In addition to afternoon walks to various museums and sights sponsored by the Goethe Institute, I put in my daily walk to and from the guest house to the Institute. I became very fond of my own personal “Schwabisch Weg” in either direction, as this tiny trek was only for a two-week duration but seemed different and fairy-talish every time I took it.
From the map attached, you can see that there are multiple ways to accomplish getting there. Initially, I got lost more than once, in my inimitable way of trying to find shortcuts. They usually led to dead-ends (any life lessons here?) but somehow I managed to dig my way out of innocuous tribulations for the benefit of a hearty trial.
While only 8 minutes each direction according to Google Maps, it actually takes longer.
As you exit the building and the guest house, you must go in the opposite direction (ie, north or up in the map) from the destination, along a very narrow and heavily traveled route, to cross the road. The traffic is erratic and unpredictable, thus the need for a subterranean crossing. Some liked dashing across the road, but I decided that a little more exercise wasn’t going to hurt and others wiser than me thought it was safer. It occurred to me that I could make someone pretty miserable if they hit me by mistake, but whoever thinks of that?? I must be getting senile, or more considerate in my old age!
The Grundschule am Langen Graben, a grade school, adjacent to our living quarters, is paired with what looks like a private upper school for the older students. I first noticed it with the traffic signs decorated by school children reminding everyone of its precious cargo (as we used to refer to kids being transported in the U.S.) The signs were made by students, and the adorable naive drawings, life-size, were good reminders to adults and drivers to mind the crossing for children.
After navigating past the very official automatic barricade and the stainless steel man-gate, you can make your way past the private vehicular entrance to the public tunnel under the road. It’s a bit dark and uninviting, but it’s perfectly safe day or night. The cold concrete and functional features don’t ask anyone to dally, except for more student artwork of life-size kids lined up in a row to remind you of the little people in the area.
Once past this threshold is another set of steps. It threads through the Landrat Building, a pretty innocuous modern government admin building for Migrants. I imagined that one day soon that building would be overwhelmed, but as of yet had not seen any impact of the refugees coming in. I could only identify the access with an auto insurance company logo. That reminded me of one of our class lessons in “Versicherheit”, or insurance, that is so essential for survival in Germany.
Immediately after, you link into a quick swoop down a cobbled, winding street clad with modern housing over small scale retail. The shops offer natural wool-made products, a shoe maker, photography studio, and candy. A furniture store connected to the building with the auto insurance broker displays Scandinavian style Futon lounges and L-shaped sectional seating for $450.00. You wonder if they are still selling the original goods from the 60’s or whether they are a retro-snap–for that price it’s a bargain.
Steps are necessitated by a gradual downward grade toward the river. Remember the entry steps outside St. Michael’s Cathedral, facing the river. It’s a good stage for theater, dance, and musical events.
We carry on to the Big Steps. Modernized to fit a little town on the move, this wide, stone-surfaced series of three or more flights straight down the hill make you hesitate and think twice before tackling it. It is laden with broken glass from the previous weekend’s teenage brawl. Maybe better dealing with the clean-up than the guns or mindless violence we see in the States, I say to myself.
You can opt for the glitzy glass elevator if you don’t have the stamina to tackle the straight shot down the stairs. A bit hard to find, the vertical tower gleams in open space by itself. The only problem is how to get to it. Once you figure it out, the path to it has another challenge. The open steel grating to let water through is a bit unsettling. Don’t look down, or you might get vertigo. Innate trust in engineering calls on you. You have a momentary dilemma–should I go back and take the tumbling steps, or tiptoe over the grating to avoid any vibration and looking down?
Once down toward the river and near the Institute, you have one of three ways to the classroom. You can go either to the right up the alley then around the courtyard in the middle of a U-shaped building, or to the left up the alley and up a flight of stairs outside. The middle route, where I normally went under the arch into the complex, by-passed an immigrant beggar every day. I avoided this path as it made me feel guilty that I hadn’t supported this person in need.
The Goethe Institute was located in a renovated building that formerly was a hospital. In the middle of the hospital was a chapel. It was apparent that the chapel was an integral part of the hospital operations. When the hospital was no longer needed or moved, the chapel was repurposed into a gathering and meeting space for the Institute. The outdoor courtyard, or hof, surrounding the building, provided a social activity space. A few inexpensive tables and chairs were enough to become an inviting and lively atmosphere for students.
While the trips back and forth to the Institute were rushed many days, it was short and sweet enough to help me appreciate the history and quality of the environment. It’s a memory that I hope I have captured and can preserve for a long time.