In our previous instalment, Tim and Anna were staggering around Brussels, Belgium, hungover and killing time, waiting for their train to arrive. Would it come on time? Would they depart from Belgium and enter Germany again hassle-free? Only time would tell…
We waited in the rain for our train to arrive. It came, we boarded and chatted for a bit, sleeping intermittently on our way from Brussels to Köln. We were spending Sunday night in Köln, as opposed to returning to Bonn, as we had to catch a train to Stuttgart at 7:50am on Monday from Köln hauptbahnhof, then a connecting train to Tübingen.
Initially, when we arrived we weren’t feeling all that hungry. But then I remembered that the Gaffel brewery was across the road from the hauptbahnhof and in their restaurant they serve pork knuckle. Before I came to Germany, this is what I thought of when I pictured German food, however, we hadn’t had it yet on this trip. We took our bags to our hotel down the road, checked in, then I ignored Anna’s constant, smug claims of “I thought you weren’t hungry” as we headed to the Gaffel brewery.
For those who have never had pork knuckle, imagine a piece of roasted pork about the size of a child-size basketball with a large bone through it, served with potatoes, sauerkraut and mustard on the side. It’s so good, but you can almost feel your arteries clogging up when you eat it. You see regular size guys finishing one of these to themselves here, but Anna and I had to share ours.
After the marathon effort it took to put away dinner it was getting late and we were exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel to get some rest. We had an early start the next morning for a pretty busy day, so I needed my beauty sleep.
In a previous post I showed some examples of Faceswap. Well, when we were in the Taschen book shop in Brussels I found a book called “Tom of Finland” and I thought it would be hilarious to do a faceswap of the cover. I think I pulled it off quite well, but, when I was having a shower, Anna felt the need to tweak it a little more by adjusting the text. First, you might need some insight; My hometown is a small town called Traralgon, located in the east of the Latrobe Valley in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia. So, the Faceswap results, plus poor text-tweaking:
People do some really stupid stuff when they are tired and bored and I am no exception. In fact, I most likely do more stupid things than most people, which is probably why I’m considering making this my Facebook profile picture.
What a terrible night’s sleep! It was one of those hellish nights where it takes hours to get to sleep, but you’re never really completely out of it, just half awake, half asleep. I snoozed for maybe four hours. For me, this can be quite dangerous, but fortunately nothing happened. We struggled out of bed at 7:00am, got ready and went to check out, but the woman at the reception desk spoke little English and wasn’t going to let us leave until someone else could serve us, despite the fact that we had already paid. She quickly learned that you don’t argue or get in Anna’s way, especially when she’s tired and has a deadline. Needless to say we made it to the train station on time.
With our Eurail pass it isn’t necessary to reserve seats on the train and there are usually more than enough, but the choice is there to reserve them if you’d like to. This was the one occasion that we didn’t book seats and it will also be the last time we make that mistake.
As we were waiting on our platform, Anna pointed at a family and exclaimed, “Look how many suitcases they have!”. There were two men, one of their wives, an elderly woman and two little girls. You would expect a family like that to have a bit of luggage. I looked, acknowledged that, yes, there were quite a few suitcases, lets hope they aren’t on our train and thought nothing more of it. All I wanted to do was sit down in my seat on the train and try to get some sleep. However, the platform was getting rather crowded…
Our train finally arrived and, as it was approaching our platform, the family with the luggage moved all of their cases to where the train doors would be. Before anyone could even exit the train, one of the men had pushed his way aboard, and started taking suitcases that the other man was passing to him while the rest of the family tried to squeeze past. There was absolute chaos as people tried to disembark at their station, fearful that they might not be able to alight, while others were worried they might not be able to board the train, thanks solely to one selfish family. There was not enough space for all of the family’s luggage, so now they just left the rest of it in the train’s doorway and made sure that all of their family members were onboard, the rest was everybody else’s problem. This whole fiasco delayed us initially by around half an hour and over the course of our journey that delay would turn into an hour. We probably won’t make that connecting train in Stuttgart.
The train was finally moving, but we had nowhere to sit. We have already been standing around for more than an hour, now we’d have to continue to do so until some seats freed up. Anna managed to get one about an hour into our ride, I would have to wait another hour longer before I could get off my feet. I was so tired I was getting delirious and I needed to occupy myself somehow, so I became fixated on the suitcase family. I was standing close enough that I could read their paperwork at one stage and it turned out they were from Beirut, traveling to Frankfurt. Curiosity got the better of me and I started to count, they had 15 large suitcases and that’s not including handbags, satchels and the like. Their kids were crying, the men were yelling, I couldn’t wait to reach Frankfurt.
Frankfurt came and went, the suitcase family disembarked which delayed the train again, but in the process several other people got off and I managed to get a seat and slept sporadically from there until Stuttgart. We boarded a connecting train in Stuttgart, this one had strange seats, but I tried to find a way to curl up and catch some ‘Zs’ on our one hour ride to Tübingen. Bad move as you will find out soon enough.
