the autobahn…

…it’s not just one stretch of road like i previously thought.  it’s the system of freeways here in germany.  and i got a full taste of what it’s actually like yesterday.

i had plans to go to munster this weekend.  and not like the cheese.  they actually haven’t ever heard of it here.  maybe they just call it “cheese” or “käse”, like the chinese call their infamous interrogation method, just “water torture” or “水刑.”  i made some german friends while staying in barcelona that live in munster, so i figured i’d take a break from taking a break and go see their hometown.

well, the train ride is extremely expensive for some reason, so i was looking for other options.  one of my german friends suggested a website where people offer rides from wherever they are to wherever they’re going…like a carpool situation, where all i have to pay is a bit for fuel.  i’m a bit skeptical of this, but whatever, when in rome.  so i let anja set the whole ride up cause i don’t speak german.

11am:  sarah (house host) drives me up to mannheim (about an hour away) to meet “niklas.”  we pull into town just in time to meet this guy at the main train station.  so yeah, here we are on the freeway, and there’s the train station, and we have no clue where to exit or how to get over to it.  i call “niklas,” we are both extremely frustrated at the communication barrier, and he decides that this american is not worth his time.  he leaves.

1230pm:  sarah and i finally make it over to the elusive, yet extremely large, visible, and stationary train station.  we have now driven for an hour and a half, to be left in the cold by some impatient german weirdo (to be nice).  it’s not cold though…actually the weather here is quite perfect.  i recommend this time of year for anyone wanting to see germany.

1245pm:  anja rings and says it will be a long shot but she will try the website again.  i contemplate the expensive train ride since we have driven here already, when anja calls excitedly to tell me there’s another person leaving from the exact same spot in like 30 minutes.  (22 euro).  score.

130pm:  the white golf i’m supposed to meet out in front of the station pulls up.  a seemingly nice girl hops out and opens the hatch for my bag.  we shake hands and set off.  julia and i make small talk in broken english.  i feel like an ass by now for not at least trying to learn some german before spending an extensive amount of time here.  but she speaks well enough english to make it work.  and when she can’t come up with the right word, she just throws her hands up and says, “whatever, who cares?”  winding thru the populated city of mannheim, i learn she does this trip all the time with strangers.  she goes up on the weekends to meet her boyfriend (which she makes clear a few times, i got the hint), and she said this is the first weekend since september that she wasn’t going to have someone riding with her.  until anja called 30 minutes before she was gonna leave.  amazing timing…at least i didn’t have to make this trip with some stuffy weirdo (to be nice).  i also find out that we both have the exact same degree from college, a bachelors in corporate communication.  i didn’t think anybody else even knew what that meant, i sure as hell don’t.  anyway, the small talk slowly diminishes, and now it’s driving time…we’re approaching the freeway.  she flips her designer sunglasses from the top of her blonde head down over her eyes, kinda smiles in my direction (the kinda smile foreigners give each other because they don’t know what else to do), and there’s a small, sparkling stone (kinda diamond-ish) adorning her right lateral incisor (just looked that up).  i swear the prism from the sun hitting the stone illuminated the car for the split second that she downshifted, floored the pedal, and cranked up the volume to kesha’s “take it off.”  i’m def in germany.

(this trip is supposed to be a little under 4 hours, barring any traffic.  not for julia)

2pm:  we hit the autobahn full speed.  this little golf has some get-ups.  we’re going like 190km/hour, or like 120mph.  i’m nervously laughing on the inside as we take this winding freeway up to munster.  i bury my nose into my latest book (“bicycle diaries,” by david byrne…the lead singer of the talking heads chronicles his journey thru several major cities across the globe from the cyclist’s POV).

230pm:  julia hits the brakes, 120mph to 0mph in like 2 seconds.  i guess this is just how it’s gonna go.  so i nervously continue to pretend to read at a pace of about one page every 5 minutes.

515pm:  we pull into munster.  a little over 3 hours it took to get here.  and about an hour of that was snail-paced traffic.  unreal.  i peel my skin off of the seat, pat my hair down forward with my hand, snap a photo with danica patrick, and i’ve made it to munster in one piece.  she’s taking me back on sunday, when there will be no traffic.  sweet.

we end up going to a birthday party by way of bicycles.  everyone does that here in munster.  it’s pretty awesome, as this quaint, well-manicured town is beautiful and the weather is perfect.  a little cautious going in, as i just knew i’d be the only american there at what is usually kind of a private event.  i couldn’t have felt more welcome though.  vodka and “magic man” (like red bull) was my drink of choice.  german techno coursing thru my alcohol-infused veins and everyone being friendly…i’m feeling real nice.  the birthday girl steals me from a circle of girls interested in my travels to take me to the living room where i’m introduced to “gluff-gluff.”  a german drinking game that all of the guys at this party are determined i take with me to teach everyone “across the world.”  or i think they would be happy if i just got some fellow texans interested.  drink, drank, drunk and we leave this party at about 2am.  i think we’re going home, but nope, it’s clubbin’ time.  jesus europe, calm down.  bike home and sleep.

and now i feel as if though i had a day just like that.

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