In Berlin, I rarely take the tram. For one, there aren’t any in my neighbourhood. In addition, there are no longer any really old trams in use. The trams in Prenzlauer Berg, in Mitte, in Friedrichshain are bright yellow, hyper-modern BVG vehicles. Here in Bratislava, I am fortunate to be able to travel to the office every day by tram. Numbers 3, 4 or 5 take me to Nové Mesto.
In this city, in addition to the modern red trams, there are also older, somewhat rusty, but very charming trams. Like the ones you need to climb up two steps to enter. The cream coloured old school types, in which passengers sit behind one another. Some are round in the front, others have square noses. I always cross my fingers in the morning and hope it will be an older, historic tram: a Tatra 3 model, perhaps, built in 1968, or the Tatra T6A5 from the 1990s.
When it finally turns the corner and comes to a halt in front of Poštova Martinus, and my cold feet slowly relax inside, I have the opportunity to observe the city in a very special way. From my slightly elevated point of view, I watch the hustle and bustle around me. I’m in the middle of it, but on the sidelines. I see the people in their cars telling their everyday stories; their woes, their problems. The street scene on the pavements, a mother holding her child in a blue-green jacket by the hand. Two men who obviously already had a few this morning. When I close my eyes, I hear “Nasledujúca stanica: Blumental,” the next station. And if I’m lucky, some light falls on my face between the houses. Usually not, though. Late autumn in Bratislava is in no way inferior to that in Berlin. Then the tram rings its bell to draw the attention of passers-by.
The tram network began operation in Bratislava in 1895. According to Wikipedia, the operator has 244 coaches today with an average age of 26.5 years. That’s younger than I am. How many people have looked at each other inside and outside the tram over the years in Bratislava? Some have certainly also just stared into space. I do it, too. What could it be that I like so much about the old, un-renovated trams? Perhaps they remind me of Vienna, of the East, and therefore of traveling, of the past. An imaginary past that I cannot know. Thus, my pleasure in the trams is soaked in melancholy. Suddenly I am awakened from my reverie by the automated voice announcing “Pionierska.” Time to get off.