Germany -- a place that I had often dreamed of visiting would soon be my destination. Only a month before this weekend, I was sure that the trip was not to be, resigning myself to a summer in the good ol' USA.
The call from my friend Martin was not really a surprise, though I was still unprepared for the conversation. I had sent Martin a note, explaining that I was unsure about the proposed trip to Germany -- that maybe I should wait a year. After all, I had already purchased both a new car and a computer and was not sure that a trip to Europe would be very sensible.
Well, fortunately, Martin was not convinced by my reasons and had called to convince me to visit Germany anyway. After fifteen minutes on the phone, Martin had encouraged me to go for it and I relented. I began planning and preparing for the adventure.
Martin is a German friend of mine, whom I met the year before at my church -- he had recently moved into the area and on one particular sunday, dropped in. The pastor's wife introduced us, and over the course of time we became good friends.
His reason for visiting the US was to complete a 'practical term' at a company in the field he was planning to enter. As an engineering student, he was required to complete this term as were his classmates, but Martin chose to fulfill his term in America. Through a friend of his father, he had landed a position at Krones USA, a division of the parent machine building company in Germany. Along with an opportunity to work in his future field, he was given a two room apartment near the plant for his six month stay.
The thursday evening before I was to depart, I spent time packing and organizing anything and everything that might be useful for me on the trip. Clothing and toiletries, along with two cameras, a new spiral bound sketchbook and mechanical pencil. I was planning to write this journal as well as sketch the interesting sites I hoped to see. It was late when I finished packing, so I stretched out on my bed, hoping to get some sleep before the long day ahead.
Friday morning seemed to come more quickly than I had expected, but I had no choice but to get moving. I loaded my bags in the car for the trip to O'Hare airport in Chicago I'd make immediately after work. Somehow I managed to get everything into the car in one trip, and that would be good practice for moving my luggage through airports and train stations for the rest of the tour.
My half day at work went smoothly, and I must admit that my mind was already focusing on the trip to the airport and the upcoming flight. Near noon I finished the all of my active jobs and divided the remaining projects between my co-workers, then said goodbye to everyone at the office. They all wished me a safe and enjoyable trip.
I drove to my parents' house where I picked up my father and my brother Peter. They traveled with me to the airport, not only for moral support but to return my car to Milwaukee and store it for the two weeks that I would be away.
The expressway to Chicago was as busy, though traffic heading south moved smoothly to O'Hare airport. We arrived at the airport in about two hours and spent several minutes searching for a parking spot. Eventually, we happened on a gap between two cars, somewhere on the upper portion of the parking structure. Dad memorized the location of the car, then we each took a piece of luggage and started walking towards the terminal.
O'Hare airport was bustling -- travelers scurried past us in all directions looking for departure gates, hurrying to make their flights. The signs to the Lufthansa counter were clearly visible as we ascended on the escalator to the third level. I waited in line to be admitted, and when I presented my ticket, I was immediately informed of a two hour delay on my flight. One of the planes still in Germany had a fueling problem, which delayed our flight schedule -- the time necessary to activate another plane from the hangar.
Because of this delay, the ticketing agent offered to reschedule me on Sabena Airlines, with a connection in Belgium. The Sabena flight would have put me at Stuttgart airport, several miles from the train station, where Martin and I had already planned to meet -- so I chose to wait for the delayed Lufthansa flight instead. I wanted to keep the plans as intact as I could, to avoid any complications. This way, I would at least be in the right place at the wrong time.
After leaving the check-in counter, I located a phone booth and called Germany. After a few odd sounding rings, Rolf, Martin's father answered. I spoke to him in English, since my German was pretty lousy, and I was able to relay to him that my flight would be arriving two hours later than expected. He assured me that Martin would be waiting for me at the train station in Stuttgart, around three instead of one.
My father, Peter and I, followed signs down to my gate, at the end of the long walkway. A group of people were seated in the waiting area, some bound for Germany, like me, and some for other destinations. We watched as the group of travelers dwindled with the ebb and flow of arrivals and departures. The two hour wait went quickly, and soon I was saying goodbye to Dad and Pete and on my way up the long narrow boarding tunnel to the plane.
After a little hunting, I found my seat and made myself as comfortable as I could, in preparation for the 8 hour flight ahead. My seat happened to be in coach class, which I have affectionately named 'cattle class' due to the narrow aisles I had to negotiate to my generally uncomfortable seating arrangement. Once everyone was seated, the plane taxied to the runway -- moments later we thrusted off into the warm red evening sky.
About half an hour after takeoff, the attendants began serving our dinner. The food was as good as could be expected. It was after all, airplane food. I decided that the in-flight movie was not worth staying awake for, so I attempted to sleep and the key word here is attempted. A few hours later, I woke to a pounding headache somewhere over Greenland.
By the time we had reached German airspace, I had given up any ideas of sleeping, focusing instead on the clouds rolling past my window. Occasionally bits and pieces of green grass and red rooftops appeared as the plane descended through the clouds. As we circled over Frankfurt airport, I could see more detail in the neighborhoods and factories below.
The cabin came to life as we approached the runway. Light streamed through the plane's windows, as shades lifted throughout the plane. I could hear the noise in the cabin increase as passengers began organizing their belongings for departure. With a mild jolt, the plane touched down and rolled to a stop on the tarmac of Frankfurt airport.
I imagined the sun rising in a yellow-orange sky over Milwaukee -- which was especially odd -- since it was nearly noon in Germany. As I would soon find, the shift from Milwaukee to German time would be a little difficult for my first few days in the country.
Three Busses traveled across the airport grounds and rolled up to the exit ladder of our plane. All out of country travelers arrived on the tarmac and were bussed to the customs -- probably for security reasons. We boarded the busses, and when the last passenger was on, began the trip across the airport to the customs area. On the drive toward the airport, I began to get a feeling for how massive the airport really was.
In Chicago, the Lufthansa ticketing agent had marked numbers for the train terminal on my ticket jacket, which I found indispensable in such a huge airport. I was waved through the passport check and proceeded to follow signs to the opposite side of the complex, where the train terminal was.
In the terminal area, I validated my train ticket and checked my baggage for the train to Stuttgart. Having a little time on my hands before the train's arrival, I took a little stroll to get a better feeling for the interior of the airport. I was a bit thirsty, so I began searching for a place to find something to drink. I wandered into a convenience store and bought an unusual 500ml can of Pepsi, which also turned out to be a nice souvenir for a friend who happens to collect Pepsi cans. The purchase also served as a way to get some loose change.
