As we approached Stuttgart, we knew we had arrived before we actually saw the city, because suddenly we were in frustrating stop-and-go traffic. I wished I was driving, not only because I miss my widdle manual Honda back home, but because patience with this kind of situation is not my dad’s strongest suit
. And to top it all off, the Hegel Museum would be closed at 4:00 pm, so there was an invisible clock ticking away (and especially loud in Dad’s ears I think!) We inched on through the city, whose streets we clearly not designed for this kind of modern traffic jam, and I was often countering my dad’s increasingly panicked angry muttering and swearing with my "Counselor Voice," reminding him that we still had plenty of time and that stressing out (and stressing ME out) wasn’t going to get us there any faster and to please, PLEASE take a deep breath. Woohoo, de-escalation experience! Thank goodness I have worked with emotionally disturbed kids for most of my adult life. This is not the first time that it’s come in handy outside of work, let me tell you.
And it wasn’t the last time that it would come in handy either. In fact, we were just starting to utilize my skills – because at some point we realized that neither of us had the address or directions to the museum. Ruh roh! Before Dad’s head literally exploded – because that probably wouldn’t be very safe driving – I did some quick problem solving and found the address to the Information and Visitor’s Center. But now it was a full on crisis in the car, because Dad was sure that we would miss the museum by minutes and everything would be for naught. I tried to get him to see that his freak out session was just making things a whole lot more stressful for the both of us, but it seemed that the best solution was not logic but QUICKLY arriving at the information center so that we could figure out where we needed to go
. We pulled up to the curb and I saw the sign with just an “I” posted on it and hopped out of the car, ready to play a live action game of Frogger. I had to wait quite a while to even get half way across the street – it was super busy without a gap between cars for almost five minutes. I didn’t know how Dad was faring in the car, but I couldn’t think about it right then: I needed to survive getting across the street! I hadn’t even brought my jacket with me, so I was shivering violently but totally unwilling to go back until I had the address. Finally, I made it all the way across the street, albeit with tons of honking at me (I’ve noticed that Germans really like to self-police others committing traffic violations!) and into the center. Hell yeah, they had brochures for the museum! I grabbed one and raced back outside… and saw, finally, that there was a pedestrian walkway underneath the busy street that I had risked my life on! Duh, no wonder it was so hard to get across! So getting back to the car was much more simple, and the ride to the museum was at least slightly more calm.
So anyway, we totally made it to the pretty nondescript building located on a fairly quiet street that houses the Hegel Museum with PAH-LENTY of time to spare. We walked inside and the guy working the counter spoke no English, so when Dad tried to get out his wallet to pay, I had to translate: “he said it’s free!” That was a surprise – I wonder how they can afford to let people in without paying. Pretty much everything has required at least a few euros for entrance here in Germany. We walked through, and I tried to regulate my speed. This stop wasn’t exactly for me, so I didn’t want my normal pace to rush Dad when he was even MORE of a fanboy for Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Funny how museums and exhibits that I’m genuinely interested in, I am nearly sprinting through, but things that I have little to no interest in, I am thoughtfully meandering from beginning to end
I did learn more than I could have ever wanted to about Hegel. Mostly I just watched as Dad read through everything and took a picture of his (alleged!) velvet beret. There were some cool old books – antique books and book binding are two subjects that I actually am really interested in. So I spent a lot of time at that part of the exhibit while Dad caught up. Eventually, we departed from the museum, as there’s only so much time that we could spend there… although my dad and I may have different opinions about that!
We opted to figure out where we were going to stay for the night before finding food or seeing anything else in the city. I had written down three different hostels the night before, so we drove to the first one, and I popped in while Dad sat out in the car. Surprisingly, the two girls working only spoke German, which I thought was a little unusual for staff at a hostel, but even more surprisingly, I was totally able to talk to them and
understand what they were saying in response. And the most surprisingly of all was that they only had ONE available room (not gonna work for the both of us), and when they thoughtfully called up the other hostels in the city, those were COMPLETELY booked! They explained that Stuttgart was very busy now for some reason
. They actually told me why, but that was just beyond my level of comprehension, and it didn’t really matter anyway, because suddenly we were going to have to think fast about where we could stay that night. There were some listings for lodging in the guidebook, but all the ones that we stopped by were similarly out of available rooms. We briefly considered sleeping in the car, but neither of us had really planned for it, and in the end it seemed like a better idea just to move on to another city. As I flipped through the guide, trying to see a city that was large enough that it would have cheap facilities that weren’t just youth hostels, I was losing hope. Dad was talking about visiting Tübingen tomorrow, so we needed to stay somewhere in the south if at all possible. Then I flipped to Ulm. It was relatively close, had some cheap listings, and heyo, was home to several superlative sights (which I happen to be a total sucker for) – tallest cathedral steeple, crookedest house, and oldest zoomorphic sculpture were ALL located in Ulm. Plus Albert Einstein was born there! It was a big leap of faith to drive all the way there, because we could get there and STILL have no place to sleep AND it would be much later, but it seemed unlikely that we wouldn’t be able to figure something out. So with our GPS lady telling us where to go, we drove up into the hills of Stuttgart and were on our way to the third stop of the day! I rather liked Stuttgart, despite doing nothing that I had wanted to do, but Dad didn’t like how much like a regular city it looked, so I hoped that we would find a place that we both really liked in Ulm.
Something I learned today: Write down addresses while you have the chance!
Our next stop was Stuttgart. Sort of how I knew that we'd soon be climbing into a U-boat when I told Dad about the museum in Speyer, I also knew that the GPS lady would be directing us to Stuttgart next after I mentioned that there was a Hegel Museum (in his birth house, no less!) located there. And off we drove, through the landscape that I was used to from living in Worms – rather pretty countryside shrouded in misty haze more days than not, with the sadly predictable huge factories and smokestacks and nuclear plants plopped down every so often.