Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Traveling Tale

I spent the past weekend with my great-grandmother’s family in a town near the city of Worms. This same Worms played a starring role in a certain Diet with Martin Luther, for anyone who knows their Reformation history.

It's also the site of the German epic "Die Nibelungen" featuring, you guessed it, dragons!
Getting to the town was somewhat complicated. I was supposed to take a train to Mainz, switch trains, then take a second train to Worms, where my cousins would pick me up. Regrettably this smooth plan hit an unexpected bump: train delays.

Before I came to Germany I thought all German public transport, like all Germans, ran on time. Having taken the bus and train for a few weeks, I can assure you this is not true. I’ve been on the frustrated receiving end of trains running five or ten minutes late, and my bus always seems to be a few minutes behind in the mornings. Despite these minor issues, I’m impressed with the transport system in Germany. On Saturday morning as I stood yawning in the main train station, however, I heard the unfortunate news that my first train was going to be around thirty minutes late. Those of us waiting for that particular conveyance stood shivering in the little strip of sunlight on the platform and waited. When the train finally did arrive and we boarded, the conductor came on over the loudspeaker and apologized for being thirty-two minutes late. Very specific.

Unluckily, my planned layover in Mainz was only thirteen minutes, meaning that I missed my second train. The schedule on Platform 5 informed me that the next train was leaving in a half-hour from Platform 6. My hot chocolate and I waited on Platform 6 while trains to other places came and went and the half hour had passed. No train to Worms.

With some trepidation I checked the train schedule on Platform 6 only to find that it said my train would leave from Platform 5. Keep in mind these schedules are printed out on paper, so it’s not as if they update electronically every time there’s a change. I went to wait on Platform 5 and attempted to call my cousins to apologize for running so late. Wrong number.

I finally arrived in Worms ninety minutes late to find my ride, quite logically, nowhere to be seen. After some forlorn wandering around the city I found the bus station, where a nice driver pointed out the proper bus and told me it would leave in two hours.

It's a happenin' place
Germany tends to shut down by Saturday afternoon and stay shut down through Sunday, except for churches and restaurants. By 4:50p when I got to Worms, all the cafes were closed for the weekend. I sat in Burger King sipping hot chocolate for the better part of my two hour wait.

From there everything went pretty well. I got to the proper address with little trouble and my family insisted it hadn’t inconvenienced them at all to wait for over an hour and return home without me. Sunday morning they fed me a big German breakfast with jam made by one cousin from the fruit of another cousin’s garden. In the afternoon we went back to Worms for the Almond Festival Day, which has nothing to do with almonds.

"Reserved for women," found spanning the first fifteen-ish spots in a parking garage.

Various women's organizations set up food stalls. I had pumpkins soup.

You could also buy cars here. I have no idea what kind of business they did.
The Almond Festival reminded me of state fairs in the States, only without the 4-H farm animals and world’s largest pumpkin competitors. We saw lots of food for sale and munched on some candied nuts.

My cousin's dog Nala

A quintessential German village picture. Notice the church spire.

Chickens. Their attending rooster woke me up at 6am both mornings.

Beautiful fall color!
Sunday night we had a lovely family dinner with fresh roasted chestnuts (delicious), bread/meat/cheese, and local wine from another cousin. Monday we corrected phone numbers and I caught the noon train back to my apartment. It was such a nice visit, and now I know I can handle my travel plans going all wrong with the help of Burger King and friendly bus drivers.

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