The train to Stuttgart was scheduled to depart at 1:30 that afternoon, so about and hour beforehand, I walked down to the platform to watch trains pass by. I found a good place to sit and relaxed. I must have appeared to be German, because on two separate occasions, German travelers came up to me and asked questions in German, to which I replied "Ich spreche klein Deutsch." Roughly translated it means "I can speak very little German." In both cases, I was given a surprised look followed by "I'm sorry!" in English.
On the train
After about an hour, my train rolled up, I boarded it and found a wide leather seat near one of the large windows. I think that the part I enjoyed most about the ride, was being able to watch the German landscape as we rolled along. I especially enjoy traveling by train, because it gives me the opportunity to see parts of the countryside that I usually miss when driving a car.
I was also able to observe an interesting visual phenomena -- trains traveling in the opposite direction would pass by at nearly one hundred miles per hour, creating a ghostly image of our train in its large, reflective window panes.
My lunch was much better than the dinner on the plane and was most definitely German. It consisted of bockwurst in a bun, a pickle spear, and a chocolate desert all of which tasted deliciously homemade. It was on the train, that I had my first encounter with rich, German coffee -- I was not disappointed.
All in all, I would have to admit that the train ride from Frankfurt to Stuttgart was one of the more enjoyable parts of my voyage -- especially after the cramped eight hour flight from Chicago.
Forty minutes later, the train rolled into the Stuttgart station, slowly descending below the well-used and worn Hauptbanhof (Main train Station) and rolled to a stop in the shadowy tunnel. I grabbed my carry-on bag and began the short walk into the main hall of the station, to pick up my other bags.
I found the Lufthansa baggage area, which was in a small white building in the main hall. Before I walked in the from door, I was greeted by Martin, who had been waiting there for me to arrive. I was happy to see him again and he looked the same as when he left for Germany, in 1992. We spent a few minutes talking about the trip and what was new before entering the baggage center.
initially we had a little trouble finding both of my suitcases, but the attendant located them and we were on our way. Martin directed me to one of the doors, so that I could catch a glimpse of Stuttgart before we left for his apartment in Esslingen by train.
After a few moments outside, we made out way down one level to the city train platform, to catch the line to Esslingen, a city southeast of Stuttgart. Martin bought tickets from a machine and gave one to me, and we waited a few minutes for the train to arrive. We boarded the train and I found it interesting that there was no one to check tickets and there were no turnstyles to get to the train level. Unlike the 'El' in Chicago that I was familiar with, the German train system appeared to work on the honor system -- everyone just bought a ticket!
The ride to Esslingen went quickly and as we left the cover of our train car, we dodged raindrops into to the terminal. By the time we were ready to leave the terminal for the bus shelter, the light showers had escalated into a downpour and we had several hundred feet between the terminal and the shelter that we had to negotiate. We got a bit wet.
We made our way by bus to the top of the ridge that overlooked the city. Martin's apartment faced east with a beautiful panoramic view of the city below. Inside we rested and talked about the year that had passed since we had been together. It was good to finally arrive -- not floating somewhere in between. After an hour of visiting, and waiting for the showers to subside, we set out to explore the city and the ancient fortress of Esslingen.
Our first stop on the way down to the city was the fortress. It was a large stone and wood structure built around the thirteenth century. The structure was still in good shape for the most part, due to the efforts of local historical restorations. It had recently been converted into two restaurants, both popular for fancy dinners and wedding receptions.
From this vantage point, I could see both the city lights twinkling in the valley below and the misty hills of the Black Forest on the horizon. Behind the castle, a long stone stairway with a wooden roof led down the hill to the city.
Esslingen, like many German cities, is centered around the original town square, or altstadt (old city) where narrow cobblestone streets lead past old buildings. The zentrum (or center) is designed as a place to meet friends and spend time walking, shopping -- or just enjoying a coffee or a bite to eat at small street cafe. Many cities designate the center of town auto free, so access to the shops is limited to walking, biking or sometimes by city bus.
We wandered around the small town, looking in shop windows and talking about the city. At the center of town we stopped for a while to look at the city hall building. At the top of the structure, a Glockenspiel was built into the face of the city hall. A glockenspiel is based on the same concept as a cuckoo clock, except that it's much larger and built right into the face of a building. On this particular device, at the top of the hour, small wooden images of men and women came out of miniature doors to perform in front of the clock face, then returned through the little doors of the clock until the following hour.
After about an hour of wandering, we began the climb up the quiet, tree-lined side street that led back to Martin's apartment. By now the sky had grown dark and streetlights were glowing above us. The curving street was dimly lit because of trees that blocked the glow of the streetlights, casting swaying shadows on the street below.
Near the top of the hill at Martin's apartment building, Martin unlocked the heavy, black cast-iron gate and we entered the spacious concrete courtyard. Several feet from the gate was the front door of his apartment, which he opened and we walked up the two flights of stairs to his small room.
For dinner, Martin made the N�remburg sausages, sauerkraut and what he termed as 'smashed' potatoes, which brought a smile to my face. I joked with Martin about his 'smashed' adjective (which was entirely logical) and that we normally call them 'mashed' potatoes in the States. While he cooked, I relaxed and watched a German TV game show that resembled Jeopardy. Dinner was very tasty and quite filling.
After eating, we talked for nearly two hours, until Milwaukee time finally caught up with me. I had the odd impression of 'being' in Germany physically yet not feeling entirely 'there' yet mentally -- which I'm sure is why it's called 'Jet-lag.' I think my mind was still somewhere over the Atlantic.
Morning came far too quickly. Martin shook me awake, and my eyes were assaulted by light from the huge bay window. It was an overcast, but bright day. My body longed for sleep, but my head convinced my body to stumble from the bed.
The shower was in the basement, shared by the other student tenants in the building. Martin went over the complex procedure of turning switches and knobs to activate the shower, then left me to the business of showering in the cold room. I was surprised that I remembered all of the instructions and actually had a nice, warm shower to start the day.
After showering, I walked back up to the room, and dressed for church. Martin had prepared a European style breakfast for us, which consisted of rich coffee, bread, jam, sausage and Brie cheese. While we ate Martin briefly went over our schedule for the day: church, back to the apartment to pack and then to Zavelstein by bus, train and car.
