuous omission. More funny still was when the bus stopped, as it was scheduled near the museum, the driver just pointed to the right and quietly said, "Schweine Museum". That was just about the only thing he said on the whole trip. There was another omission in the English tour that I noted, when we passed Theaterhaus my headphones fell silent while I heard it mentioned in German. So there we have it the Pig Museum and the Theaterhaus fall into the same category: things best not to tell foreigners about.

This is the device that I listened to the audio on. The commentary was interesting but the audio technology was less than perfect. It kept jumping or cutting out mid-sentance. I could see what they were trying to do but it wasn't quite working. Basically, it was not nearly as good as having a living person providing a commentary. The woman on the recording sounded like a Sat-Nav system, which is to say, her voice had been overly edited and was a bit robotic. Added to that, some recordings from the first route were re-cycled on the second route. This made it clear to me that the journey had been conceived as a succession of markers placed upon the sites we passed rather than as a trip with a beginning, middle and end. I guess they never learnt about dramaturgy on the tourism course. Still, in spite of or maybe even because of all of this, the bus was worth taking as it gave me a much broader view of the city. Actually, it was because of the mistakes in the recording I got talking to a Canadian guy, one of the handful of passengers on the bus. He was in Stuttgart with his wife who was at a conference. In two days they go to Prague. 

Today finished with a trip to sky beach, which opens tomorrow. Here is a sneak preview. I think we'll be heading there on my tour!

In the distance is the TV tower which we passed on the bus but which is closed to visitors because of a "technical error". I heard it had been recently renovated but the health and safety laws have been recently changed and it has been deemed unsafe so all the renovation work has been in vein, at least until they find a solution to the "technical fault".  

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