This trip to Germany has been rough on me, overall. Training at Stoll has been overwhelming, international travelling interfered with my sleep patterns and I have struggled to stay in good spirits.
Despite the fact that the last few days I have been battling a fever and a sinus infection, I went exploring today.
First, I stopped by Zum Schwann Konditerei for coffee, then headed into Reutlingen.
The Wienachtmarkt was in full swing. Folks were drinking gluhwein and eating massive sausages. There was all kinds of crap from China you could buy as gifts, but also a life-sized creche, live lambs, and tons of candy.
A seven year old was making heaps of euros clunkily honking classics like “Jingle Bells” on a trumpet. A group of four middle-aged Russian men were making far less playing exquisitely bouncy marches on trombone, euphonium, french horn and trumpet down the street. I think they were making it look too easy.
I got on a bus to Pfullingen to get to the Unterhosen. I didn't know where to get off the bus, but I thought I would figure it out. A woman sat down next to me and started chittering away in German. “I don't speak very good German,” I said in English. “Oh!” She responded, in English. “Are you a horse rider? Those look like horse riding boots.”
“No, uh . . .” I smiled a little awkwardly.
“Where are you from?” I said I was from California. “We do not have very many Americans here. What are you doing here?” I told her I was training at Stoll. She looked confused. “Strickwaren.” I said. “Oh! Strickwaren.” “How long are you here?” I said one more week, that I will have been here for four weeks.
“That is not very long, considering how far you travelled!”
“Well, it's a long time to be from home though!”
“People here are not very friendly to foreigners.” I shrugged. I told her my interactions were very limited, just buying things at the grocery, and people were nice enough. Maybe I couldn't tell that they were unfriendly, because I didn't understand most of what they said.
“I am going to my church, to get, how do you say . . . sweets? Little breads?”
“Cookies!” I said. “Yes! They are really the BEST. So pretty, you almost don't want to eat them.” Then she told me that her church was special, because it wasn't like the rest of the churches, that are controlled by the state. They have their own church leader. She asked me where I was going.
“To Unterhausen, but I don't know where to get off the bus.” She looked confused. “Which . . . wagen halt?” She put her hand to her mouth, and repeated “wagen . . . halt.” “When . . . should I leave this bus?” She still looked baffled.
“You get off the bus with me, everyone gets off where I get off.”
We got off the bus. I started to wander towards the city map next to the bus schedule to check it out. There wasn't a soul on the street. “Uh, where do I go now?” I asked her. “Um, I don't know.” We looked at the map. “Is this it?” I pointed at a green patch. “Yes!” “So, is it this way?” I pointed. “Um, it's a very long walk!” I shrugged. “I wanted to go hiking.” “Hiking! You should have stayed on the bus! It would have taken you right there!” “It's okay,” I said. I will wait for another bus. She was crestfallen. I told her not to worry, it's okay. She tried to direct me to go to the grocery store across the street, or the Pfullingen Wienachtmarkt a couple blocks away. I told her I was fine. She said goodbye, and walked away. A few minutes later, she came back with a sack of cookies for me, as an apology. I thanked her and said goodbye again. What a lady!
After 25 minutes, another bus came, and I got on. I knew where to get off the bus now. The map at that bus stop showed the hiking trail up the hill. I snapped a photo of it with my iPhone, then started walking.
First, I was in a suburban neighborhood. Then, I was on a narrow paved path surrounded by apple trees. There were some signs I couldn't read. It appeared to be a research orchard. The trees were laden with apples, but had no leaves. They looked like Christmas ornaments.
The paved path ended. The ground was thick with orangish brown leaves. The forest was dense and dark. I was near the Schwarzwald, but not in it. I started thinking about Grimm fairytales. I walked very slowly. Old men passed me. I stopped to look under gnarled tree roots for elves.
After about an hour, I reached a plateau. Short grass stretched out before me in a large field. It reminded me of UC Santa Cruz. In fact the field was bordered by oak trees, and acorns covered the path like pebbles. There were also rose hips on leafless branches. More Christmas globes.
I crossed the path and started up another, steeper hill. I could see "the underpants" now. A hard steep climb, but very short. Schoenberg Turm. I climbed the spiral staircase, slowly. Lovely views! I stayed at the top a long time, feasting my eyes on the scenery. Then I started thinking about sundown, and getting back to the bus stop, and when the buses might stop running on a Saturday.
I descended, and wandered to the edge of the field to look out over the valley. I saw something white on the ground. It was a tiny piece of paper. A fortune from a fortune cookie!
I remembered that I had brought a cheese pretzle and a beer with me. I sat in the fading light and drank half the beer and ate half the pretzle. Feeling full, and a little drunk, tired and happy! Heavenly! The sun shone on me and I took off my hat to soak it up. A falcon cruised the valley maybe 50 yards away from me.
I descended to the lower field, and ate the other half.
Then I tromped back to the bus stop and ate some cookies while I waited for the bus.