So here I am, finally, Germany.
Flight was pretty uneventful, slept most of the time, but realized that even 3 seats are not enough to sleep comfortably.
When maneuvering through the airport to the shuttle for a ride to another part of the airport and from there to the train to the Paris train station, I was lost at times but pretended with confidence that I knew where I was going.
It is a known area where thieves are active and I was watching shoes. Fast running shoes that have seen lots of wear: watch out Marianna! Of course I was wearing my oldest running shoes myself come to think of it.
Clutching my rolling suitcase, my backpack, and my purse, I made it to gare du nord, another known sketchy neighborhood, to walk to gare de l’est. I had 3 different directions how to approach this 1/3 mile walk. But I was too proud to pull out the piece of paper and also didn’t want to give the impression I was a lost tourist. If you watched me closely and saw my backtracking, it must have been a giveaway.
If you ever took Bart in the bay area, you know you insert your ticket to get into the train area and you do the same on the way out.
For some reason I imagined this would not be the case in Paris. I entered inserting my ticket, but was looking for a way out without doing the same. It felt very prison like until I got hold of some courage and just tried inserting the ticket again, fully expecting all sirens and bells and whistles to go off.
Now which exit? Some street names looked familiar. One that I equated with drunkard, one with san quentin, and so forth.
With resolve I entered Paris life where a whole lot of men were trying to foist single packs of cigarettes on passers by. I must have looked like a non-smoker and was approached by no one.
I did my one street forward, cross the road and then one street back thing, by now I was really good at that, saw a bus with gare de l’est sign and went down that road. Not very far down the road I came to what seemed like a 6 way intersection. Most people with suitcases or backpacks were heading toward the left and when I peeked in that direction I recognized the correct train station.
From there on all went according to plan. Found my train and seat. And off we went toward Mannheim. At some point a fellow traveler took a seat next to me, and I gave him the status of either soccer player or migrant. He spoke very little german and it turns out was in the wrong seat. The conductor directed him to the first class section but he decided he liked sitting next to me.
Arriving in Mannheim, I was on home turf. Got ticket to my village and waited for the streetcar for half an hour since I just had missed one and it now was after 10 pm and they only run twice an hour.
The wait was fine as I took in all the familiar sights and was flooded with memories. Streetcars in other directions came and went. Spilling out opera goers in fancy getup to people in tattered clothing and everything in between. They all shared the idea of public transit and it made me smile.
I kept on listening in to conversations and watching my fellow travelers. It was almost 11 pm when I arrived and had a short walk left to where I was staying.
There was a little hiccup in that the sidewalks are mostly cobblestone and rolling a suitcase along shattered the silence of the night. I was waiting for the shutters to open behind me and getting screamed at. But this stayed a fantasy. When I turned into the street where my friend lived I did lift the suitcase the last few meters.
Then it was a few hours talking and off to bed. Sleep is not easy with the time difference!