Sometimes it’s fun to reflect on the times that were just brutal. You know, once it’s all over, and several years have past. Like that time in Heidelberg.
It was the worst.
We had just spent 12 extra hours in Israel, and arrived in Cologne, Germany around 5:30ish. We were waaaaaay behind schedule, and were missing tonnes of sleep at this point. Now we just needed to get to Heidelberg, land of delicious beers!
We were not to be deterred from our plan. Feeling optimistic, we obtained the pre-arranged rental car.
“Okay, that’s enough smiling. Get in the car.”
Interestingly, we could only get the GPS to give us instructions in German. In our sleep-deprived state, this was initially super-hilarious. Plus, Steve kinda sorta knows German — he could just translate for Andrew, and all would be well.
This proved to be a fairly amusing exercise… until the GPS perished entirely.
One of us had purchased a map at some point, which we all tried to use to navigate Andrew to Heidelberg. The entire experience was fraught with disaster, directionally-speaking. As you can imagine, lack of sleep, zipping along the autobahn, GPS not working, three people trying to direct the driver… pardon my language, but if you thought it sounded like a bit of a clusterfuck, you wouldn’t be altogether wrong.
So! Like I said, we were 12 hours behind schedule… but we did have a hotel in Heidelberg reserved. We were very eager to get to our hotel, I cannot state that enough.
We did find Heidelberg… I’m not even sure what time it was by the time we reached the city. Probably 1:00 in the morning.
Unfortunately, finding our hotel with a broken GPS proved to be extremely difficult… but somehow we eventually found it. Though our hopes were dashed when there was no one there to check us in. Of course not. Why would there be? Something actually working out the way it was supposed to would’ve been out of step with the general theme of this leg of our journey.
Miraculously, we somehow found another hotel willing to accept weary travellers such as ourselves. We finally obtained some semblance of sleep.
I recorded in my journal that I actually slept great, and woke up before everyone else in order to hit up the breakfast buffet. What can I say? I love (like, LOOOOOOOOOVE) breakfast, and I certainly had my priorities straight. I had two coffees, and much Nutella. By the time I was finished consuming Nutella and coffees, my companions were up and ready to go, so off we went.
Our objective now was to head to the old pedestrian part of Heidelberg, where we would stroll around eating and drinking to our heart’s content.
Easy! Simple! Surely the fun would now begin.
See? Heidelberg is great!
However, before things could get better… they first had to get worse.
We drove downtown, searching for a place to park. Found a parkade. It looked like we’d need cash to pay to park there, so Cara and I headed down the street to find an ATM. Steve got out of the car to smoke. And when Cara and I returned from the ATM, Steve was still there smoking… but Andrew and the car were nowhere to be found.
As far as I can figure, and I might be remembering this wrong (I can’t say the mental state of any of us was all that sharp at this point), but I was under the impression that Andrew intended to just drive around to the other side of the parkade to find an entry, slipped onto a very busy roadway… a one-way… and found himself swept away in traffic. This is what I was imagining, anyway.
All I knew for sure was that it’d probably be a good long while before he found his way back to us.
I recalled the classic advice they gave to us in school as children — if you’re ever lost, just stay put. That way whomever is looking for you has a chance to find you. This made sense to me, so I would not move. I would remain in the exact place I had last seen Andrew. I would stay there for the rest of my life, or until he found me. There was no other option for me.
(Obviously, if we had cell phones, this story would’ve been a lot less dramatic.)
Cara and Steve kindly waited with me for awhile, but it wasn’t long before I confessed my breakfast pig-out to them, and urged them to go find something to eat for themselves.
So, I was left sitting there on a side street by a parkade in Heidelberg, waiting for Andrew to somehow miraculously find me again.
I didn’t think I’d ever see him again.
I began to think I’d never see ANYBODY again.
“This is my life now,” I thought to myself, a feeling of tremendous tragedy washing over me.
I felt very sorry for myself.
I began to cry a bit.
It was a very pathetic time for me.
And then, the rain began. Because of course.
I was now crying alone in the rain. Seems there must be some cheesy 80’s ballads about this kind of thing.
In an effort to shelter myself from the rain, I moved into a doorway and perched there on the step, trying not to feel TOO sorry for myself.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse… they totally did.
Someone decided to join me in that very pathetic doorway in the rain.
Was it an adorable old lady?
A helpful gentleman?
A spritely charming girl?
It was a very weathered old man with two crows on his shoulders and bird shit running down his back.
Read that sentence again.
He had TWO CROWS on his shoulders, and his back was COVERED IN BIRD SHIT.
And he had evidently decided to wait there with me.
Horrified, it occurred to me that I probably looked equally as dejected as he perhaps felt… and he might’ve considered me a kindred spirit.
I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to throw up or punch something.
I wanted to do both.
I did neither.
I didn’t move, I didn’t acknowledge him. It seemed to me that my new companion was probably fairly unstable. You know, because of the birds that seemed to live permanently on his shoulders, and all that crap all over his back. Call me judgemental if you want… because I am, yes. Very.
So… THIS was among the worst moments of my life.
I seemed to have lost my husband, I was alone, it was raining, and now I had evidently been adopted by a man covered in fecal matter.
THIS is what I needed. Beer. With people I know and like.
But then, the rain cleared up, I left the sheltering doorway, and the shit-covered man finally left my side and disappeared.
Once again alone, I felt calm. I just sat there, looking around… and then I saw him.
The love of my life!
He had returned!
Cue the music… because I heard it. This is when the music swells victoriously, romantically.
We hurried down the street toward each other and embraced.
Then found our companions and hit the town for real. And it was great. I’ll tell you about it sometime.
Oh, Heidelberg. You crazy town, you.