The word Gleisersatzverkehr is an important word to know in German. It means “hahahaha, your train’s not coming sucker.” It also means “there’s construction on the tracks,” “your trip is now going to involve switching between several (slow) buses and trains,” and, literally, “track replacement traffic.”
I was on my way to Esslingen, a little town (by little I mean approx. 90,000 inhabitants) on the Neckar. But I was going there via Mannheim, where I could trade in my train seat for a seat in a beat up old police van (no longer owned by the police). I took the train to Worms, did some transferring and bus riding to circumvent the construction on the tracks, and landed in Mannheim two and a half hours later.
Checking out Mannheim
With two hours still to kill before my ride to Esslingen showed up, I strolled through town. I’ve always had this stereotype of Mannheim in my head–from other people’s trash talking and my own (winter) experience–that Mannheim is an ugly place, a place to avoid visiting. And it’s no Prague or Stockholm. But on a sunny day, even Mannheim doesn’t look half bad.
“Leben im Quadrat!” exclaimed several tourism signs that I passed as I walked. The people who designed Mannheim thought it would be funny to take a big part of the city and give everything letters and numbers instead of regular old street names. A failed attempt at hyper-efficiency, I say. The result makes me feel like I’m trapped in a poorly funded dystopic science fiction movie. But it’s easy to remember street names.
Eventually I came to Friedrichsplatz Park, and sat down in the park facing the water tower. The fountain bubbled, people lay in the sun or walked dogs, and I leaned against a tree attempting to read, but mostly just staring at passersby. Spring euphoria is contagious, even in The Cube.
Off to Esslingen
At 2 p.m., I met my friends and we buzzed off on the autobahn, past fields and forests and idyllic farm landscapes and after about two hours, down a winding mountain road and down into the orange-roofed streets of Esslingen.
Esslingen is an attractive German-ideal-postcard city filled with half-timbered houses and canals and a general feeling of quaintness, of another time still lingering in the architecture and cobblestones. Meanwhile the astronomical clock on the city hall—an impressive clock started in 1581 by mater clock maker Marx Schwarz and finished in 1589 by Heinrich Schickhardt—ticks on, marking the present time of day, the month, and the phases of the moon and the sun.
But we hadn’t come to sightsee. We’d come to listen to punk rock at Komma, a rock club tucked unsuspectingly between half-timber houses and a large canal. This was the reason 200 people were gathered in a rock venue in Bavaria on a Sunday night; and the reason they all went home smiling later that night.
Read more of Nikki’s work on her blog here: http://www.clickclackgorilla.com/