Trains (and Bicycles) Should Be This Easy
Today I took my bicycle and gear down to the Kassel Hbf (Hauptbahnhof - Main Train Station) with my pre-paid ticket in hand. My train left from Platform 6 at 9:42am. I got there at about 9:00 and had a pastry and coffee while trying to ignore a couple pigeons staring at me. The station is a stub-end station, so instead of having to go under the tracks to get to the platforms, the tracks all end at the station... like pointing a fork at your face and choosing a prong.
I rolled my bike down to Gleis 6 (Track 6) and found one of the several cars on the train with a large bicycle symbol. These are double-deck cars with the bottom area for bicycles and passengers with wheechairs or other needs. Most of the seats face the aisle and have spring loaded seats so they stay folded up until you need them. I just rolled my bike on (the door is the same height as the platform) and leaned it against a pole (used a bungie cord to tie it down).
Then I went upstairs and found a seat. It literally took me 5 minutes.
The ride to Frankfurt was uneventful, but definitely smooth. Much nicer than on Amtrak... buy America doesn\'t seem to believe in having a frequent, high speed intercity train route network (or even between big cities like San Frankcisco and LA, Portland and Seattle, or Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis).
Bad Nauhiem and Friends
My one stop was to visit some old friends in Bad Nauheim, or to be more exact, Ober-Mörlen. Bad Nauheim in Hesse, and my high school, Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin had an exchange for several years as part of the Hesse-Wisconsin program. My dad, Edward, and the High School German teacher Helena Stalzer lead the group with about 15 students going. A handful of us, like me, were only 15 and going ¨up¨ to Lincoln in the fall (Manitowoc has 3-year Junior Highs, grades 7-9, and a 3-year High School, grades 10-12). This trip was very transformative for me - I learned to come out of my shell, meet and bond with older students, be on my own (pretty much), and see a whole new part of the world. For a 15 year old it was pretty cool... I remember waking up from a nap on the first day after arriving (flying to Europe is tough), and thinking: ¨Where am I? Oh, yeah, I´m in Germany. Holy cow! This is so surreal.¨
Anyhow, my purpose in visiting Bad Nauheim/Ober-Mörlen was to visit Uwe and Edith Szerator. Uwe was an English Teacher at Ernst-Ludwig-Schule with which Lincoln High School had its exchange. He´s retired now and lives with his wife Edith and their dog, Hexe (Witch).
By chance their son Wolf was visiting and we got to chat and have coffee and cake. He´s an officer in the Bundeswehr, the German Army, and told me about his work and coming deployment to Eastern Europe as part of NATO.
Uwe and Edith and I talked about my visit in 1993, tried to pin down the last time my dad (and mom) were in Germany, and Uwe showed me both his whiskey collection and amazing collection of military memorabilia. It was a nice afternoon, and for me it was both pleasant and, hard to explain, but somewhat sad. Not the company of Uwe and family, but that it has been so long since I was there. 25 years ago, a quarter-century. It was such an amazing trip for a 15 year old and now I´m so much older. Anyhow... it was very nice to see Uwe, Edith, and Wolf (their daughter Alexandra wasn´t visiting unfortunately).
About 4:30pm I gave Uwe and Edith a hug, went to the station with Edith, got my bike on the train and off I went to Frankfurt Am Main, the financial and business center of Germany (the German´s give it a nickname: Frankfurt am ¨Main-hattan¨).