Melanie's mother gave her the number for Alois - her uncle, who was expected to pick us up at Dusseldorf airport. We quickly called the number and got his wife, who informed us Alois had already left....though she gave us his cellphone number. When we asked her if she could call him and just tell him we would be taking the train, she seemed strangly uncomittal, so we took it on ourselves to make the next call again. OOPS...the number appeared wrong. Melanie wondered if it was just her having missed a number from the conversation. So, after trying a couple times, both on the lovely pink phone (pic below) and my own cellphone, we called Alois' wife again. She re-read the number to Melanie, and did indicate that she had spoken to Alois herself, so at least he knew the change in plan. We tried to call him again so that we could firm up...still a wrong number.
Screw it, let's just go. We had our tickets exchanged for train tickets, and then pulled the handicap card (only with slight reluctance), and asked to get a ride back through the station to get our luggage. A nice gentleman soon pulled up in his extendicab-golf-cart, and we hitched a ride back from whence we came in the station. I'm almost certain I saw an eclipse at one point. Luggage retrieval was strangly uneventful, only hindered by my inability to figure out how the hell to get a cart off the rack. Helped by mute German worker (for all I know), and we tailed it out of there. First one elevator upstairs...then lined up for second elevator, watching people going up accidently, therefore tying up the device longer as they go back down again. We got on, and walked towards our next journey...another elevator.
This one would feel clastrophobic to Warwick Davies. I went up first with the luggage, scrunched up against the wall, and Melanie and Nathaniel joined me on the next trip. We then headed over to the train station.
The wait here was about an hour and a half. Melanie got Nathaniel settled down, while I went for a walk to find some food and experience my first German retailer to Dumb-Englishman experience. Didn't go that bad, though he did ask me something about the pizza I ordered. Perhaps it was, 'This is still a little cold, you want me to heat it up more for you?'. I had smiled, shrugged, took my pizza, paid my first Euros out and headed back to Melanie. Who informed me she couldn't finish the pizza as it was cold. So, I smiled, shrugged, then ate both slices.
Soon enough we boarded. Luckily this was no TTC train...a kindly stranger helped me lug our 4 suitcases onto the train, and the watchman helped Mel get Nathaniel onboard. We were off. Once we got past the fog, I began to have a shock. It's GREEN here. Rolling fields of green grass as far as the eye can see. Beautiful little Hamlets surrounded by turf a Football team would endorse. Nathaniel nodded off in Melanie's arms, and I took a shot at trying to catch up on a few myself...but didn't do so well.
There was a momentary panic at one station when they just stopped and sat for awile. We wondered if we had accidently taken the train with a layover involved, but decided to stay onboard and take a chance. The watchman soon confirmed our good judgement, after we began moving again. Then finally I saw the sign Dusseldorf-HBF appear alongside, and we debarked. The watchman helped once again.
I grabbed a cart from the rack (easily this time - though was surprised at the 1-Euro deposit required...they obviously value their carts more than Canada does), and we took the elevator downstairs to the terminal beneath.
Now the culmination of the days problems reached a head. You see, we had verbal confirmation that Alois knew we were taking a train, but had no idea where to meet. So we walked into this seemingly endless mall, and found a telephone. And I laughed out loud.
OK, the Pink Phones are cool. Germany has them everywhere. In Canada, it would be a political statement. Melanie began making the calls again. Still wrong number. So, back to Alois's home again. Finally, after some rangling and pacing...we discovered he was at Dusseldorf Airport station, not HBF. There's TWO? That's ok, he's coming to meet us. About thirty tiring minutes of standing around later, I spot Alois (he's very tall), alongside Melanie's Oma walking away from our area looking around. I run after them, and the reunion finally occurs.
After some chatting about the whole adventure and to discover Melanie was forgetting a 1 in the phone number (Germans speak numbers different than English. They will say the smaller digit first, where we say the larger first. For example 21 is 1 and 20. This confused Melanie's tired brain (she is mostly fluent, but did move away form Germany at 8 years old, so she can be excused for not remembering all the vocabulary), we headed back to the trains to go to the Dusseldorf Airport station. We let 3 trains go by before we realized we should be on the other side of the sign, and then got onboard. 10 minutes later we were there.
Now, to find the car. Sounds like a simple task. But on this day? Nooooooo. 25 minutes were now spent walking all over the place trying to find this magical P8 area. Ok...one elevator upstairs. Look around again...nope. Next elevator up. Nope...now go outside and walk for 5 minutes...finally find P8. Next find the car. I am in astonishment at this point at the cars around us. Not a spec of rust anywhere. I'm seeing Jaguars mingling with Mercedes, VW's, the occasional Ford and various other brands...all brand new and healthy looking cars. You'd think it was a dealers lot. Alois finally let me know what sub-section he was looking for, and I spotted it in 4 seconds. We found the Honda (Natural Gas Powered) SUV, loaded Nathaniel and our luggage in, and got the hell out of there.
The drive back was impressive. It was pissing rain out, and Alois was driving between 120-150km/h at any given time, except in the pockets of construction where it slowed to 20-30. I finally got a bit of sleep, though woke myself up with my own snoring. The other thing I soon noticed was the windmills (though will write about those later).
We arrived in Rietberg after a couple hours, and it was only then that I discovered we weren't actually staying with Alois at first...we were at Jürgen (another uncle) and his wife Monica's house. Doorbells were run, and Vanessa (their daughter answered), and seemed oddly surprised by our presence. I was on complete auto-pilot at this point and nobody was telling me what all the rapid-German was about so I just unloaded the luggage, carseat, etc; and waved as Alois and Anna (Oma) drove away. We visited awhile downstairs with the family. Fresh baked goods and Pilsner were poured into me, and I found myself getting more and more tired (though happy). Jürgen speaks some English so we spoke a bit.
Finally I just looked at Melanie and indicated I had reached my absolute limit of exhaustion. We got upstairs to their son Jerome's suite of rooms (he was loaning it to us for the trip) and prepped for bed. It was only then that I discovered that they had for some reason not expected us for a few days...some lack of communication apparently between all the parties involved.
But we were all safe, and not being tossed out on our asses. Our destination had been reached, and I could finally get some rest. "I'm in Germany", I finally was allowing myself to intone. Then I passed out.
And FINALLY that's Day 1. Lots of stuff to write about on their other days, but those will be different in tone. We leave tomorrow morning for a more remote area of the country and may be outside the influence of the internet...but I will keep writing and will post when I can.