After breakfast, we began the walk to the Baptist Church that Martin attended in Esslingen. This time we took a completely different route to the city, down a flight of stairs which were closer to Martin's apartment. As we descended, I noticed that on both sides of the stairs, bits of houses poked out between trees and bushes -- an interesting place for a house, I thought. The walk to the bottom seemed endless, but eventually we did reach the bottom.
The church was not a large cathedral my any means. As a matter of fact, it seemed to blend in with the other buildings that lined the street. We entered, passing a few teenage greeters at the door and found a pew near the rear portion of the sanctuary in which to sit.
Moments later, the service began and of course was conducted in German -- I only recognized a few of the familiar hymn tunes, and an occasional word or two. Martin informed me about what was happening in general terms, but it was too difficult to get into much detail. It was an odd feeling to attend service in which I was unable to understand what was really going on.
After the service, Martin and I stayed for a few minutes and spoke with a few of his friends -- well actually, they spoke together and I attempted to listen. They had no idea that I was n American visitor, until one of them asked me a direct question in German. They were quite surprised when I answered "I don't speak much Deutsch" in English. The conversation then continued in English and I learned that one of the guys had spent a practical term in London -- and he had a near-perfect British accent!
After 30 minutes of visiting, we realized we had to get going if we planned on getting everything packed to make our bus and then the train. During the walk back to his apartment, Martin gave me the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the sermon in English, so that I could at least benefit from the message after the fact.
After hurriedly packing our gear, we left the apartment. The heavy, black apartment gate swung closed and we could see our bus driving off, down the hill. We were left with one alternative -- the same stairs we had taken that morning to church. It must have been quite a sight to see the two of us, loaded with luggage, bounding down the stairs trying to beat that bus to the bottom of the hill. I felt as if I were competing in an Olympic event! At the bottom of the stairs, we ran to the bus stop and were able to catch it, and then our connecting train, just in the nick of time.
Rolf, Martin's father, met us in the small town of G�rtringen which was one of the furthest city train stations outside of Stuttgart. He met us outside of the bahnhof, where we loaded our gear into the trunk of his little red Opel.
On to Zavelstein
It was about a twenty-five minute trip to Martin's home in Zavelstein. We wound along two lane roads through dense, Black Forest pines, climbing higher and higher into the cool forest. Soon we arrived at their home, built in the Swabian style -- low and wide with heavy wooden beam construction and wooden planters below the windows. Flowers were popular with the people here and planters seemed to appear on every window of the houses I saw along the way. I knew that my grandmother would have loved to see the display of color.
The house was on a ridge overlooking the town, with a great view of the valley and Swabian Alps. These alps are a bit different than the Swiss alps, in that they are smaller and are covered with a thick layer of pines.
I was directed to the guest room on the second floor, which would become my home away from home. I was happy to put my luggage down finally, and spent a few moments enjoying my vantage point, high in the hills. It was relaxing to stop and admire the view and breathe the cool air flowing in through the open windows. The silence was broken with Martin's knock on the door and invitation to come downstairs for dinner.
My First Homemade German Meal
Dinner had been waiting for us, so we sat at the table, gave thanks, and began to eat. Martin's mother had prepared quite a variety of food, including beef with spaetzle, tomatoes, asparagus and beans. It was my first experience with spaetzle, which is a kind of German flour noodle with an uncommon shape, nothing like Italian pasta. Usually this specialty is served with meat and gravy.
During the meal I had an opportunity to tell of my tour and converse with Martin's family in part English and part German. Rolf seemed very interested in speaking English, and was actually pretty good -- once and a while he would pronounce a word in a humorous way and it was difficult to keep from chuckling. I was careful to remind myself that my German speaking probably made a few Germans laugh as well.
Dessert was just as delicious as dinner -- rich German coffee and Martin's mother's famous boysenberry cake. Martin's mother suggested that we take a walk to the altstadt, to visit with Matthias, Martin's younger brother who was performing with a local musical group there.
Fortress Zavelstein was ancient and inviting. At the center of town stood the ruins of the fortress and tower, built in 1271 as a defense against foreign invaders. The top of the tower provided and amazing view, because Zavelstein is situated on top of a Swabian Alp. From here, I was able to see the hills and valleys for several miles in all directions, as well as tiny references to small towns built into those hillsides and valleys.
Directly below Zavelstein to the south was Bad Teinach, known throughout Germany for its mineral water, called Teinacher. Here, along with several other sites in the Black Forest, water is drawn from natural springs, bottled, packaged and distributed across Germany and Europe.
We moved to the north end of the tower, where I sketched the town of Zavelstein while peering over the edge of the fortress. I found it interesting that the buildings were built so closely to one another. From the top of the tower we noticed the remains of an ancient building foundation in an open lot below. I imagined that it may have been destroyed in a raid, or by the effects of time. After about fifteen or twenty minutes of sketching, we made the climb down the stairs of the tower.
We stopped for a few minutes to listen to a tour guide dressed in traditional garb, speak about the fortress to several tourists. We spent about two hours in old Zavelstein before making the trip back to Martin's house on the hillside.
Planning for the Tour
That evening, we enjoyed Schwartzwaldeschinken (pork slices smoked over pine needles), summer sausage, sliced turkey and a vegetable salad for supper. It was another enjoyable meal mixed with conversation in German and English. Martin's father Rolf was hard at work, practicing his English, while I struggled with my German, and it was quite fun.
After eating, the Martin and I relaxed in the living room discussing interesting sights to see, with suggestions from his mother and father. We planned to head South towards Switzerland and the areas around the Lake of Constance or Bodensee as they called it. Several ideas bounced back and forth between all of us, until we had a good general idea of where we wanted to go the following day. Satisfied that with our plans we said goodnight to everyone and went upstairs to bed.
The Tour Begins
The next morning I was awakened by Martin knocking on the door of the guest room. There was an atmosphere of cool mountain air in the room, which was very refreshing. I took a peek out of the balcony window in my room and could see the gray-green hills through the misty morning sky. After a shower, I dressed and went downstairs, where I met Martin in the dining room. Breakfast was prepared and waiting for us on the table.
We spent some time talking about the course of our tour a bit more, hammering out some details while we savored our boysenberry cake and drank coffee. After Breakfast, we packed the car, then chose the route that would begin our tour of Germany.
