Karlspreis und Thalys
Today, the Karlspreis will be awarded in Aachen. This price, named for Charlemagne (Karl der Große in german), goes to people who have done great deeds for the unification of Europe.
For this occasion, more flag poles were planted on Aachen’s market square than I had thought possible. I can’t really recognize a pattern in who got a flag, though. A lot of EU members are lacking, while some countries that are not EU members (yet) are present. Here very prominently is (for greek readers: The Former Yugoslav Republic Of) Macedonia, which is only considered a candidate for joining.
What I can explain is the black-yellow flag in the background. In medieval times, those were the colors of the german emperor. Free imperial cities, which were cities under the direct control of the emperor instead of some intermediate lord(s), copied those colors copied those colors to show their special status. Even today, some of these towns such as Goslar and Aachen have them as their city flags.
The winner of the Karlspreis this year is Dr. Angela Merkel, the german chancellor. To be honest, I think this kind of sucks. I don’t intend to say that Mrs Merkel didn’t do good for Europe’s unification at all. But as head of government of Europe’s largest state, this kind of goes with the job description, and isn’t exactly a huge surprise. Besides, I can’t imagine that her honor will in any way increase due to a price given by a middle-sized city such as Aachen.
I’ve finally bought the N-gauge Thalys from Kato that I’ve wanted to have for quite some time. The entire set has ten parts (two power cars, one of which has a motor, and eight passenger cars), so it exactly matches the prototype right out of the box. It also includes a couple of tracks to put it on display somewhere or, if you are already using Unitrack (I am), extend the layout with. All this for a price where you’d get only the power cars of an ICE from a german manufacturer.
I’m really glad that I finally have this train. First of all, it’s a very long train (1.25 meters in total or 50 inch, if you prefer that), and it looks good when it goes through curves. As expected from Kato, it drives perfectly. It’s quiet, moves steadily, rolls nearly endless when power is cut and stays in track even with top speed in tight curves. The couplings have practically no slack at all, so all this applies equally when pushed. In fact, I have trouble telling the end with motor apart from the one without.
My first point of criticism is that the train is, as mentioned above, really long, which means it gets difficult to have enough track for it. Besides that, you’ll find lots of talk on the internet about the couplers being problematic. That is correct. They couple easily, actually, if you find the correct angle, but that angle is anything but easy to find. Besides, you don’t really hear when you put in the coupling between power car and rest of the train. I also don’t like that they didn’t include an NEM/NRMA DCC decoder plug in there, that makes my life more difficult. I know Kato never does this, but still, it sucks.
In total, I can recommend this train to everyone who is interested. This should also apply to the TGV POS[^1], which is basically the same model with a different paint scheme.
[^1]: That’s Paris, East France (which gets written with an O in french) and South Germany. Not, I repeat not, Piece Of Shit.
Written on April 30th, 2008 at 07:47 pm