Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stuttgart

The first stage of our journey was by bus. We still travelled on our Eurail pass but the 'train' from Prague to Nűrnberg was a bus operated by the German rail company, Deutsche Bahn. It was a very comfortable double decker with WiFi service all the way. It was the first sector on our itinerary that had to be booked in advance. There were no advantages in having a pass for first class travel.

It left Prague's main station forecourt on time and arrived in Nűrnberg very late, but it wasn't Deutsche Bahn's fault. Not long after we crossed the border into Germany we ran into a traffic jam on the autobahn. A few hundred metres ahead we could see a police vehicle, and beyond that was clear road. Using my camera on maximum zoom I could see nothing to explain the hold up. There was no twisted wreckage. There was no lake of blood.

Halt!

Half an hour went by. Nothing kept on happening up ahead. Motorists stepped out of their cars. Some of them started playing games; others walked towards the head of the queue. As more time went by additional emergency vehicles threaded their way through the stationary traffic, but nothing happened to get us going again until we had been motionless for an hour and a half. Eventually the police van moved slowly ahead while the rubberneckers hastened back to their abandoned vehicles. Around the first bend, just out of sight of where our bus had been stopped, was a motorway exit through which all traffic was now directed. What we could see of the forbidden autobahn carriageway ahead was innocent of any evidence of disaster. In the event we did see something of the original problem. By chance, the minor road chosen for the diversion was close enough to the autobahn for us to see the vehicles that had crashed, quite a few kilometres ahead of the halted traffic.

We comprehensively missed the train we had planned to catch in Nűrnberg, but there was another a couple of hours later. So we had time to find and consume a sandwich before we boarded an inter-city express that ran on rails and boasted first class carriages.

Through the magic of mobile phone technology we were able to inform our friends in Stuttgart of the delay and, later, of the revised ETA in Stuttgart.

Julian is a friend from my long-ago schooldays. He and his wife, Seraina, have lived in Stuttgart for a long time, but this was the first time I had visited their home. The flat is in a quiet street, with a balcony at the back enjoying a garden, maintained by the ground floor residents, that nicely balances mature trees, flowers, a tiny pond with a wee fountain and a small lawn. The balcony is at just the right height to provide a good view of the birds that forage amongst the trees and a charming red squirrel.
A morsel of the view from the balcony.

That evening the weather broke. After weeks of energy-sapping heat there was a thunderstorm. It was wonderful. There was a fair bit of thunder, and just enough rain to cool the world down to a more benign temperature.  


We were there to see Julian and Seraina, of course, not as tourists, but Julian did guide us round some of the city centre and took us to the Botanic Gardens.

Julian and Seraina Clarke.

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