During the tour Martin was the pilot, and I was the navigator. It took a little while to acquaint myself to the German map -- both because of the language and the way it was designed. Autobahns were easy enough to find on the map, but the federal highways were much more difficult to locate, because they were not always clearly marked. My initial attempts at pronouncing some of the cities and roads probably caused Martin to smile, though my German improved quickly as we traveled.
Within an hour, we arrived in T�bingen -- a university town on the Neckar river, forty or fifty kilometers south of Zavelstein. It was not difficult to find our way into the city -- the real challenge finding a parking spot. We drove through the side streets of T�bingen for several minutes, before we found a free spot near the university.
Expecting to climb out and feed a parking meter, I was surprised to find that the regulation of parking places was a bit different than I had imagined. Instead of multiple parking meters for every spot on the street, there was a Parkschein (parking machine) near the middle of the block. At this centrally located boxlike machine we purchased a ticket valid for a certain length of time determined by our payment. The ticket was then placed on our car's dash, for easy viewing by a parking checker.
Many old towns in Germany have large old churches near their centers and T�bingen was no exception. I realized that I had caught a glimpse the steeple of that cathedral as we were searching for parking spots.
The Stiftskirche Seminary Cathedral was off of the main thoroughfare, down a narrow old street that led to the older part of the city. As we approached the massive stone structure, I was completely awed by its incredible size. We climbed the large stone steps and entered through a large wooden door. Once inside, the atmosphere changed from bright sunlight to darkness and muted colors filtered through stained glass windows. Unknowingly, I took the opportunity to snap a few non-flash photos of the beautiful stained glass windows. Moments later, an older man came near us and without a word, pointed to a sign which read "no photos permitted." Oops!
In the back wall of the cathedral, were several tombs embedded in the back wall of the church with names chiseled on them. At the front of the sanctuary, on the platform, several very old paintings dating to the early 16th century were displayed. Behind this platform, large stone Tombs sat side by side, roped off to visitors. Each container had a lid, individually carved with a relief image of an entombed knight or king.
In front of the tombs roped off from visitors, a college age girl sat behind a desk, reading a book. She was in charge of selling tickets to climb the church tower and also sold postcards, books, slides and other miscellaneous items. We decided that the tower would probably provide us with the best view of T�bingen, so we bought two tickets and began our upward climb.
Climbing the tower
The steps were cold and wound up what seemed to be an endless spiral. Every so often the passage would brighten as we passed a small square window. As we wound our way up the steps of the steeple, I wondered how someone with claustrophobia would like that staircase. Near the top of the tower, we passed by the huge clock mechanism and bells. I was just hoping and praying that they wouldn't begin ringing until we had got past them.
The view of the city was amazing at the top of the steeple. I don't have an exaggerated fear of heights, but I can guarantee you that I firmly gripped the railings. For half an hour I sketched T�bingen and the castle Hohent�bingen from our perch on the steeple, while Martin spent the time snapping photographs of the city.
The climb down was a little quicker than the trek up. Once we arrived at the bottom, we spent some time wandering past small shops and cafes. I found it fascinating that T�bingen had small channels that ran along each side of the street. These channels utilized rain water to flush debris from the streets of the city into the river.
Graffiti was sprayed anywhere and everywhere, and were generally extreme political phrases and icons. Pro-anarchy symbols and other epithets dominated the multitude of spray painted images found on many of T�bingen's buildings. Some of the spray painted images were graphicly interesting to me. These graphiti 'artists' had constructed templates that they would hold or tape against a building face, then spray, leaving an image on the building.
We spent another hour or so, wandering through the city. We had to return to the car before the parkschein ticket expired.
On To the Barrenholle
We left T�bingen and set out for the Barrenholle (Bear Holes). Late in the nineteenth century, a science teacher fell into the cave while hunting for spiders, finding ancient animal and human skeletons. Later, explorers spelunked the cave and found a passage leading to another cave. The Barrenholle have since been converted into a popular tourist attraction.
After driving several miles we found the park and drove in. At the ticket booth we were offered the guided tour, but opted for the self-guided tour, since it cost less and began immediately. There were several bear skeletons displayed in the caves, at certain points in the caves, taped German messages played at the push of a button. We found our way through to the other side of the caves, which opened to a sort of Barrenholle theme park, full of screaming German kids.
Next, we visited the castle of Lichtenstein located about 20 miles Southwest of the Barrenholle. It was built in the 13th century, high on a cliff overlooking a city which spread out over a wide valley far below us. The city and valley appeared to be miles down, though I'm sure that it was merely 1,000 feet to the valley floor. Toward the back of the castle were old stone walls, overgrown with moss and ivy. Martin and I peered through the slots carved in the walls for bowmen, while imagining battles that might have fought there hundreds of years ago.
From a piece of the rocky hillside that jutted out over the valley, I sat down and sketched the castle, while Martin took photographs. After about forty minutes, we left the castle and walked back in the car. Time was slipping away and our journey for the day was still far from over. Our destination for tonight was Burg Wildenstein, a castle from the thirteenth century, and now a youth hostel.
The Mighty Fortress
Martin guided his father's small car along a black winding highway that ran along the scenic valley of the Danube river. as we approached the fortress, Martin followed small signs that directed travelers to Burg Wildenstein, perched on a rocky hillside over the river valley below. Within minutes, we had climbed the winding roads through the woods, to a clearing -- face to face with the imposing white fortress.
Once a military stronghold, Burg Wildenstein had recently been converted into a youth hostel. Martin parked the car and we began the walk into the castle to sign in for our beds. Entering the fortress by the front gate required crossing a wooden bridge, possibly built in place of what might have once been a drawbridge. One hundred or so feet below, an open, grassy channel surrounded the entire complex. I imagined that it might have been a moat. After all, any 'real' castle would have to have one, judging by all of the books I read as a kid.
We found the office and signed in for our rooms. I even received my first hostel stamp and a nifty plastic carrying case for my hostel book. I was required to leave my passport at the office until checkout, which I wasn't thrilled about but I did it nonetheless. The luggage was retrieved from the car and moved to our room for the night, then we decided to have a quick dinner in the picnic area outside the burg. Martin had packed some food items, which were turned into 'dinner' and eaten while the sun set behind our picnic table.
Soon, the sun had set, and the air cooled off quickly. We finished our meal and made our way back to the Burg along the road, with thick trunked trees standing along its edges. As we approached the old fortress, an eerie pale light from the courtyard faintly illuminated the towering white building.
