At long last, our trip is winding down. We meet Pat’s parents for breakfast one last time before returning to the hotel in Karlsruhe to pack. We will spend tonight in Frankfurt at an airport hotel and then fly home the next morning. It’s a funny thing for me. As much as I like travel, a two week vacation always seems like a little too much. During dinner with Dieter and Gisela one night earlier in the week, Gisela suggested dividing our vacation into two parts: one for sight seeing and one for relaxing at a spa. I think this is an excellent suggestion. But, there will be no spa time this trip.
After we pack, we walk down to the lobby to meet Pat’s parents one last time. They will walk us to the S-bahn stop that will take us to the Karlsruhe train station on their way into Karlsruhe. They are riding their bikes, so they will leave us at the stop. We get to the stop ahead of schedule and tell Jim and Renate our final goodbyes before our train arrives. They take off and tell us they will wave when our train passes them. We hop on the train and watch out the window for Jim and Renate. They are far ahead of our train and we stop before we catch up. Then, we start talking about what we’re going to do in Frankfurt and momentarily forget to look for Jim and Renate. We are relieved to find them still ahead of the train and we stand in the door where we can wave at them as the train goes by. We pass them just a block before the train turns, so we don’t see them again at our next stop.
We arrive at the Karlsruhe train station just a few minutes before the 10:00AM train. We rush to try to catch it, but we can’t tell which platform to go to. By the time we figure it out and find the correct escalator, the train is at the station. Several steps ahead of Pat, I get in front of a group of people getting on the escalator while he stands back and lets them go ahead. When I get to the top of the escalator, the whistle is blowing indicating the doors are about to close, I am torn between trying to get on the train and hold it for Pat and waiting for him. My fear that I will end up on the train alone makes me hesitate and I watch as the doors close just as Pat gets off the escalator. We try pushing the buttons to open the doors, but no luck. A man and his son come running up the escalator moments later and repeat the process, only they go a step further and argue with a conductor to let them on the train. The doors remain shut. Ironically, the train remains at the station for a couple more minutes with all doors closed tight before finally departing.
While it’s somewhat frustrating to just miss the train, we really hadn’t planned to make that train anyway. So, it’s not such a big deal to us that we have to wait an hour for the next train to Frankfurt. We return to the terminal and find a coffee shop and an outdoor seat. On our way, we pass a couple in the middle of a fight. They are young. The girl is furious. She is screaming at the man who stands there looking like he is visibly shrinking. She screams louder, pushing on his chest and then kicking one of their large suitcases until it falls over. Then, she exits stage right. The man picks up the luggage and rolls it after her, looking like he’s still shrinking.
After relaxing with a cup of coffee, Pat and I successfully board the 11AM train. We make it to the Frankfurt airport without further incident. However, now we must wait for our hotel shuttle so we can drop our luggage off. The bus shows up eventually and takes us to the far side of the airport. It takes a good 25 minutes to get there and I joke that it would be a more direct route if we could just take one of the airport runways instead. When we get to the hotel, it’s long before check-in time, but they have a room ready and allow us to check in early. After dropping off our things, we take the next shuttle back to the airport where we take the train into the center of downtown Frankfurt.
There is a farmers market set up in the plaza outside the S-bahn stop. We walk slowly past all the tents selling goods ranging from German meats to household decorations. One of the tents sells local honey. In this case, the honey is really local–they have brought the hive along. The honey combs spin inside a large glass jar and the honey runs out a spout at the bottom. Bees come and go as they please–we have been seeing bees since getting off the escalator coming out of the train stop, now we know why. Pat wonders out loud what kind of insurance and legal agreements would be required to bring a bee hive to a crowded public plaza in the US. No one seems to be the least bit worried about the presence of the bees here.
Hungry, we decide to find a place to eat. We pick an outdoor table that appears to be out of range for the bees, although one or two seem to have followed us. It’s a cloudy day, but the sun keeps threatening to pop through at any moment. I am fascinated by a group of clouds with a hole it in that allows sunlight to stream through above a tall building. I keep waiting for the beams to shine down on the building, but the clouds, sun, and building never quite align for me.
Pat and I finish eating and then walk around a bit. We find the opera house and an interesting fountain full of bathing women sculptures. A class of young children is lined up on one side of the fountain and a teacher attempts to get them all looking in the same direction at the same time as she takes pictures. We sit for a moment and look at our map. I would like to make it down to the river. We plan a route and start to walk. Like in Karlsruhe, we find ourselves going from a clean, safe area of town to a sleazy and rather frightening section in the matter of a block. We abandon hope of finding the river and head towards a busier street where the environment feels safer. Pat has experienced a complete loss of energy. I am also tired and not all that enthusiastic about re-exploring Frankfurt. We decide to call it a day and head back to the hotel. Taking the train back to the airport and the shuttle back to the hotel seems like an easy way to get back to the hotel, but we end up just missing the shuttle and having to wait a half hour for the next one. When the shuttle arrives, we collapse into seats.
Returning to the hotel, we discover it’s happy hour. We have a beer in the bar and then decide to go to bed early. On the way down the hall, we notice the Coke machine for the first time. What catches our attention is the button for “Bier” at the bottom of the choices. I can’t remember ever seeing beer in a vending machine before–I thought there was an age limit on alcohol now, I wonder how they check IDs?
We get ourselves as ready for our trip home tomorrow as we can and then fall into bed. We watch the season premier of Two and a Half Men on my iPad, which is just short enough that I manage to stay awake for the whole thing. Then, I fall to sleep thinking about how good it’s going to feel to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night.