We’ve arrived! Stop one on our tour of Europe: Hirschberg, Germany.
Due to a delay on the part of the DB train system, we missed a train in Mannheim. I really should write a post on the train situation, because good grief. Something has gone wrong with almost every train connection we’ve made, and I swear it’s NOT our fault. Anyway, after two phone calls, discovering there’s not any minutes on Will’s phone, learning that the next train to the station in PK’s town didn’t leave until almost seven that night (it was only around four, and the station was only about thirty minutes away), and other similar obstacles, we came to the conclusion that a) since we couldn’t reach PK online or through his phone, we’d have to cool our heels for a while, and b) gelato needed to happen. Now. Immediately.
Luckily for us, the central Mannheim station is not a terrible place to get stuck. It resembles a mall inside, complete with multiple restaurants, clothing shops, and a hole in the wall shop that sold mini sarcophagi and North African smoking devices called hookas (correct me on my spelling if I’m wrong, please) for no apparent reason. And, joy of joys, a fantastic cafe with a selection of over twenty gelato flavors. The travel gods smiled upon us. There’s no better remedy for a baked brain running on train delays and other such issues than a cup of gelato. Our luck steadily improved from there. PK turned his phone on and decided to come pick us up since we were so close, we found two grizzled old men playing chess to watch, and very shortly I found myself in a bear hug administered by my adopted uncle/brother/dad.
PK’s truck is absolutely massive in comparison to every European car ever. And he knows it, as do they. We got to his place in record time.
Hirschberg is a relatively small town in the countryside near Mannheim. It has a couple of cathedrals, the standard number of bakeries, and an infestation of hobbits, as made apparent by the number of small round doors all over town. The streets are narrow, the houses are ancient, and curling green vines have completely blanketed many of the old tobacco and wheat barns that hide here and there throughout town.
Hirschberg clings to the side of a large hill overlooking the city of Mannheim and the smaller towns surrounding it. PK’s family lives in a comfortable little apartment above a clothing store that, for whatever reason, sells childrens clothing to royals for hundreds of euros. Why it’s sitting in a tiny little town in the German countryside, I have no idea.
I last saw Nele and Naomi, the Kohn kids, when they were pretty tiny. I don’t think Naomi was even talking, the last time I saw her. She regarded me with a strong measure of suspicion for about fifteen minutes, and then decided I wasn’t too bad after all. By the time we left, she was begging me to become her big sister. She was my little buddy for most of our time there.
Will had a bit of a harder time. The girls couldn’t remember his name. He became “Twister,” “That Hat Guy,” and “Scruffy Dude.” Eventually they discovered that they could tussle with him on the trampoline and he wouldn’t mind, and I think that was the point at which they decided he was alright.
We ended up staying in a treehouse in PK’s “garden.” Now, most people’s gardens consist of your typical backyard, flowerbed, or vegetable plots. Not PK’s garden. His is basically a completely self sustainable living space complete with a Hennessy hammock, tiered vegetable gardens, cherry trees, a cabin equipped with a wood stove, an outhouse, treehouse, trampoline, and three goats. Pretty impressive, overall. Will and I moved our sleeping bags up there and spent the better part of four days in the garden and around town. There were paths through vineyards and orchards to hike, cherries to pick, kids to wear out, and roads to wander. I don’t think I could get tired of these old fashioned little German towns if I tried!
Next stop: Amsterdam.