Back over the moat, and across the bridge we went, with the voices of children growing louder with each step. In the courtyard, the troop of kids we had noticed before were yelling, running and having fun. We made our way across the open area to a stone staircase, which led to our rooms behind the rocky walls of the fortress.
We settled into our room, unpacking our gear for the evening. We spent several hours talking together about the progress and sights along the tour, discussing what was happening in our lives in more detail, reading scriptures and just hanging out. It was nice to relax and unwind after all of the activity of the last few days. Later that evening, we finally wrapped up our conversation, and found comfort in the steel railed, hostel bunk beds. Within minutes we were asleep.
Sleeping in an old fortress turned out to be alot more pleasant than I had initially imagined. Instead of dungeon-like rooms with cold floors and stony beds, our hostel room was quite warm and the bunk beds were relatively comfortable. We both dressed and did some pre-packing to prepare for our departure later that morning.
The dining area was on the other side of the courtyard, in the main section of the complex -- and it was already noisy because a whole squadron of kids had arrived and had were starting breakfast. Martin informed me that it was common for German school kids to take extended week-long field trips to youth hostels during the school year -- a kind of long-term field trip.
This was my first experience staying at a youth hostel, and eating in a hostel kitchen. I didn't realize that after breakfast, guests were expected to help wash and/or dry dishes and clean the dining area, which were actually quite an efficient means of keeping the costs of youth hostels down for travelers. After about ten or fifteen minutes of cleaning, sweeping, collecting and drying dishes, we were free to go. All in all, not a bad deal for a bit less than fifteen bucks a night!
Hike in the Woods
After breakfast, packing up our luggage and loading it into the car, we decided to take a final hike out on the trails around the fortress. It was a cool, damp morning and with a blue-gray sky overhead, it felt like an autumn day.
Trails led us down into a valley and then back up to a hill directly across from Burg Wildenstein. The narrow pathway we followed up the side of the hill widened as we reached the crest of the hill, and we passed several other hikers traveling in the opposite direction. We passed several clearings in the trees that provided great views of the fortress from the west, one with a gorgeous view of the fortress. Looking to my right and straight down, I saw the Danube river, now a narrow blue ribbon, far below in the lush valley. We took time out for a few minutes to shoot a few photographs and take a break from hiking.
To make things more interesting on the walk back, we chose to follow an alternate route back to the car. At one point during the return trip, we came across several large piles of pine trees laying along the path. Martin mentioned that a fierce thunderstorm had torn through the area recently, which probably was been responsible for the damage.
A few minutes later, we arrived at the car, we spent several minutes relaxing and eating a quick lunch before setting off for our next destination -- Switzerland.
The Lake of Constance
The body of water that physically separates Germany and Switzerland is called the Lake of Constance, or Bodensee by the Germans and Swiss. This lake was our next destination on the tour. All along the winding roadway toward the Swiss border, there are small towns that line the edges of the lake, providing travelers many opportunities to stop and rest.
Being travelers that enjoy a stop or two along the way, we took our break at a small town called Radolfzell, built right along the shore. In a parking lot at the edge of the city we prepared lunch from Martin's trunk full of goodies. After eating, we set out in an eastward direction and stumbled upon what looked to have once been an old train corridor, since the corridor was between 15 and 20 feet below street level. It was lined with trees and shrubbery and fenced off flower areas. Along the way, people walked along the blacktop pathway or sat under shade trees on wooden park benches. I also noticed gardeners throughout the garden, digging, weeding and doing 'garden' things.
It was a tremendous sight to be almost engulfed on a sea of colors -- intense red and lavender, bright yellow and orange and deep blue violet colors -- standing out amongst the canvas of dark, lush greenery. It was quite peaceful there, as we visited the garden beneath the city. While Martin and I were passing through this corridor, I was certain that my grandmother would have been in heaven had she been there to see it with her own eyes.
At the Shore
Conveniently, the corridor led us directly to the edge of the Lake of Constance. At the water's edge, there were several small restaurants, with outdoor terraces opposite a long pathway lined by ancient, gnarled trees and park benches. At the end of the path stood a telescope/binocular device for viewing the lake and the Alps beyond. We stopped about halfway to the telescope to take it easy and enjoy the lakefront scenery.
After a few minutes of relaxing, we continued on our walk to the end of the small peninsula to the telescope. The sky was a bit too hazy for viewing anything across the lake, though I did notice some markings on the base of the instrument indicating bearings of several mountain peaks which were invisible to us.
We spent several minutes there, looking out over the haze-covered lake before turning back for the car. At the beach, Geese, ducks, swans and seagulls approached us looking for food as we walked back along the stretch of sand, just before re-entering the botanical corridor. We enjoyed the walk back, and saw a variety of flowers that I had missed on our walk toward the lake.
Stein am Rhein
Just south of Radolfzell, we came to the Swiss border. From Martin's description, the Swiss in general are perfectionists, so it was no surprise that they stopped us and thoroughly checked our passports. I made sure to say 'thanks' in English so I wouldn't raise any suspicions with the guards. As far as I know, it worked.
We found out later that German and French border posts area bit more easy going when it comes to checking passports allowing drivers to only flash their passport while driving through the gate. I guess that one might say that the Swiss guards are the 'Border Guard's Border Guard'.
Just past the border between Germany and Switzerland lies the
small town of Stein am Rhein. When the name is translated to English, it literally it means 'Stone on the Rhine'. The city was ancient and it very picturesque, complete with old and intricately detailed buildings dominating the architectural landscape. It was as though this city was captured in time. Because Switzerland was a neutral country during WWII, the city had been untouched by any bombings -- leaving it for later generations to explore and enjoy.
We found a parking lot and began our exploration. As we walked down the cobblestone main street to the center of town, we passed several buildings that dated to around the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Many of the old structures had beautiful, finely detailed paintings adorning their fa�ades.
The most intricate of all Stein am Rhein's buildings was the city hall or Rathaus. It was situated at the end of the main marketplace, facing the courtyard and the little shops and cafes that lined the street. I have to admit that some of the shops were pretty touristy, though this city was after all a tourist attraction, so I guess it's to be expected.
Still, the opportunity of having a coffee at an outdoor cafe and a great view of the Rathaus building was irresistible. We found a table at a cafe directly across from the city hall building and ordered cappuccino, and when it arrived, I spent the time sketching the beautiful old building while sipping my rich cup of java. It was quite an enjoyable afternoon.
