Friday, September 09, 2011

Mannheim hard done by yet again?

First of all an apology for the lack of blogs since August, but we are trying to finish our new Kindle e-book "Rhine Upstream". As well we needed to find some photographs of railways in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for publication in "AtoB" ( This was a more difficult job than either we or David Henshaw, the editor of that august publication imagined. We cracked the problem and this had the added advantage that we were better prepared to source photographs for the next country in the list: Italy.
Mannheim can lay claim to being very important in the development of individual mobility. Karl Friedrich Freiherr Drais made the world's first "bicycle" trip in June 1817 on his velocipede or hobby horse, a kind of simple bicycle between the centre of Mannheim to the Schwetzinger Realaishaus,  a pub. Drais was born in Karlsruhe and the citizens of Karlsruhe claim that really Karlsruhe should be considered the site of the start of the age of mass individual mobility. (There is however a Drais bike route in Mannheim.)
Then in 1886 Carl Benz was awarded the first patent for a vehicle with gas engine drive. Two years later his wife Bertha undertook the first car trip in the world and drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim. (Somewhat of a kick in the pants for chauvinistic male drivers. Not only are women reputedly safer drivers, but one of them was the first driver in the world.) The route she took can be followed:, including seeing the first filling station in the world, a chemist's shop in Wiesloch where she bought ligroin. However at the same time Gottlieb Daimler was building similar machines in Stuttgart. The HQ of the company the two founded in 1926 is in Stuttgart, so we Mannheimers have the impression that the role of Mannheim yet again is being diminished for the greater glory of one of Stuttgart's sons. The company's name no longer reflects the role of the Carl Benz since 1998 when Daimler - Benz AG absorbed the Chrysler company and since 2007 when the Chrysler operations were divested, it is just called Daimler AG.

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