Paul Stansifer (paul_stansifer) wrote,
Paul Stansifer

Hi, I'm in Germany!

The problem I have with traveling alone is that I don't have anyone around to talk at. I've come up with a radical idea to solve it, though. I'll use my LJ as a record of the things that happen as they happen. A sort of "live" "journal", if you will. On account of certain time constraints, my writing may be more disjointed than usual. I did pick one grammatical tense and stick to it, though. (This is something of a problem I have.)

The nice thing about flying across the Atlantic, as opposed to flying along the East Coast, is that, thanks to the time zone change, the flight in one direction is effectively so long, it basically has to be a red-eye, leaving in the afternoon, and the flight in the other direction is so effectively short that it can leave in the afternoon and still arrive at a decent time in the evening.

I'd eaten a decent amount before I left home, but still, by the time I made it to the gate, I was starving. Christine lent me a cyberpunk book, which I tried to read, but it took me something like three minutes to understand the first sentence.

When you consider it in the abstract, the fact that people can go thirty days without food and survive suggests that one could vastly simplify a week-and-a-half trip by deciding to not eat until one gets back, maintaining a safety factor of over 2. In practice, I spent one hour taking a train and a bus, and then had to scarf down the miscellaneous food in my backpack, lest I faint walking down the jetway.

My flight to Montreal was delayed by weather (Boston doesn't let a little thing like the vernal equinox get in the way of snowing on us), but I guess a lot of people were making my connection to Frankfurt, so they held up the plane for us.

The Montreal-to-Frankfurt leg was in a Boeing 777-300. I had forgotten how spacious wide-body jets feel, with two aisles and lots and lots of overhead space. I was pretty excited about the two meals, let me tell you. But while airlines support a wide variety of dietary requirements, "large portions" is not one of them.

After they fed us once, it was time to sleep. Unfortunately, the seats did not tilt back very far, and I wasn't able to find a bodily position which I could convince my subconscious did not require active control to maintain. (Is that grammatical? I didn't get any sleep, so I can't tell.) I suppose that at least one such position must exist in any situation. Maybe I should've just gone limp and taken it from there.

I would describe the Frankfurt airport and its train terminal as having a "used future" feel. Which is to say that it's full of sets of automated sliding glass doors, some of them curved, with lots of stainless steel and white tile, but nothing appears to have been cleaned in the last six months. Actually, there was one dude in a sweater meticulously cleaning the area inside the yellow rectangle that contains the smokers on the train platform. So I guess there's that.

While I waited for the train at the platform, I watched a train sit in the station for about fifteen minutes, with one of the pantographs occasionally going up or down, as though there was some kind of argument going on in the cab about whether today was a two-pantograph day or a one-pantograph day. Eventually, it bounced the pantograph one last time and wandered off.

What is Germany like? It's a very detailed model train set, built to 1:1 scale. Lots of moving parts! Realistic people!

I took two ICEs from Frankfurt to Saarbrüken; the ride wasn't as smooth or as fast as maglev or being in orbit, but it felt pretty close. On the train, I saw a family with three kids, who were happily playing with Duplo and Marashurokovhatever dolls at the table that their seats faced. There's some old quip about there being two kinds of travel — first class, and with children — but I argue that the two kinds of travel are the ones with train and the ones with suffering.

For getting from the Saarbrüken station to the hotel, I had a hastily-sketched map of walking directions, but they only involved two streets, so what could go wrong? Well, it turns out that they have as many fewer street signs than Boston as Boston has fewer than a sane city, namely none. Furthermore, one of the streets in my directions did not, given quite reasonable margins for imprecision as regards distance on my "map", exist.

Instead of street signs, Saarbrüken has an innovative system, where they just put up a couple signs pointing in the exact direction of the place that you want to go, allowing you to determine its position with a great deal of accuracy. This sounds like a great system, except that they make sure that these signs are always located such that they point into the middle of an insurmountable and very wide obstacle. So I did a lot of walking. Eventually, I turned back, and decided that the only plausible pathway was through a dark and forbidding sidewalk, completely enclosed (left, right and above) by abandoned office space covered with graffiti.

The passageway was short, and ended in a brief bit of sunlight that supported a few plants. Also, it turned out that the passagway wasn't dark and forbidding at all! What was really dark and forbidding was the tunnel up ahead. I stayed in the sunlight for a few moments (like that was gonna protect me), peering into the tunnel, assessing the situation. There was some kind of line of weak fluorescent lights overhead, and the tunnel stretched on for a good long ways before its slight rise obscured the exit (or, who knows, another good long ways, or maybe a doom fortress). Thanks to all my video game training, I'm able to identify a couple places that could conceal an ambush.

This was one of those times when it would really help to know what genre your life is. On the one hand, it's probably totally safe to walk through a pedestrian tunnel. On the other hand, this is exactly how horror movies start.

Anyways, the other side of the tunnel met a totally unremarkable street, and I soon found my hotel and checked in. I had been walking around for about fifty minutes at this point. I went to my room, looked out the window, and saw...

From Springtime for Boston (and Germany)

...the train station. If only I'd looked up and back when I got off the train, I'd've figured out that the other exit from the train station basically leads straight to the hotel.

Anyways, I showered and felt super much better. I went to the mall and dithered forever, before getting a power adapter (as an aside, don't US plugs and outlets look so much better than everyone else's (except for the New Zealand plugs, those are cool)?) and ate some "Gäng Thai Tofu" for lunch, which I selected on the basis of knowing at least 2/3 of the words in its name. It was really really good. They say that hunger is the best sauce, but spicy coconut milk certainly doesn't hurt.

Okay, breakfast is about to start, so I'm going to skip part of the story.

And then I left to go have breakfast.

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