After I had finished sketching, we took time to walk around the rest of the city -- on some of the quieter and less commercial streets behind the marketplace. The streets quieted tremendously as we got father from the center of the town. At one point, we walked over a bridge that spanned the Rhine and spent some time watching the Rhine river lazily flow beneath us.
At about four in afternoon, we walked back to the car, and continued the tour through Switzerland. Our next stop was the city of Scaffhausen, home of the mighty Rheinfalls. The city is also quite old, though it had a more modern feeling -- not a tourist attraction, but a working and living city. The pace was that of a larger city, with apartment buildings, cars traffic lights and busses -- much different than neighboring Stein am Rhein.
We followed signs that led us on a twisting route through the city to the Rheinfalls. As we entered the parking lot just across from the falls, Martin spotted another visitor who was leaving. As we approached him, he graciously gave us his still-valid parking ticket, which I thought was quite nice of him.
The Rheinfalls are not very steep, but because of the rocks at the base of the falls, Clouds of mist from the tumbling waters billowed up and hung over the river. We could feel the cold, damp air on our faces as it slowly drifted across the river. Germany and Switzerland are divided at the falls, with the border falling right down the center of the cascading waters.
We stayed near the falls for a little while, enjoying the cool air and watching the tour boat that came along side the falls carrying tourists. I noticed that there were a variety of people at the Rheinfalls -- detecting their homes by the country stickers on the back of their automobiles. I saw many from France and Germany and even a few from Great Britain.
On to Bonndorf
Martin remembered that we had to arrive at the youth hostel by seven, so we left the Rheinfalls and Scaffhausen behind as we forged on toward our final destination for the day -- Bonndorf. The drive across the Southwestern German countryside was quite pleasant, since it gave us some time to absorb and reflect on and all of the things that we had experienced that day.
At seven o'clock we rolled into Bonndorf. We kept our eyes open for signs leading to the youth hostel and eventually found a sign that led us directly to the hostel building. The exterior had been recently renovated, and looked very attractive. I hoped that it would be just as nice inside. Martin parked the car in the lot just outside of the hostel, and we walked up to and through the front door of the building.
No one was minding the office, so Martin called the number listed on the office window on a house phone down the hall. Moments later, a straggly-haired guy, dressed in a floppy green sweater walked up to the check-in window and opened the office to sign us in. I speculated that he was a college student, because of his 'wire-rimmed straggly-haired-floppy-green-sweatered-student' look.
There was a pretty good chance that he was serving his 'government service' during the summer, between semesters. In Germany young people are required to serve the country with some type of civil service after leaving high school. Most students join the army for a required term of 12 months, and those who opt for civil service are required to serve 15 months. Martin told me that the time required for service had recently been reduced from 20 months for civil service and 15 for the army.
The hostel had indeed been recently remodeled inside as well as outside. The rooms were clean and modern, with new bunk beds and dresser drawers. The restrooms and showers were especially impressive, complete with closed shower stalls and mirrors. Compared to the castle we had come from last night this was like the difference between Motel Six the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
A German Gasthaus
It was eight o'clock by the time we left the hostel in search of dinner. In Germany very few restaurants serve meals 24 hours a day like many do in the United States. Hot meals are usually served until a seven or eight in the evening, then coldcuts, sausages, bread and cheese are offered as a common late meal. We were very fortunate to find a gasthaus that was still open and serving warm food.
The gasthaus had a dark and inviting atmosphere. The furniture was constructed from a dark-stained wood, and appeared as if it had been hewn from a single tree trunk. The tables were covered with several thick coatings of polyurethane -- probably to withstand the constant abuse from plates and glasses. The eating areas were dimly lit, which added to the warm, home-like atmosphere.
Our food arrived a few minutes after we ordered and it was very tasty and filling. We took our time eating, spending a portion of the meal discussing what we had done and ideas for the rest of the tour. It was a good change of pace to sit back and relax after all of the time spent on the road.
After dinner we walked back to the car and drove to Hostel Bonndorf. It was still early, so we spent some time talking and joking before retiring for the evening.
Breakfast and Dishes
The next morning we awakened and had an opportunity to enjoy another hostel breakfast. I think that of all the breakfast items my favorites were the rich coffee and Nutella on rolls. Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread which is very popular in Germany. It tasted delicious on the crisp baked rolls provided with our meal.
After eating, we cleaned our table off and carried our plates, mugs and coffee container to the kitchen area for washing. A few of the kids who had already finished their breakfast were helping wash and dry dishes. When we began helping, the group of kids started to leave. They thought that they could just leave all of their dirty dishes for us to dry.
Martin immediately let them know that we weren't about to wash the all of the dishes that they were responsible for and soon after, the student manager threatened to have them stay and dry all of the dishes. After drying our share we returned to our room to pack up our suitcases and bade farewell to Bonndorf.
On to Freiburg
Today both Freiburg, Germany and Strassbourg, France were next on the agenda. Originally we had planned to take a route up over the Feldberg mountain pass, which is one of the highest in the region, but we thought it would be pointless because of the heavy rain and fog cover. Our route did take us through some high mountainous passes, over the Schwabisch Alps into the Rhine valley.
After an hour drive we arrived in Freiburg and parked near the University of Frieburg. With umbrellas in our hands, we started out for the center of Freiburg, passing shops and restaurants and cafes all along the streets. For a rainy day it was much busier than I might have imagined.
Shops lined either side of the main street and usually had merchandise out in front of the store on the sidewalk. Most of the shops had awnings extended to protect their merchandise from the rain.
At one end of the main street was one of the gates to the city, called a Schwabentor. It was quite tall, and had a large clock near the top of the tower. The base of the tower was square, and wide enough for city trolleys and auto traffic to pass through the two archways built into the base of the tower and in an adjoining building. As we crossed the wide, wet cobblestone street, a streetcar came through the tower archway and lumbered past us.
As we continued exploring we happened upon an indoor marketplace and restaurant, that was hidden at the end of a quiet cobblestone alleyway. Passing through the doorway, I noticed a myriad of small shops inside, lining the walls and offering almost any food, freshly prepared for customers. Martin wanted me to try some Turkish Kebap which a popular food in Germany. Kebap has slightly different seasonings, but is very similar to the Greek gyro that is popular in the US.
Martin disappeared for a few minutes while I looked for a place to eat. It was a busy because of the lunch hour, so I was lucky to find a stand-up style table near the main walkway. Martin returned a few minutes later with two orders of Kebap and Turkish tea. We happily consumed our meals while watching people wander past us in the "International Food Market."
