Just For Fun

23
Sep

2015

Love in the sky: Riding a gondola into a life of connubial bliss

fasfa

Forgive our shortness of breath. We always get a little hypoxic at weddings.

Critics of cable car technology as public transport often deride it, so to speak, as ‘romantic’ and ‘pie in the sky’ — to which we retort:  what’s wrong with romance,  and can we make that wedding cake in the sky instead?

The brother of a friend was recently married 1,900 metres above sea level in the French Alps. Yes, that’s him in the photo. Transportation to the venue was provided courtesy of the Télécabine du Prarion, an especially romantic gondola which departs from Les Houches, near Chamonix. The entire wedding party rode the gondola up to the Prarion plateau and, from there, hiked to a charming nearby hotel.

Speaking of charming and hiking, invitations to the bridesmaids included a hearty carrier bag for their good shoes because, at altitude, the going can get a bit rough.

In this case, we agree that there is something rather romantic about cable cars as public transportation, but we aren’t the only ones. Nor are we though the only ones to find romance in public transportation at all. Consider the impossibly beautiful works of art that are subway stations in Russia and Sweden. Or google San Francisco cable car images if you happen to have an hour to kill.

Next stop: bliss!

Next stop: a lifetime of connubial bliss! (Photo from ski-leshouches.com)

Indeed, we can think of no greater compliment to gondolas than to call them romantic cake in the sky. After all, have you ever known anyone to get a public bus to drive them and their guests to their wedding?*

Get me to the bullwheel on time.

Get me to the bullwheel on time.

(*That was meant to be a rhetorical question. However, if you answered ‘yes’ are they still together?)

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16
Sep

2015

Don’t Look Down!


Need I say more?

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29
Jul

2015

Please Don’t Try This At Home

Recently we ran an opinion piece about private gondolas, asking whether they may be a sign of things to come. But nothing prepared for us this precarious looking “trenino” or little train in Vernazza, Italy. Essentially it’s a mini-monorail and it turns out they’re not uncommon here.

Vernazza is one of the “Cinque Terre”, five towns of exceptional beauty on the eastern edge of the Italian Riviera, reachable only by path, boat or train. Despite the remoteness and difficulty of access, the place is teeming with tourists year-round.

Becoming prosperous without a network of roads demands a certain entrepreneurial and self-starting spirit, which this contraption exemplifies. The trenino’s track stretches several hundred metres from high above the town, down the almost sheer cliff-cum-hill to the edge of town. It terminates just beyond this engine with its single seat, possibly lifted from some ‘80s airport, welded behind the jury-rigged cargo bin.

Locals use trenini primarily for transporting goods and equipment, most especially grapes and hay, up and down their terraced vineyards and gardens. Very occasionally it is used for transporting people — when there is no other means of access to a given spot.

Correction – August 3, 2015
We originally thought this may be an “unsafe” transport device on first glance but thanks to BC and all commenters we realized that this is untrue. Trenini, or Monoracks, are not unique to this area and are neither homemade nor jury-rigged, but number over 650 around the world. They are also safe and the ’seats can be fitted with a protective hood’. So we still say you should leave it to the professionals — and still salute the entrepreneurial spirit of those who recognize business ideas where others only see perilous slopes.

Cinque Terre is beautiful but not easily accessible. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and the locals here are, by necessity, inventive. Image by Steve Bochenek.

Cinque Terre is beautiful but not easily accessible. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and the locals here are, by necessity, inventive. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The steep hills between towns in the Cinque Terre are almost sheer. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The steep hills between towns in the Cinque Terre are almost sheer. Image by Steve Bochenek.

On the way into Vernazza, the steep hiking trail is temporarily flanked by a lone steel rail with jagged teeth underneath, which the trenino’s engine grips on a climb. Image by Steve Bochenek.

On the way into Vernazza, the steep hiking trail is temporarily flanked by a lone steel rail with jagged teeth underneath, which the trenino’s engine grips on a climb. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The “base station”, complete with jury-rigged cargo holder in front of a lone seat, possibly appropriated from a defunct carnival ride, rests just above Vernazza. Image by Steve Bochenek.

The “base station”, complete with jury-rigged cargo holder in front of a lone seat, possibly appropriated from a defunct carnival ride, rests just above Vernazza. Image by Steve Bochenek.

Being 2-dimensional, photographs rarely convey steepness very well. But trust us: this track was steep. With no seatbelt to secure the rider, we wonder if anyone ever tumbled out backwards on an especially vertical slope. Image by Steve Bochenek.

