From Berlin to Wald

Having had our fill of Berlin, we depart the next morning for Wald. We are meeting Pat’s family and friends there. They were the impetus for this trip, inviting us to meet them for Oktoberfest. We get up early so we can catch a train before 9AM–it’s hard for me to believe that I was complaining about not being able to sleep past 4am a week ago and now I am complaining about having to get up before 6am. Pat wants to leave for the train station by 7:45, but breakfast doesn’t start until 7:30 on Sundays. We check out and leave our bags with the front desk before going up to eat.

We are surprised that two other guests have already arrived at breakfast before us. We fill our plates and pour coffee and tea and try to eat as quickly as possible. Pat surprises me by going back for seconds when we have only a few minutes left before his designated departure time. But, we eat up quickly and I head downstairs to order a cab while Pat stops in the restroom one last time.

The cab arrives quickly and we get to the train station 45 minutes before our train. We find the platform and wait patiently as we watch the platform fill. We hope that most of the passengers are on the train before ours, but only a few depart with that train. When ours comes, everyone dashes to get on board. There are only 2 first class cars and most of the seats are reserved. We keeping getting pushed back until we think we are going to end up in 2nd class. But then, Pat spots two “Schwerbehinderte” seats and we are saved by the lack of handicapped people traveling without a reservation.

I am nervous about our train route. Pat picked the fastest way to the Leuterschach train station, which I found using google maps–it’s only 4 KM from the country hotel we’re meeting his family at in Wald. But because it is out in the country, we have to take four different trains to get there and the time between arrival and departure is only 7 minutes for our first transfer, then only 5 minutes for our second transfer. The third transfer has 30 minutes between trains, so I am not worried about that one. Our first train takes us from Berlin to Augsburg in about 5 hours, but is several minutes late due to the rain. By the time we get close to Augsburg, I am getting anxious and I have Pat get our luggage down early so we can stand at the door and jump off the train as soon as it stops. He laughs at my nervousness and says there will be another train if we miss this one, but without the train schedule in front of me, I am unsure of whether the next train will make a connection to get us to Leuterschach. We arrive at the station just a couple of minutes before our next departure. We hop off the train, cross the platform and hop onto the next, which is still sitting there. We find seats and the train pulls out, leaving a couple minutes late. While I’m relieved that we made this train, if there are any delays, we will miss the next one.

Since we have 45 minutes before we arrive at the next station, Pat tries to call his Mother’s friends on their cell phones to let them know when we are arriving. Calling from his cell doesn’t work. I suggest calling like he’s in the US calling Germany since he is using his US cell phone. He reaches someone, but it’s not the right number. We decide we will have to take a taxi to the hotel.

We arrive a couple minutes late at the next station, but once again, our next train is waiting for us across the platform and we are seated on it before it departs, right on time. I am amazed that it’s possible to make a connection in under two minutes. In a half an hour, we arrive at the Kaufbeuren station, which is a small station with only two tracks. Since we have 30 minutes and it’s cold and raining, we go inside and have a beer while we wait. The pub in the station is dark and stinky. The people sitting in there look worn out–like they work hard every day. Once again, it’s like we’ve changed countries.

The beer tastes good since we are thirsty and purchasing it gives us access to the heated restrooms in the pub instead of having to go to the unheated public restroom outside. We don’t have time for food, however, so Pat purchases Laugenweck at the snack stand inside the station before we go out to get the train. Laugenweck are like pretzels in a roll form, split in a cross on top. We have found them in the US on occasion, but they are always hard and dry. Here, the outside it chewy and the inside fluffy and moist, with the kosher salt adding just the right flavor. German’s prefer them sliced and buttered, but they are deliciously still warm as we share them on the platform and we don’t miss the butter.

Our train comes on time and we find ourselves at the Leuterschach station in about a half an hour. It’s so small that there isn’t even a platform–just a flat spot of grass that is high enough to step off onto from the train. There is no building here, no phones, and certainly no taxis. The parking area is a large bike rack–there isn’t a car at the station. We drag our luggage across the street to a Guest House, the only building in sight. The Proprietors, seeing our luggage, ask if we have a reservation. Pat says, “Yes, but not here.” He explains our predicament and I wait, trying to guess how the rapid German conversation is going. Eventually, we are invited to come sit down and have a beer while they call our hotel for us. She calls the hotel and tells us that our family and friends were just checking in when she called and they will come to pick us up in a few minutes, but we still have time for that beer. Figuring we should at least have a beer since she has been so kind, we sit down and each have a, thankfully, small pilsner. The beer is even better than the one at the train station. As we finish up, our friends arrive and we feel very lucky that all has worked out so perfectly today.


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