Umbrellas and Busy Streets
Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
61Trip End May 15, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Umbrellas and Busy Streets
Today was Steve's first day of work and so I decided to go sightseeing by myself. I was a little nervous (OK really nervous) about going out alone out of fear that I would get lost and not be able to find my way back to the hotel. But I figured I couldn't stay in the hotel forever. Besides that, I had to find a computer cord in order to send and receive emails since Steve took his computer to work. So my main mission was to find the Saturn store where Steve bought his computer cord a few days ago.
Steve gave me general directions to the store before he left for work. He said, "Turn right when you walk out of the hotel and go straight until you hit Neumarkt. When you get there, look for the big Saturn sign on one of the stores". Seemed easy enough. So, I started walking. I was about 3 blocks into my journey when it started pouring rain. Suddenly the sidewalks disappeared under the cover of umbrellas...they came flying out of nowhere! Funny thing is...I saw no one carrying them before it started raining. And now EVERYONE had one except me.
So in the rain I walked for what seemed like forever until I reached Neumarkt. This is the center of the shopping plaza in Cologne where all of the big shops meet. It is also the main train station where all of the trains, busses, and taxis converge. It is very busy and very confusing. I stood there in the pouring rain trying to find the stupid Saturn store and saw nothing. Frustrated and very wet, I kept walking.
By now it's pouring rain and the wind has picked up. Everyone is carrying an umbrella and I am freezing cold and very jealous. I get to the main intersection and I'm waiting for the crosswalk sign to turn green and I notice that there is a guy standing next to me and he doesn't have an umbrella either. So I begin thinking, "Sweet...another tourist like me!" Relieved now that I'm not the only one without an umbrella anymore, the sting of the pelting rain on my face doesn't hurt quite as bad as it did before.
As I'm waiting for the crosswalk sign to turn green, the man next to me becomes impatient and so he starts crossing the street. I watch and the street is clear so I figure if he's going then I guess I can go too. So I start to take a step forward and whoosh...a train goes by right in front of me. I could feel the wind of it passing by upon my face. I quickly discovered why crosswalk signs are so important here...because cars aren't the only traffic you have to watch out for. I also realized that Germans know exactly what to look out for before they jaywalk...Americans on the other hand...don't have a clue!
So once I finally get safely to the other side of the street, I duck underneath this awning to get out of the rain and wind. Keep in mind I'm still looking for the stupid Saturn store. The rain finally lets up but it's still really windy. I start walking along the sidewalk in front of a bunch of bakeries and a huge gust of wind picks up behind me. Out of no where, this bike (which looks like a big tricycle) veers off the sidewalk and starts heading straight for me. Before I can move out of the way, it runs right into me. Totally embarrassed that I just got hit by bicycle, I push it aside and I begin walking again. No sooner did I push it away and the stupid thing starts careening straight toward a taxicab parked on the side of the road. At this point, there are probably 30 people walking on the sidewalk next to me and no one is stopping to catch it. Great...what am I supposed to do now?
Well, being the Good Samaritan that I am, I run after the bike, catch it, and bring it back up to one of the cafes. Proud that I did my first civic duty for my new country, I start walking away. As soon as I turn my back, the bike starts heading toward the street AGAIN. This time, I let it go! For all I knew there was some German in one of the cafes laughing as he watched me chase his bike all over the place. Sure enough, just as it was about to hit the cab, a guy ran out and grabbed it. He and the cab driver exchanged some not very nice words in German and I just stood there and laughed!
After the whole bike fiasco, I continued walking in search of the Saturn store. Keep in mind, I've now been gone almost 2 hours and I'm starting to get really upset. I finally decide that I may need some help. So I stop inside a Starbucks and ask for directions. The first lady I asked thought Saturn was a type of coffee. When she realized I wasn't there to drink and that I clearly did not speak German, she brought her friend over to help. Her friend was Swedish but understood just enough English to figure out that I was looking for a store and not a beverage. These were her directions...
"Walk down that street over there and when it bends just keep walking. After maybe 15 more minutes, you'll meet another road that bends, it will bend and bend and bend some more, just keep walking...it's a long walk. Stay on bending road for 15 minutes more and you'll be in Freisenplatz. There you see big Saturn store".
WHAT? You've got to be kidding me. What kind of directions are those? Since Steve didn't tell me anything about Freisenplatz or any Platz for that matter, I was sure her directions must be wrong. So I asked again and then she says, "Ah...Saturn...there's a small size store around corner". You can only imagine my frustration.
OK...so let's see where were at...I'm soaking wet, I've already gotten lost, I've been hit by a bike (almost run over by a train), and I still haven't found the Saturn store yet. Can you imagine how crabby I am by now? I'm at the point of giving up but realize I can't because if I do, I won't be able to use my computer. So I stumble on. I FINALLY find the store after an hour and a half of walking. I am so relieved. But there was something strangely familiar about the store and it's location...I had seen it before. Sure enough, Steve and I walked by it last night! Our hotel is right around the corner. If he had told me to turn left out of the hotel instead of right, I would have only had to walk one block instead of in a complete circle ALL THE WAY AROUND the city. I could have been to the store in 5 minutes instead of an hour!
Anger aside, I go inside the store to search for my computer cord. First I looked in the computer section and when I didn't see what I needed, I tried to find a sales person to help me. The first guy I talked too didn't speak English. So I hand him my old computer cord and try to show him what I need. He looks at me and shrugs his shoulders. So I start pointing. Clearly we don't understand eachother. He brings me to another lady and I try to ask her in German where to find the cord. She doesn't speak German...she's Scandinavian! Unbelievable! So she brings me to a third guy who finally shows me where the cord is. Once I find it, I realize that the cord he's given me is for an Audio connection and not a computer connection. I try to explain that I need the cord for a computer and not a stereo. The sales person doesn't understand me and he begins to walk away. I am all out of patience by now. I walk in front of him and begin air typing as if I'm on a computer. He looks at me, smiles, and says "YA"! Finally...someone who understands me! Pleased with my fabulous communication skills, I pay for my computer cord and leave the store with a smile on my face.
By the time I walk outside, the sun is shining. It's the first time I've seen the sun since I've been here. What started out being a shopping nightmare, ended up being quite the learning experience for me. In the future, I will always bring an umbrella when I go outside because in Germany you never know when it is going to rain. I will always bring a map with me because you never know when you may get lost (even if the directions come from your husband!). And I will be more cautious of my surroundings because you never know when you could get hit by a train or in my case, a runaway bike!