In my last travel post “A Folly Filled Flight to Frankfurt” I left off where I made it to the main entrance to Terminal Two at Frankfurt am Main. So with a large duffle bag strapped to my shoulders, I had backpack straps added to it so I could carry it on my back. I stepped out the door and got my first whiff of German air. I found a park bench and sat down to enjoy a cigarette and being outside, even if it was a crowded area not having walls around me for the first time since I had walked out to the airplane at Sawyer was a nice feeling. From research I knew the train ride from Frankfurt to Heidelberg would take just over an hour so I wasn’t in a particular hurry. While I was sitting on the park bench decompressing I talked to an American Serviceman who was there for a flight back to the US. His take on Germany and her people was….let’s say less than complimentary.
After a couple cigarettes I set to figuring out how to get to Terminal One, I walked over to the bus schedule posted on a sign nearby. It seemed like an hour before I finally saw the right bus. The bus drive took about fifteen minutes to get around the perimeter of the airport to Terminal One. Now I mentioned that I had researched heavily before heading to Germany however there is one detail I missed researching, the layout of the airport. If you’re familiar with FRA Port (Frankfurt am Main airport) you are already aware of my folly here. When I returned to Frankfurt for my flight home I immediately realized that the sky trolley connected terminals one and two directly. Upon looking up the airport map just now I could have easily walked to Terminal One in about five minutes. I had to laugh at myself for it when I realized my folly. I don’t know how I missed it; my lack of sleep, lack of familiarity with my surroundings, and barely passable German ability (at that time) probably played into it, but I felt like quite a dumbass.
I stepped off the bus and made my way into the terminal and found my way to the train station. I walked up to the counter and asked for a train ticket to Heidelberg (bear in mind that this conversation was going on in German). The teller asked if I wanted a one-way ticket, I didn’t recognize the word, when I asked her to repeat she then asked if I wanted a one-way or two-way ticket. At this point it dawned on me what she was saying and I was able to secure my ticket. I stood in a smoking area on the correct track while I waited for my train which was an ICE or inner city express, which would take me to Mannheim where I would connect to an RB, regional train, to the Heidelberg main train station.
While I was waiting for the train I got into a conversation with a German guy around my age and he was quite happy to give me some advice on train travel and other things about living in Germany. When the train came we ended up in an open cabin with six seats in it. It was quite enjoyable to sit back and watch the country side roll by and not have to pay attention to driving. This was my first time traveling by train. I don’t remember where my temporary companion and I parted ways, but the trip as far as Mannheim went well. I was able to find my connection to the slower train that would take me to Heidelberg.
On the train ride to Heidelberg I noticed an American girl around my age seated near me with quite a bit of luggage. As the train was rolling into the train station I noticed she was getting her things together, so I slung my bag onto my shoulders and stepped forward to offer her a hand with her bags. Which she accepted, that is how I met Steph, she was returning to Schiller International University, the school where I was doing my semester abroad. She suggested we split a cab over to the university, since they would probably let me check in a day early, so it seemed a like a good idea. Unfortunately I didn’t see Steph very often throughout the semester and have since lost touch.
The cab pulled up in front of a large brick building at the base of a wood covered hill. The building itself was formerly an estate for some land owning family. It was quite large with a good sized courtyard. After the cab was paid for Steph led me up to the housing office where I met Heidi, the housing director. I learned that I was not going to be able to check into the dorm, an apartment really in a building a block from the school. Heidi did let me leave some of my stuff in her office, so I moved some of the contents of my bags around so that all I had to carry was my day pack.
My plan was to stay at the Youth Hostel which was right on the river next to the Heidelberg Zoo. So being familiar with the layout of the city from studying a map that hangs on my wall today I started walking toward the river which was west of where I was and I knew the street one block down would take me to the river from there I would follow the walking trail along the river to the Youth Hostel. It was a lovely walk through town as far as the river, soaking in the architecture and getting used to the feel of European streets. As I made my way to the river I kept my eyes open for businesses I would need to visit while living there.
Once I got onto the trail away from the open park there were trees on either side of the trail with the Neckar River on my left. I felt quite at home surrounded by trees and seeing the river, spending time in the forest is one thing I rather enjoy. The walk took me about forty-five minutes and seemed to be taking longer than it should have. When I finally came upon the Zoo my worry that I had somehow botched my memory of the map started to drop away sure enough I found the gate to the Youth Hostel shortly after the zoo. I do recall that along the trail before I came abreast of the zoo there were three or four metal sculptures ten to fifteen feet tall.
By this time I had gone over twenty-four hours without sleep and I was quite disappointed to learn that I couldn’t check in until sometime in the afternoon so I would have to wait a couple hours before I could check in and settle into the room. To start out I bought a bottle of soda from a vending machine, probably a Fanta (the real one is made from mandarin oranges so it is nowhere near as sweet as an orange soda you buy in the states, I found I much preferred it) and started reading. My head kept dropping so I walked down by the river, I sat on a set of steps that ended in the river and started writing. Shortly after a Mallard hen and her ducklings joined me. Wildlife in heavily populated area’s never seem to be all that nervous about people, there I was about ten feet away from them and they hardly regarded my presence, I’m used to having to work to get that close to wildlife.
I’ll fast forward to checking in, I managed to get checked in, had a little trouble understanding that I needed to grab the bed covers from a cart near the front desk. I got to the room which had three bunk beds, and as I would soon discover was right next to the peacock house at the zoo. I am not a fan of the peacock’s call it reminds me of a scream. I finally got to change out of the coffee stained pants that had the gaping hole in them. To summarize in case you didn’t read the previous post in this series, as I was leaving my airport of origin my pants split at the seam. On the flight from Detroit to Frankfurt I spilled coffee on my pants and into the pocket in the seatback.
Before I left for Germany I heard that the best way to adjust to a new time zone was to force yourself to stay awake and stick to the sleep schedule you normally keep in your home time zone. So I’m going with little to no sleep and had to make it until about ten o clock that evening.
There were four others in the room I was in three were a group traveling together around my age, who I got along with well and they invited me to join them in going out to a club that night, but with the lack of sleep I had to decline. The fourth was a man in his sixties on a bike trip through southern Germany that started on the Swiss Border. He was an interesting character we had some interesting conversations. I ended up having a couple beers with him at the youth hostel before retiring for the night.
At around three in the morning he shook my shoulder because I was snoring, not realizing this I almost got up and started getting ready. I turned on my cell phone, for some reason the only time piece I had at the time, so I figured oh I was snoring and went back to sleep. I woke up to my alarm at seven the next morning, went down and grabbed breakfast then made the walk back to Schiller.
That covers my first day in Germany.