Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Cut-Rate Grand Tour, Day Twenty-nine

Tuesday, 3 January, 1989
Wien to Stuttgart to Karlsfelden*

WIEN-- Came down around 7:20 and asked the clerk at the desk if he could call me a cab. But it doesn’t work that way here. What you do, you leave your luggage in the lobby then walk up the street to the cabstand. You bring a cab back with you, or it brings you, rather, you pack in the luggage, and you’re off.

I checked the route to the West Bahnhof on the map last night and it seems to me that the cabbie took the scenic route today . . . He didn’t take a single major street until the very last. It wasn’t only the money I was worried about, it was the time.

But maybe he was trying to avoid rush-hour congestion. Made it with fifteen minutes to spare, which with a EurailPass is plenty. I suppose if I’d missed the 8:00 AM train I could’ve got the next one, that left at 10:00 or so, and stopped in Munich after all. But I’d pretty much decided not to do that and to go straight through to Stuttgart.

ON THE TRAIN-- It’s a long ride; but happily the sun was out and it was a nice day to gape out the window at the Austrian and German countryside.

Listened to my music on the headphones . . . while I was listening to my tape of Bach’s Wachet auf it came to me that it’s rather odd, that here I am, what you’d call a visual artist, but visual art doesn’t move me the way music does.

STUTTGART-- I probably shouldn’t’ve been, but I was surprised to see how Stuttgart is all bulwarked with great high hills, almost mountains, all terraced for vineyards.

It’s also surprising to find how bloody tired you can get, just sitting on your can for eight hours or so. Having disembarked, I lugged the bags downstairs from where the trains come into the Hauptbahnhof to a kind of subterranean shopping mall. Got to where the info place was supposed to be, and it turned out to be only a bulletin board. The place with informative people and maps and things was farther on down.


Stood in line and got my Stadtplan. But the Wechsel, the money changing place, was back up at the track level.


Hauled myself and my bags back up there, cashed in the rest of the Schillings and got some Marks in exchange for a traveller’s cheque. Made it known I wanted some loose change for the phone but the man said, No, you get that up on a mezzanine, at the post office branch.

Oh, God.

I picked up my luggage again, found the stairs, and arrived at the Bahnhof post office. Up there I stood and waited my turn in a nice long line. When I got to the guichet I encountered a clerk who, between his deficient English and my next-to-nonexistent German, only managed to communicate to me that you have to buy a card to use the payphones.

Oh, God damn!!

I just about lost it. I couldn’t help it, I started crying. Happily, the postal worker recognised the problem and sent me over to speak with a man with a bit more English.

He clarified that it was the long distance service phones, there in the room, that required the cards. The local call phones were out in the hall, and here was the change I required.


I called the number Friedhelm* gave me for his home and got his mother.

"Friedl is not here," she said in her charming accented English. "He is in town, at the Bahnhof. He will be back around 10:00. You call back then."

That seemed a little late to me, so I said, "Well, please tell him that Blogwen X--* called and that I am here in Stuttgart. He knows me from Coverdale*."

"Oh, Coverdale!" Friedl’s mother exclaimed. "He’s at the Bahnhof to pick up some people from Coverdale! They are from Canada, I think."

"Oh, Chrissie* and Pete*!"

"Yes, Chrissie and Pete. They are coming from Köln at 5:30 or 6:30, I don’t remember. They will come back here. You call in the evening."

I tried to make her understand that I was at the Bahnhof, too, but decided at last that it wasn’t important. For now I had a clear idea of what I could do. Signed off with Frau Schneider*, trotted the bags down to the lockers, stashed them, and headed for the nearest Arrivals chart to check for trains from Köln.

Ah, yes, here was one at 5:35. It was about 5:20 by now, so I remarked the Gleis number and went back to the trains.

I’d recognise that aqua and navy blue anorak anywhere. His back was turned to me and I came up behind and said brightly, "Guten Tag, Herr Schneider*!"

This is one of the smarter things I’ve done in awhile. He turned around, said, "Hello, Blogwen!" and gave me a hug. It was like a little homecoming.

Said Friedl, "Do you have a hotel yet?"

"Well, I was going to ask you if you know of any nice cheap ones."

"You come to us."

There it was, simple as that.

And guess what, not only were Chrissie and Pete expected any minute, but Theo Smyth* [a Coverdale student from South Africa] and his fianceé Phoebe* would be flying in from London this evening! Talk about Providence!

Chrissie and Pete were duly debouched from the Köln train and greetings exchanged all round. I collected my bags from the locker-- Friedl insisted on carrying the blue one-- and we went back down through the shopping mall thing and through to a parking garage, where Friedl packed us all into his car and we headed off to Karlsfelden*, where he lives.

KARLSFELDEN-- It was dark by now, if a very starry night, so I couldn’t tell you what the route looks like. But he lives with his parents in a garden-type apartment, very nice with a living room, kitchen and dinette, three bedrooms, and a bath.

His mother didn’t seem at all disconcerted to find she had an additional guest. She speaks much more English than his father, who basically just smiled and nodded and went back to his paper.

Their Christmas tree, standing in the living room, had both candles and electric lights on it. Kind of a compromise.

The plan was that Chrissie and Pete would stay over at Anni Breitbart’s*, Friedl’s girlfriend, and Theo and Phoebe, and now I, would sleep over at Friedl’s. So now we got back in the car and drove over to Anni’s, to talk and have supper until 9:00 PM and time for Friedl to fetch the South African contingent.

Anni’s mother had laid out the German version of charcuterie and once again, it was much better than in France. Anni, at my request, was helping me conjugate the German version of "to be" and pretty soon her father came and joined the festivities.

After supper we all sat in the living room and had a rather odd, but very effective conversation. Both Anni and Friedl have pretty good English, and her mother also. But Herr Breitbart’s English is next to nil. I have a smattering of literary German and Pete knows Dutch as well as English. So the talk was a kind of round robin of translating, with somehow or other everyone eventually coming to know what was being said.

Found out that Germans are as conscious of regional differences as Americans are (maybe more so!), and to humorous effect. Stuttgart, et al. is in Swabia, and you should have heard Friedl and Anni go after the Bavarians (Bayreusche [sp?] [Bayrische]) and the Hessians! I got the feeling that Bavarians are considered the hicks of the German people, and at any rate they have execrable accents. The controversy between the Hessians and the Swabians seems more to be over which of these groups, alone, speaks proper German.

Herr Breitbart is interested in music and showed me some sheet music pieces he’s working on (I’m not sure for what instrument). I told him I’m a Berlioz lover and that I’d visited the town where Hector was born. Somehow I knew the word for that was "geboren" and was very pleased when I discovered I was right and had got my idea across.

We stayed for awhile after Friedl left for the airport, then Anni took all of us back to Friedl’s place. To our surprise he was already there with Theo and Phoebe, sitting at the kitchen table eating a pizza. Their plane came in early.

I was too excited to do more than pick at a piece. We all sat up talking till nearly midnight.

Phoebe, I learned, flew up to England from the RSA just a week or so ago. Theo spent Christmas Day at Dunstan Oak’s* [one of the college tutors], where he and his family had assembled the Coverdale "orphans." Theo said the weather had been nice and sunny in England the past couple weeks. Very unlike France.

Anni, to whom Friedl is not engaged (at least not yet) took Chrissie and Pete away with her and we all eventually turned in. I shared a room with Phoebe but we didn’t really talk because it was so late and so much was planned for the morning.


whiskers said...

Oh how fun! I can't wait to read what happens next!


St. Blogwen said...

It is so jolly to have friends all over the world!