Anna was supposed to be at work at the hospital in Tübingen at 1:00 pm. Fortunately, she had notified them that we were going to be late. It turned out to not even be an issue, as there had been major strikes by train conductors in the area, so they were prepared for problems. Anyway, we finally arrived, checked into our homestay, Anna went to work and I went and took a nap.
I eventually awoke feeling not 100%, but a lot better than I had earlier. The area we were staying in was on top of a hill and I was hungry and wanted to get some lunch, so I googled where the nearest supermarket was. It turned out there was one about 600 metres away. What Google didn’t tell me was that it was down an exceptionally steep hill that was almost all steps (left). By the time I got to the bottom my legs were like jelly, but I did my shopping and decided to try to make the trek back up.
Sure, I was tired, but you know you are unfit when senior citizens are climbing this thing without breaking a sweat and here’s me, doubled over, hands on my knees and panting about a quarter of the way up. By the time I reached our hotel I was sweaty and stumbling like a new-born foal. In my opinion that was a completely reasonable state to be in, however, as the pedometer on my phone said that the amount of stairs I had just climbed was equal to 25 floors of a building!
Later, I would receive a message from Anna asking me to meet her in town to have some dinner and drinks with her professor and some colleagues. It was time to tackle that hill again, but we ended up having a great night out, especially when we continued drinking with one of her co-workers from Bulgaria and his wife, only this time we decided to get a taxi back at the end of the night. While we were out my left thigh started to get extremely itchy and later, when I had a shower, I saw that there were small bites all over my leg. There must have been fleas or something on that train seat that I curled up on on the way from Stuttgart.
Mentally, I felt a billion times better when I woke up so I thought I’d go explore the city, but there was only one problem – My legs were in sheer agony from that hill yesterday, my calves burned if I even bent my toes up! Not much choice, though, better just suck it up and go.
Tübingen is the city we would have ended up living in for three to six months if Anna’s position in Bonn hadn’t come up. It’s a small University town, so much so that, as of 2014, about one in three people living in Tübingen is a student. Despite this fact, there isn’t much action there. Even the night before when we were out, there was nobody else around, not even going in or out of the cinema next to us. The Bulgarian couple said that’s just how it is there. Tübingen is also almost impossible to navigate due to all of the one way streets and dead ends. It’s a nice place, don’t get me wrong, but I’m so glad we didn’t end up living there.
After strolling around for an hour or so I figured it was time to get some lunch. I went into a French bakery that had some great looking quiches in a case. Not the most masculine dish, but quiche tastes good and I was hungry. I asked what several of them were, one of which I was told was “Bear and offal”. It doesn’t get much manlier than that, even if it was a quiche! I got one of those and a quiche lorraine, found a seat in a park and had lunch. I took a huge bite out of my “Bear and Offal” quiche, but a pastry chef with a French accent, combined with his translation issues, had resulted in me actually purchasing a pear and cheese quiche. What a let down. Probably should tackle that hill again and wait for Anna to finish.
I had been back in our room for about half an hour when Anna called me, asking to meet her back in town. Back down the hill. By this stage I could barely walk, my rubbery legs burned with every step. We were just going to do some shopping before Anna’s professor took us out for a quick dinner and then her and her husband were taking us to a piano recital. The recital was impressive, but went for about three hours, which even they admitted was a tad excessive.
Walking was now almost a physical impossibility, I had now walked down that hill four times and up it twice. Today was to be an easy day, I would only need to go down it once, pick up a “Thank you” card for the professor and hang out in a hospital for about an hour.
I have mentioned previously that I have a pretty bad phobia of anything medical. Well, I started to get particularly nervous in the hospital after about 15 minutes, so I thought I’d go to the bathroom and just pretend I was somewhere else. I was obviously particularly tense, because, upon standing up, I pulled the armrest off the chair I was sitting in. Then, when I was going to leave the bathroom, I snapped the toilet seat in half getting up.
We were originally going to return to Bonn on Wednesday night, but the train strike made it difficult, so we could really only get back to Stuttgart. There was very little accommodation left and what remained was exceptionally expensive. At first we couldn’t figure out why, but it turned out there was a Spring festival nearby that was similar to Oktoberfest, as well as an animated film festival in town. We went out, grabbed dinner and a few drinks, but we were too tired for putting up with paralytic teenagers at the Spring festival, plus I still couldn’t walk properly, so we returned to our 2-star hotel for the night.
We were going to head back to the comfort of our little home in Bonn, but first Anna had to check out a town of factory outlet stores on the way. We both bought some cheap shoes and managed to make it home, despite the train strike. We had an amazing time on our trip to Brussels, as well as the German leg, but it was nice to be back in our beds and not living out of a suitcase.
Thanks to all of the staff at University of Tübingen, but especially to Professor Susanne Trauzettel-Klosinski and the rest of her team at the Low Vision Clinic, you have truly given Anna something to strive for and blueprint for what she wants to achieve.
Now we get to rest for a day or two, then we’re off to Prague, Czech Republic, for five days on Wednesday night, thanks to there being another public holiday on Thursday. Oh, and after this week I’ve now reached 145 different beers.