Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Munich - Heidelberg - Munich

27 February 2006

We pulled out tired butts out of bed early so that we could walk to the train station for our 0915am train to Heidelberg. I have a friend of mine that lives up there that was my trailer neighbor when he was in Iraq at Victory and we’ve stayed in touch. So he suggested that we could spend the night at his place. That was really very nice of him to offer and I accepted because I wanted to give Phil the experience of 1) Riding Die Bahn and 2) Seeing something other than the city of Munich.

Phil had remarked after the London trip last summer that he would have liked to have had the opportunity to check out the English countryside and experienced a bit more than that one city. So this was the perfect opportunity. The other reason I chose Heidelberg was that it was the first excursion for me away from Kalkar only one weekend after I had arrived there back in 1984.

The castle on the mountain gazing down over the town was just amazing to me. For me at that time, Heidelberg just overwhelmed my senses of history, Middle Ages and romantic era architecture as well as romantic views and ideas I had always read about in German classes in high school. Everything from Wagner, Goethe, Beethoven, Heine, Mozart; you name the artist; Heidelberg just embodied every idea of those artists and times.

So I am deeply grateful for being able to pass on to someone else my experience and love for this beautiful town. Although, I am pretty sure that Phil was ready to pummel me to a pulp after we walked up the steep incline required to view all this latent beauty! He spent about 10 minutes recovering (without a cigarette, mind you!) at the steps at the top of this incline. I guess I have forgotten how long of a haul it actually was. Beauty blinded me to the pain in my legs and feet when I climbed it the first time too.

Once at the top, we did the site-seeing and such. Did the Apothecary Museum in the castle, the castle gardens ( poor nearly naked Father Rhein wasn’t looking quite so happy as he did bathing in the water fountain during the summer!), the world’s largest wine cask not so dutifully guarded by the little person responsible with the big thirst, and other sites on the grounds. I must mention too that the view of the city and the “monkey” bridge to the other side of the Neckar River is beyond words. Too bad we had snow and wind blowing, but this IS Germany in the winter, after all and all people with any sense are down in Tyrol, Austria skiing.

When we got back, we had dinner, watch a couple of movies and crashed out. Up and Adam at 0630 as we had a return train for 0915am. Made it to the train on time and boarded where we were supposed to. It shouldn’t be too surprising that the trains are on time…nearly always. It is said that the only good thing Hitler did for Germany is that he made the trains run on time…that and the development of Volkswagen.

But, not so today. Our anticipated train time was set at three hours four minutes. We were running right on time until we got out of Ulm and about two minutes outside of Augsburg. I heard a strange noise sound for like 20 seconds unbroken but couldn’t place the sound. Then as the train was braking, Phil remarked to me that this was the fastest stop we’d experienced so far. There we were, stranded just outside of a small town when the conductor came on the speaker to announce the reason for our stop. Our train had had an “accident with a person.”

After I translated to Phil, he looked at me and remarked that it couldn’t have been any “accident” as we were on the center set of rails. As time passed, the conductor let us know that he couldn’t determine how long our delay would be due to legal requirements and not being allowed to move the train.

Talking with the Russian guy that was seated across from us, he makes this trip from Ulm to Augsburg a few times a week. He was saying that it was just last week Monday that another person was hit by the same train. Kind of makes you wonder if they need to rename that line the “Christine” run! But seriously, you have to wonder why the Frankfurt/Salzburg run is getting chosen for this particular mission. Maybe this line keeps its schedule too well.

After about 30 minutes, Phil saw a fireman and a train official walk past his window with a plastic bag with a bloody cell phone in it. After about ninety minutes, we were told that another Inter City Express train would pull up to our side and we would be allowed to proceed to Augsburg and Munich on that one. The only problem we had was that the first step up to the other train was about four feet up. The train people and other passengers helped everyone with their luggage and lifting passengers onto the new train. After our new train began down the tracks toward Augsburg, we saw a train employee walk down the aisle with a four foot ladder! Give that man a cookie.

Got back to Munich at about 2pm none the worse for the wear. Walking from the train station back through the Marienplatz, the Fasching celebrations for Rose Monday were well along. Not that we expected them to wait for us. Phil remarked to me that he was hungry and really wanted to get some of that roast pork that he had Saturday, so he dragged me back over to the Bratwurstharzl. Can’t say that I went there kicking and screaming, cuz the food and the bier is to die for! The food is as good if not better than the Heidelberger Fass or Zum Deutschen Eck in Chicago, except this place definitely has the atmosphere you can’t get back home.

Sabrina, our personal waitress at the Bratwurstharzl is our new Bavarian best friend. She kind of adopted us after that first day. As soon as we stepped in we got a very nice Bavarian greeting and she told us she had just the table for us. I ordered the Sauerbraten and Phil had his Schweinbraten. I told Sabrina that next time we will order the side dish of Spaetzel instead of the dumplings. I think Phil may find this a bit more to his taste too.

Walked around Munich and the Marienplatz for the rest of the afternoon and then decided to do Hard Rock for a late dinner. He wanted some dead cow, but I was more in the mood for something lighter. I ended up having a vegetarian sandwich with a couple of beers. Not bad and the sandwich didn’t leave me to overfull. We had a good waiter who spoke German in the beginning till we found out he was a Canadian imposter! From then on, it was English all the way. He had been there for a year or so and was saying how difficult it was for him since he is thinking now in German and having issues trying to remember English words sometimes. I told him I know how that is.

Did a bit of shopping at the Hard Rock, since you can’t leave there without spending about a $100 in trinkets and T-shirts. Finally got to bed at a decent hour. I think we’re both getting over the jet lag. More later.
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