After lunch we walked back under as many shop awnings as possible, until we reached the car. Drizzle continued to fall during our return trip, and my feet were thoroughly soaked when we arrived, from all of the puddle-jumping. I'd enjoyed our exploration in Freiburg but I was even happier to return to a dry car.
Crossing into France
We set out once again, with our new course set for Strassbourg, France. Freiburg was not very far from the border, so we crossed the Rhine river and passed over the border into France.
France was different in many ways from Germany, beginning with the immediate absence of all other languages except French. Even though the city was on the German border, and the people most likely knew German and English, we found that they would not speak German or English -- only French.
Germans spell the city's name as Strassburg while the French spelling is only slightly different --Strassburg. Martin mentioned that during the daytime the city was very beautiful and reasonably safe but at night it became quite a different place, notorious for robbery and auto theft. After some wandering around to find the center of town, we decided to park in a guarded lot. The attendant was helpful and friendly, graciously accepting Deutsch Marks for payment. Conveniently, the cost of parking at this particular lot included a bus ride into and out of the city.
We wanted to make sure that we caught the right bus, so Martin spent several minutes speaking with a French couple, first in German, then English and finally French. Using the little bits of the language he could remember from high school, he learned we were on the correct bus.
Crash, Bang, Smash 'Em up
Moments later the bus pulled up and the crowd of tourists began to board the vehicle. We were literally packed in the bus like sardines. I'm glad that most of the riders had deodorant on, or it might have smelled like a can of sardines as well. Martin and I stood in the aisle near the front of the bus, holding on to the handrails as it jerked forward. We were off!
It didn't take long to realize that the driver was a bit reckless. Within five minutes of leaving our stop he collided with another bus, which was stopped, picking up passengers at the curb. Scraping noises filled the bus from the friction of our mirror as it carved into the side of a parked bus. After coming to an abrupt halt, our driver began cursing in French at the other driver. I think I now understand the term "pardon my French" in a way I hadn't before.
The front doors swung open and the driver instructed a passenger to yank his bus' mirror away from the other bus. Once the mirror had been freed, the driver put the pedal to the metal and took off. Eventually we arrived safely at the center of town and climbed off of the bus, happy to be in one piece.
After finding a currency exchange machine we translated a few Deutsch Marks into Francs and set out to visit the cathedral at the city's center.
The cathedral Strassburger M�nster was a massive red stone building with spires that reached hundreds of feet into the air. The courtyard around the cathedral was bustling with people including musicians, and beggars who surrounded the building, seeking handouts. Several artists had paintings on display or were drawing pastels for interested tourists all along the outer walls of the cathedral. Tall, thick wooden doors stood open at the front of the cathedral. We entered the sanctuary, and the atmosphere immediately changed. Cool air, scented with aged wood, fabric and stone streamed out of the entryway. Inside, people roamed quietly through the sanctuary, looking at the beautiful, intricate stained glass windows. Throughout the cathedral stood ancient stone statues of Christ, Mary, the apostles and other sculptures. Paintings were also stationed throughout the cathedral. The sheer height of the ceiling amazed me and I wondered how the builders were able to create such a monument with the technology of their day.
After exploring the sanctuary we decided to climb to the top of the cathedral. On the opposite side, we found the entrance, paid the fee and started our trek upward. Occasionally we had to move aside as tourists came down from above. The steps were worn into a concave shape from frequent use and barely wide enough for two people to comfortably pass each other.
When we arrived at the top, winds swirled past us as we stepped out onto the courtyard area. The bell tower which faced the courtyard, had a wall that seemed to be a memorial to the builders of the structure. Each stone mortared into the wall was engraved with an individuals' name.
We stood against the protective fence and looked out over the city. The view of Strassburg from the cathedral's tower was spectacular. The winds that were gusting across the platform were even more intense at the edge of the tower.
After about thirty minutes of viewing the city from above, we left the tower of the cathedral and began the long climb down. The trip back to the bottom was a bit more nerve racking than the climb up, because one slip could end in a quick trip to the bottom. We managed to maintain our composure and safely found our way down to the foot of the stairs.
Sketches at a Street Cafe
Being tired from the climbing, we both agreed that a coffee break and some people watching would be a great way to relax. We wound our way through the narrow cobbled streets to a small outdoor cafe near the river. There we sat at a small table in the shade of a large, gnarly old tree drank coffee.
I took another opportunity to sketch the street cafe across from us while I intermittently took sips from my cup of espresso. Martin and I talked about the city and watched as people passed by.
In retrospect, I think that one of the most enjoyable parts of my trip to Europe was the experience of spending time at street cafes. To me, there was something special about street cafes -- I think it was the feeling of stopping and enjoying life as it passed by that seemed so relaxing.
A Prince in Our Midst
Leaving the cafe, we continued our quest through the city. We met a very interesting person at an old stone bridge that crossed the Rhine river in Strassburg.
The 'Prince' as we later called him, walked directly up to Martin motioning with a camera in hand, that Martin should use his camera and take his photo. We guessed that he was a prince because of his quite royal-looking crested blue blazer and the way in which he exercised his sovereign authority over Martin.
Martin was able to pick up enough French to understand the gentleman. He was from Brazzaville, Africa and was in France to study law. With the prince's camera in hand, Martin followed the him to a specific point on the bridge and once satisfied with his location, the young ruler motioned that the royal photo shoot would now begin. After several shots, the prince thanked us and left us standing on the bridge chuckling with each other.
The Black Forest High Road
Knowing that a long trip lay ahead of us, Martin suggested that we get back on the road to Zavelstein. The return bus ride went quickly and smoothly, mostly due to the fact that a more relaxed driver was at the wheel. We were happy to find the car still in the parking lot with no missing pieces. All things considered, it seemed to be a nice country, with its own odd quirks.
The Autobahn northbound was clear, so we made good time to the exit for the Black Forest high road. This is a road that winds through the Black Forest over Swabian Alps, through wooded valleys and past small towns. Motorcyclists love to test their bikes on this stretch of highway, so careful, defensive driving is important.
About halfway through the trip, we stopped at one of the dams on a river running through the forest to take photos. Within a few minutes, the sun had disappeared behind the tree-lined Swabian Alps.