Being 2-dimensional, photographs rarely convey steepness very well. But trust us: this track was steep. With no seatbelt to secure the rider, we wonder if anyone ever tumbled out backwards on an especially vertical slope. Image by Steve Bochenek.

15
Apr

2015

Metal Cable to My Cable Car

Proving once again that cable cars are the most romantic transport technology in the world (link 1, link 2, link 3)… 😉

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01
Apr

2015

Next Gen Alpine Coaster

Apparently blazing down a ground level alpine coaster is totally passé now — these days, it’s all about the new Alpine Biga Coaster.

Alpine Biga Coaster by Sunkids.

Happy April Fools! At least that’s we think… 😉

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16
Mar

2015

Queuing for Trains, Airplanes, Gondolas… or Really Anything Else in Life

A video depicting a chaotic “queuing” scene has gone viral today after a tourist filmed herself waiting in line at a Korean airport. In turn, this has sparked some intensely emotional and comical debates on Reddit and the rest of the interwebs.

To provide a contrast to that thread, the online community immediately started posting photos of queuing culture in other parts of the world — with an emphasis on train queuing etiquette. Here are some of the examples found online:

Japan

Singapore

Thailand

India

Philippines

Houston, USA




Note: To avoid any transit technology wars, some may perceive the above picture as a shot against light rail. It isn’t, rather it is an observation on how some people decide to perceive transit in general in North American cities. 

Note 2: To ensure we don’t spark any meaningless technological debates on the blog, below is another example of train queuing in the USA (plus a picture of passengers lining up for the Ngong Ping 360 in Hong Kong). 


San Jose, USA

Hong Kong

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04
Mar

2015

Are We At Peak Giant Ferris Wheel?

Ferris Wheel Cable Car

If every city has one of these, what’s the value of one of these?

A few years back it seemed every city and its brother wanted to build a giant ferris wheel.

Inspired by successful projects like the London Eye, cities across the world have been lining up to build these now-ubiquitous amusement rides to such an extent, The Atlantic’s Citylab posited the question: What happens when every city has a giant ferris wheel?

It’s a good question.

As more and more cities build these moving observation platforms, will their attraction value decrease? Will we see more of these systems fall into receivership, such as the  Singapore Flyer or the Wheel of Brisbane? Or will investment continue apace?

My guess is that you’ll see a combination of scenarios.

Giant Ferris Wheels are clearly experiencing a trend—and like all trends, there will be three groups of investors trying to capitalize on it.

Firstly, there will be the first movers who can capitalize upon the prime markets of the world and establish themselves as market leaders. Think the London Eye, the Las Vegas High Roller and Staten Island’s New York Wheel.

There will be second movers who capitalize upon mid-tier markets who realize a nice profit but nothing compared to what the movers in markets like London and Las Vegas experience.

And lastly there will be a fair share of bandwagon jumpers more interested in riding the wave instead of understanding the wave. These people will build in whatever market is available to them and will likely find themselves holding onto a large piece of metal that has almost no chance of return on investment.

Why is that? Simple—tourists get bored easily. The tourist class are always on the hunt for the new, the unique, and the authentic. And if we accept that assumption as true, then for every additional ferris wheel that’s built, the less enticing every other ferris wheel on the planet becomes. That’s how trends work. The more you see of it, the less you want it.

I, like millions of others, would be more than happy to drop a few pounds on the London Eye. The Singapore Flyer? Not so much. Why? Because the London Eye was first. It was the original. It’s iconic. The Singapore Flyer is an also-ran and a copycat. Is that logical? Not even remotely, and that’s the point—logic doesn’t fit into the equation here.

Witness the world-record setting High Roller ferris wheel in Las Vegas. It is an original and is about as sure a bet as one can find in this gambling mecca. But did you know about that other ferris wheel? The Skyvue? The one that’s also located in Las Vegas?

Yeah, that one stopped construction a couple of years back and, if reports are to be believed, is dead on arrival. That didn’t stop a third consortia, however, from proposing a third ferris wheel for Las Vegas despite having virtually no chance of ever getting the necessary permits.

Why?

Because no city requires three ferris wheels because no tourist cares about three ferris wheels. No city requires two. In fact, most large geographic regions barely require one.

Once you’ve seen one ferris wheel, you’ve kind of seen them all. Sure the view is a bit different in each one, but only to a limited extent. That thrill wears off rather quick and only the most iconic of systems with the most iconic of views will be profitable in the long term.

So how does that relate to cable cars, you might ask?

We’ll deal with that question next week.

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