Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trip to Goslar, and FLAWLESS VICTORY
Yeah, that's totally what I did to that trip.  Friday, I was actually worried about this trip because of the complicated navigational portion of the adventure.  At this point, I had never actually progressed from the station to CaprivistraBe by bus before--and the meeting point the following day was at a place I had never been before.  I can get away with saying it was a "Flawless Victory" of travel because I was never late to a bus, never got lost, and never got on the wrong vehicle.

I started with the Quakenbruck to Osnabruck train as normal, and made my way out and into the Hauptbahnhof.  I was looking for the 21 Atterfeld to CaprivistraBe, when I realized that Neumarkt and the Hauptbahnhof are not the same place--they are actually separated by a short stretch of roads.  I elected to walk the short distance, utilizing my map of Osnabruck--walking down Moser straBe, and then down Wittekindstr. to Neumarkt.

That was simple enough, and I found a 21 bus--but it was going to Kreishaus/Zoo.  I understood that the bus was going the wrong way, but couldn't figure out right away how to make it go the other way.  I knew I was in the right place, doing the right thing, so I knew there was a very simple solution I hadn't thought of--so I asked someone.  Sure enough, the buses across the street were all headed to the opposite side of town and it didn't take me long to get into position for the 21 Atterfeld to swing up.

Bus Drivers are cold and cruel, no matter where you are.  Just like gravity, death, and taxes.

I thought that cruelty was unique to the Gainesville 15 bus, but I learned my lesson.  I got on the 21 fine, right as it pulled up with my free pass.  The bus left the station, went five feet or so, and stopped behind five other buses trying to get onto the road waiting for a light.  Up runs a girl and knocks on the closed doors, talking German and probably asking the bus driver to open the doors while the light was still red.  Behind her run up twenty of her closest friends, all knocking on the bus and asking to be let on.

The bus is empty, I'm the only one on it.

But the bus driver just waits for the green light, for the other buses ahead to go, and then drives off leaving a group of over twenty people waiting miserably for the next 21.

The plan had been to show up and spend the night Friday in Osnabruck.  Then my phone broke.  I've previously blogged about that incident, so I'll leave it here as--I was in the middle of that crisis during this adventure.  I ended up waiting in front of the building (no one was in an I couldn't call anyone) for someone to come for about ten minutes.  Dr. Werner had just gotten off work, and showed up with his wife to let me in.  They offered to take me out to dinner, at one of the Italian places we went to last year, and we had a good time.  When we got back, the students were home.

I slept in Vincent's room in the space bed (the bed wasn't made and there were no pillows, so I went from room to room borrowing extra sheets and blankets until I had a reasonable setup), where we made a tolerable friendship.  I woke up at some ridiculous time, like six, and ran out the door before any of the students were up.

Waiting at CaprivistraBe for the morning bus, I was reminded of all the times our group waited here last year--and also the time Andrew and I waited here for our taxi home at 3:30am.  I got so choked up I had to take a picture, to commemorate the start of a new adventure.

I made my way back to Neumarkt by bus, where I found the agreed upon street where the adventure bus would pick up the students.  I was horrifically early--a consequence of how rarely the 21 runs that early in the morning and the fact that 8:00am means 8:30am to everyone else in the universe.

The bus trip was uneventful.  We get to Goslar and a bus full of students marches out to the Town Square, me taking pictures on the way.  There's a tour set up and, after a quick vote, the guide agrees to do the tour in (mostly) English.  Talk about luck, pretty much everybody spoke English.  So we walk around the small town, hearing about the history of the buildings and Country, and I snap some more pictures.  We go into a Museum that used to be some kind of minor palace back in the day, and we see a huge room with all the walls painted with biblical scenes (no photography).  He shows us the "heating" which is really a hole in the bottom of the palace where they burned things.

More walking, picture taking, and lecturing later, we are back in the square and the tour is over.  We split for lunch, with an agreed upon time to reunite, and I'm faced with a choice.  I don't know anybody here, so I can eat alone or find a group to go with.  I walk up to a group of about six, and tell them I'm here alone and don't know anybody and can I joint you for lunch?

The square is filled with restaurants, but I don't offer my opinions or preferences (being effectively a guest).  We are able to get a table in the shade (hot day) and get down to introducing ourselves.  Turns out, all the students I'm with are study abroad as well (they barely know more German than I do) with a couple girls from Romania and some other hard-to-remember countries.  English is a second language for most of them but, with the exception of one, they were all fluent.

So the menus are in German.  None of us are particularly good at translating from Menu to English, beyond "pork" or "fish" but a helpful girl offers to help me make a choice.  What I want is a nice German schnitzel with potatoes and salad, but I can't seem to articulate that to the menu--which insists on presenting me with something interesting.  I'm trying to figure out exactly what this thing is when the waiter wants us to order.  I point it out and the waiter says something to the helpful girl, who translates to me 'it's cold.'

Cold?  Whatever, pork is good cold--and there's potatoes and salad with it so I'll be fine.  The warning should have been "Locals Only, this is a delicacy."  That's the kind of warning you can understand.  When the food came out, the girl said to me, "I'm so sorry."

I told it was fine, and it was, because the only thing you can do in those situations is acknowledge that the jokes on you and laugh it off.  Everybody else gets German hot dogs and schnitzel, while I get pork jello.

Please, if you have any positive connotations in mind when you hear 'pork jello,' remove them from the premises.  What we are talking about is the worst possible cuts of pork, completely uncuttable by knife and fork, too tough to chew, with little to no spices, suspended in clear gelatin, cut into squares.  I even tried to eat it--a mistake.  This must be a German delicacy.

Fortunately, the potatoes were fantastic.  We're talking about diced potatoes fried in bacon grease with pieces of bacon sprinkled on top.  The salad was decent too.  So, with a couple pounds of potatoes and bacon grease in my stomach, we resumed the tour.  In Town Square, the group gathered to watch the clock tower show--they had an actual mechanical performance to go with it.
I had an ice cream to get over that feel of having an uncomfortable lump of food in your belly, and felt better.

We continued to talk within the group and walk across town for about an hour, and I made friends with a pretty cool guy (who said he wasn't going on any of the other trips, so I'll probably never see him again).  We bused home, stopping at a special monument and overlook for pictures.  It was about two hours there and back, so I ended up finishing my book [Stardust by Neil Gaiman].

Eventually, I made my way home through buses and trains--navigating to finish my flawless victory.

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