Back Home in Zavelstein
It was dark as we reached Zavelstein, and found our way to Martin's house. After unloading the car Martin and I made some dinner. Afterward, I had a long conversation with Rolf, Martin's father about his dream of owning a classic Mercedes Benz.
Rolf and I wrapped up our conversation and I retired to the guest room. I attempted to stay awake and write journal entries which proved to be quite futile. My body had decided that sleep was more important than writing after a long day of walking. I soon gave in to my body's request and called it a night.
All Roads Lead to Berlin
We rose early, since our destination was Berlin, about a nine hour trip northeast. Martin's sister Heidi had an apartment there, where we would be able to stay while exploring Berlin.
During breakfast, I finished adding the previous day's entries, that I had opted to skip the night before, into my sketch diary. Once we had packed the car for the extended trip, and traveled for a few miles on back roads through the Black Forest to reach the Autobahn.
Traffic on the Autobahn was relatively heavy, especially since this is really the only direct route to Berlin. Many of the roads to the northeast are in terrible shape, leaving the Autobahn as the only reasonable alternative.
In many parts of old East Germany surfaces on the Autobahn were still 1940's cobblestone, paved over in the 1950's with a layer of concrete. Several of the exit ramps were still paved with old cobblestones. In the worst parts, cobblestones peeked out from holes on the aging cement resulting in a very jolting ride. Side roads off of the Autobahn were not much better -- they were usually narrow and in many cases still made of cobblestones or bricks. To find a side road paved and smooth was a rare luxury indeed.
The Checkpoint Ghost Town
After an several hours of driving we passed over what had once been one of the most crossed East/West borders of divided Germany. There stood the city of Hof, and on either side of the autobahn I could see the rows of silent terminals that had once been processing sites for travelers passing between East and West Germany.
Martin told me his account of waiting at this checkpoint when he visited East Germany many years before. He had waited at least an hour to be checked, and then was needlessly detained while East German border guards checked his papers. He said that if you were really unfortunate, the guards might order you to unpack everything in the car for a search -- just to prove their authority.
A Visit to the Bauhaus
After another couple of hours driving, we saw a sign just outside of the city of Dessau, for the Bauhaus -- which is a legendary school of design. We spent several minutes discussing whether or not to try and find it, eventually coming to the decision of going for it. We were really taking a chance, since we had no map of the city and had no idea of where the school building might be.
Both the exit ramp and the road leading to Dessau were cobblestone and were quite bumpy. As we came to the edge of Dessau we were pleased that the road was paved with concrete. We pulled into a parking lot near the what seemed to be the center of town and found a map of the city on a large sign. It looked as though the Bauhaus was not very far away, so we took a last look and began to walk West.
Dessau, an old industrial city, was still in rough shape after years of communist control. Everything seemed gray and depressing, including the trees and grass. The colors on the buildings were so drab and muted, that I was convinced the painters must have been trying to see just how close of a match to grey they could get while using colored paint. They seemed to have a communist non-descriptness about them.
In Dessau I had my first up-close experience with the small East German made car called Trabant. It's common to also hear them affectionately called 'Trabi'.
A Trabant is a very small car, approximately the size of a Geo Metro. The Body is made of plastic that has been impregnated with pigment rather than painted. The selection of colors included pea green, powder blue, mustard yellow, gray and white. Trabants aren't very safe because the plastic body is extremely brittle and tends to shatter on impact.
They are not considered as speed demons by any means. Hiding under the hood is the high-powered, 500cc two-cycle motorcycle engine. All of the Trabis that I encountered on our tour through the East, tended to slowly sputter along while spewing blue-black oil smoke. Even for all of it's drawbacks, the Trabi has a kind of charm about it that reminded me of my old Volkswagen Beetle.
We ventured deeper into the city, walking up over a bridge that spanned the railroad corridor and back down the other side. Turning right we entered a residential neighborhood. The old narrow side streets reminded me of an old neighborhood in Chicago, with narrow streets and houses built very close to each other.
About halfway from our destination we passed through an industrial area. All of the factories appeared to have not changed since the 1940's or 50's. Everything seemed to be dirty, sooty, rusted or just plain old.
On the other side of the industrial area we came upon another residential area that seemed newer and a bit nicer than the other area we had walked through previously. As we made our way through the streets we spotted the Bauhaus building.
The Bauhaus' structure was very Spartan, much simpler than I had imagined. It stood five stories tall and looked very modern for a 60 year old building. The exterior is mainly white, with a good portion of the building's surface being large multi-paned windows. The window frames were painted black as a stark contrast to the white building. The school is still operational, though I had no idea just how many students or faculty attended the school.
We walked around the building to the main entrance. There I had Martin take a few photos of me. I stood in front of the entrance, below the words 'BAUHAUS' that were mounted over the front door. I wanted to have some proof that I had really been there.
Venturing inside the building, we walked up several flights of stairs to check out the upper floors. On display at each landing were various student art projects, including sculpture, furniture and prints. We spent about twenty minutes walking to the top of the staircase admiring the student artwork.
Downstairs, in the basement of the building was a small coffee shop. As I opened the door, old seventies funk music emanated from the cafe. A few people sat in tubular metal and leather chairs at tables sipping cups of espresso. As much as we wanted to take a few moments to have a seat and enjoy a coffee, we realized that it was still pretty a long drive to Heidi's apartment in Berlin if we wanted to arrive by nine that evening.
We found our way back from the Bauhaus the same way we had came. We must have passed the industrial area at quitting time, because there were people walking, riding bicycles and driving cars away from the factory buildings around the same area that had been very quiet only forty-five minutes before. We found the car and followed the cobblestone road back to the Autobahn, leaving Dessau behind.
When we were still twenty miles from Berlin, I witnessed the longest traffic jam I had ever seen. Cars and trucks extended for several miles. People stood near their cars or sat on the hoods looking off into the distance, hoping that the jam would end soon. Fortunately for us we were traveling in the opposite direction, with no traffic jams in sight.
Arrival in Berlin
It was dusk as we came into the Berlin city limits. Tall buildings loomed on the horizon as we followed the Autobahn into the heart of Berlin. The skyline faintly reminded me of Chicago.
Heidi's apartment was in the Northwest side of town called Charlottenburg. We found Franz Heinrich Strasse, and Heidi's apartment soon after that. Parking was crazy. In Berlin it isn't uncommon to see cars parked on curbs or even sidewalks because of the severe lack of space and over abundance of cars. We must have spent fifteen minutes squee