After work on Friday one of my boss-people, Thomas, offered to lend me a bike to use while in Heiligenstadt. The walk to work is about three miles in the morning and, although I enjoy this walk and although biking can be a bit hard on my knee, I recognised that it would be useful to have the bike. So we met after work and he drove me back to his house. The route we used to get there was one I hadn't taken before. Leaving IBA, we went right (away from Heiligenstadt) rather than left. A kilometer or so later, on the out-skirts of Geisdale, a neighbouring town, Thomas turned the car left again and we began to climb up and up. I was reminded of many mountains I've driven on and, moments later, the road leveled out running along the top of a kind of plateau surrounded on all sides by valleys.
The plateau itself was heavily forested in some directions and all fields with (boar?)-hunting stands in others. Moments later, the road plunged steeply downwards and we shot through a forest and into Heilbad. Thomas has the radio on and it plays American music the whole way. As time goes on I'll recognise this as being something of a feature of the Germany radio: much of the music it plays does not come from Germany.
Arriving at Thomas's house, he leads me around the side to a vine-covered shed of sorts. Opening the door, we find piles of stuff and a couple of bikes. He frees a red mountain bike from the surrounding junk and pulls it outside, informing me that it needs lights in order to be legal before plunging back in. We search the whole place as thoroughly as we can, which means we barely scratch the surface, but no lights emerge. Giving up, we return several buckets and shelves to their “homes” and Thomas finds a pump with which I make the bike rideable. We stop into the house, which is clean and bright, with an old upright piano in the living room and says hello to his wife before I ride off.
It's just stopped raining and a considerable part of me thinks I should go home.
But I have a bike!
So, I think I'll take just a brief spin around town. This turns into a longer spin through town, then up the steeper streets on the far side of town where I have not gone before. I reach the intersection where a kind man once pointed out the location of the photostudio I used in getting the picture for my residency permit. I go past a pizza place and am almost lured in by the delicious smells, but, stalwart, I continue forwards. And upwards.
The road eventually gives way to gravel and I got past another garden house village (they seem to be everywhere!). I think about stopping, but I can't see where the road goes, save that it goes higher. And, in the spirit of all adventurers, I follow it upwards merely because it goes upwards.
Which brings me to a ridge-top road that goes behind the garden houses, the whole city spreads below me.
To the west and to the North in the foreground there are farm fields…
On the right side of this picture on the top of the green hill is the tower I ran to my first night here.
A scrollable panoramic view of the city.
Off to the west, I can see the faint image of a high hill which I decide then and there I should climb. Later, I will meet a man named Deitmar while I'm walking and, as we gaze out from the cross on the higher hill, he'll tell me that this faint hill has the ruins of a very old castle on top of it. Perfect.
I pass out of the forest temporarily and walk along city streets. This part of town is nice and the houses are separated. Where I live there are large apartment buildings inhabited predominantly by immigrants, which gives the whole area a different feel. My part of town seems to have more people visible: sitting outside, leaning out of their windows, children running about.
Passing back into the forest, I find a map of the trail system and am gratified to see that I haven't even begun to explore these trails! And, if the snows come, it looks as though I'll get to ski again. This brings a twinge of sadness. I bought skis last winter with the intent of becoming much better at it and doing the Book Across the Bay again, but it simply did not snow enough for me to make the time investment. Happily, I ended up at the Flurry instead.
Coming to Heiligenstadt was a difficult choice for me, and part of that difficulty was uncertainty about what the terrain would be like. From overhead and topographic maps it's difficult to get an idea of the character of the terrain. Today, walking around, I am able to take some photographs which would have made me feel more comfortable with the idea of moving here. That map above, which I have been unable to find in nice PDF format on the internet, would also have been helpful to see beforehand.
This is the street I go down to leave town for work every day, by sunset it's made more beautiful, though even by morning there's just something about it.
I cross over the train tracks which brought me into Heiligenstadt (and which will one day carry me out of it) and find there's a trail beside them as well. I'll save that for another day. As I mentioned above, my part of town has apartment buildings and looks different…
Because it's Friday, Madisen and Ping want to go out. For my first several years of university I would have this feeling on Friday nights as well and would usually go out for a walk around or an attempt at socialization. Eventually, the feeling shurnk and I think, somewhere along the way, died. Friday nights might have more people around, but I found them to be little different for me than regular nights. I suppose the theory is that one can stay up later, but I've never really been a fan of doing that. This conversion to a more studious way of life took a while for me and I've often wondered what the result would have been of making it earlier on.
Nonetheless, I don't have any categorical objection to evening activities, so we walk through town to the square where we had supper with Patrick the previous night (hamburger schnitzel is great!). He isn't there, so there are rapid text message exchanges and we walk to meet him. During which time he walks to the square and then trails from behind to catch up with us. Our ultimate destination turns out to be the pizza place I'd smelled earlier in the day!
Patrick's leaving IBA for Wilhelm to begin his Master's studies so this is something of a good-bye meal. Ping has chicken strips, I have a spinach-and-cheese pizza, and Patrick and Madisen stick with strictly beer. But one shouldn't think that these are drinks in the normal sense! Uwe has explained that German beer is considered nutritional and therefore is untaxed; he has further explained, quite seriously, that Germans look (and are) healthier than Americans because of their beer consumption.
Alex, the owner of the restaurant appears sometime later to bring us all blankets so we do not freeze. And then again to give us candles for our table, though no other table has them. I leave sometime before midnight, but not before seeing Alex make a trip up the street and back in his American police car (with LAPD emblazened on the side). After I leave, he produces little bottles of Jagermeister for everyone. Madisen and Ping end up staying until 3:30AM and thus wake up a little later the next day…