There are certain stories every traveler has to have, and one of those stories is missing the bus… not as in almost missing, or even missing it for boarding, but as in riding the bus for an hour, hopping off for the lunch break, hearing the pause length wrong because the German words through the speakers were hard to discern, and coming back outside after lunch to find the bus, with all your luggage, nowhere in sight. Because yep, that happened.
So my friend Olivia and I were stuck in a rest stop in Göttingen, almost an hour drive from Kassel, our destination. We had our small purses with us but on the bus were our backpacks – for Olivia, a weekend’s worth and for me, everything I’d brought to Europe.
Fortunately, from the times I’ve been able to try it out, I am completely calm in these situations. I switch into logic mode and try to figure out what needs to be done. In this case, we needed to call the bus company, and find a ride to Kassel. Which I was thinking wouldn’t be too hard, since a lot of people stopping at the rest area were retired couples with empty seats in their cars. I picked a likely looking couple by their car, and Olivia used her German to ask if we could borrow their cell phone. Once our situation was explained, they pulled out a map and even though Kassel was out of their way, insisted on driving us to the town. Human kindness for the win.
On the drive my mind ran through what I had brought, thinking about what was irreplaceable. Really I could buy everything again – I had the most important things like my money and electronics in my small pack, with me. I hadn’t bought any souvenirs yet, since I didn’t want to carry them around. What I wanted back most was really just the backpack itself, which had already gone with me on a few backpacking trips and held my growing collection of patches from places I’d been.
At first the couple tried to find the bus station (though we’d be too late to catch it and retrieve our stuff before it continued on to Munich), which Olivia and I would later find out is a 20 minute tram ride from the center of town. When plugging in the station’s address unfruitfully brought us to nowhere, they decided to drive all the way into town and to the Haubtbahnhof (main train/bus station), where they left us with hugs and good wishes.
Our 6+ attempts to contact the bus company (do NOT ride with Flixbus) were unsuccessful, but once we found a Starbucks and wifi we emailed them and got a prompt response (?) telling us to pick up our things from a northbound bus tomorrow around 2:30. Yippee!
By borrowing several people’s phones, we were also able to make contact with a couchsurfer and secured a place for the night.
So with our worries lifted, we passed the evening walking through Kassel, which is not a small village like we’d imagined it, but a small city with lots of construction, a large tram system, and city sounds. We bought a few essentials and a cheap shirt each, and ate dinner at one of the many Turkish restaurants off of a main street. Olivia insisted I had to try a Döner, which is rotisserie cooked meat served on a plate, or as a sandwich, or in a pita (aka gyros). It came with pommes frites/fries and was good but so much I was sooo full. Olivia was equally stuffed with her meal and we agreed that from then on, we’d split one dish.
We walked back to the Haubtbahnhof, where the couchsurfer picked us up. He was unable to host us right then, but he took us to the house of his friend, Judith. We joined her and her husband on their back patio for their dinner (people here tend to eat later, though maybe it’s just summer hours?), though we only had tea. The conversation switched back and forth between German (which Olivia can speak, and I can understand the gist of) and English. We talked through the sunset until the air grew cold and they had to light some candles. It was after ten when we said “Gut Nacht” and retired for the night. Judith’s sons were grown and gone, so Olivia and I got our own bedrooms.
The next morning they had breakfast for us, as well as a printed sheet of directions for how to get from their house to town, to the bus station, and to a few sights we wanted to visit. Breakfast was the tea and coffee with the typical Brötchen (toast usually on weekdays, but they bought the step-up of bread rolls because we were guests) with choices of marmelades/cheese/meat/Nutella to put on top.
Olivia and I didn’t have to be at the bus station until 2:30pm, so we had time to visit the Grimm Brothers museum – the main reason why we’d come to Kassel. The museum was filled with artwork for the tales, mementos and history of the brothers’ lives. I made it about halfway before going outside to lie on the lawn and wait for Olivia. My body didn’t really like me that day, my stomach was upset and I had woken up with a bad crick in my neck that hurt and made it hard to turn my head right. Whee. :P I had a great nap and Olivia had a great time in the museum, though, so it was a win-win.
All familiar Subway was our lunch, then we went to wait for the bus that was supposed to come between 2:30 and 2:50, but didn’t arrive until 4pm.. yeah, don’t ride in Flixbus. But WE HAD OUR THINGS! Backpacks on, we stopped to thank God for taking care of us.
We continued on to Herkules, a monument in top of a hill overlooking the city, with a water fountain that carpets the hill down to a grand museum. And of course the water fountains had been turned on for an hour that day…at 2:30pm.
So we missed the flowing water, but we still got to enjoy the view of Kassel. We found a trail that led into a forest park on the side of the monument and our PNW hearts rejoiced in the green nature. It was great to be out of the city atmosphere. We came across another castle built Scottish style that was a bit in ruins but still had gardens and a tree-arched walkway.
We ended at the bottom of the hill, at the large and grand museum. It was about 8pm by then so it was closed, but still very beautiful from the outside.
We took the tram back into the city and hopped off to have dinner at a streetside restaurant, where we split jagerschnitzel and fries and a dessert of fried apple rings covered with an amaretto-vanilla sauce. The waiter recommended a city park to us, which we visited for a bit before heading home. By then it was almost midnight- we’d had a very long, full day. We managed to find Judith’s house again, but had a scare when our key would not work in the lock, and no one responded to the doorbell. There were a good ten minutes- or maybe it was just five and felt like ten- where we sat on their front steps, sure we were locked out for the night. Fortunately Olivia found a way to walk into their back garden, where she found the husband and we got to sleep in real beds that night after all, a good sleep before we headed back to Hannover the next day. On THAT bus ride we only chanced stepping off the bus for 5 minutes. :)
Travel tips: clarify with your bus driver just how long the stop is going to be! Don’t bring with you what you are not okay to lose. And people are very, very kind and helpful. Thank God for those people, remember to be one of those people.