Saturday, September 18, 2004

Olten, Switzerland—Karlsruhe, Germany—Stuttgart, Germany—Day 231

Today I took the train up from Olten to Karlruhe, where I stopped to go to the zoo before heading to Stuttgart for the night. I checked out of the hotel, walked to the train station and took just any train to Basel, knowing that something would connect out of there to where I needed to go. I got off in Basel, looked around and saw a train going to Frankfurt. Knowing that this was probably m train, but not quite really knowing, I went in search of an information desk and when I found out that it was my train, I had just missed.

An hour later I was on the same train heading to Karlsruhe. It was a really nice train—super fast and huge, with its own restaurant and information booth in it! I was impressed. I had a bizarre encounter with a man who asked me (of course in German) to save him a seat near me—he kept wanting to take my jacket away from me and I was so confused. I kept sort of looking at him like he was nuts, then going back to reading my new book. When this didn’t work, I finally realized that he wanted me to drape my jacket on the seats to save them for him.

Ohhh, ok. So I did and he was happy. Came back a few minutes later, sat down and then was asked to move by the train conductor who told him that it was for people with disabilities only.

My stop finally came and I got off, found a storage locker and set off for the zoo. I went to the information desk for the trams and asked for the zoo and she pointed across the street. Why, there is was! Right across the street! Perfect!

I walked up and sure enough, there was the zoo. They even had a hippo feeding time scheduled for 4:30pm. I was set. I got a leisurely lunch at the restaurant just outside the zoo, paid my bill and went in. I found the hippos after a big of a confusion reading the map and had to push my way through people just to get a view. I made my initial assessment (number of hippos, where the good viewing areas are, etc.) and then went to the inside hippo enclosure to take pictures of it while I waited. I then got a crepe and read my book until about 4:15. I got up, got my camera together and went over to the hippos.

I noticed at this point that there weren’t any people around the hippo enclosure like before so I thought it must have just been a slow time, but then I approached, watched for a bit and realized that the hippos weren’t even in there! Did they go inside? How did I miss this?

Sure enough, they did. How I missed this I don’t know—considering I was RIGHT there the entire time. I guess stopping for a crepe was my downfall. Anyways, I took pictures while the hippos munched on their hay and was happy that the elephants were also indoors in the same enclosure. People were more interested in watching the elephants than the hippos which meant that I didn’t have to block too many people’s view.

Their indoor enclosure as small, but both had a pool each. They were separated and one hippo had two bit bottom teeth sticking out. I watched them both until the very last second—until the first hippo fell asleep on the ground behind a pole (not good for me!) and the other one casually made it into the water, disappearing from sight. I guess the “hippo feeding time” really was just that they brought them in and fed them hay.

It was going on 5:30 by this time and the zoo was soon going to close. I walked back out of the zoo and to the front entrance where I inquired about the hippos names. The woman working thought I was totally ridiculous but finally scribbled down some names and thrust my paper back at me. I could make out one name “Nema” but the other…it remains a mystery and even as I tried to clarify with her, I still was confused. I will just have to go back in the next few days and ask someone else to help me.

I went back into the train station, got my things (and had a random man tell me “Thank you come again” in English when I got my things out—very strange) and got on a train to Stuttgart, where my hotel is. The train is an express service so I read my book without having to transfer trains, sitting next to an older man who literally chugged a small bottle of wine in about two minutes and proceeded to fall asleep. He then woke up and realized I spoke English and when his stop arrived he told me “Thank you and goodnight.”

I got to Stuttgart and got a taxi to my hotel—another hotel that was deceivingly close to the train station however I couldn’t have walked this time around, and dropped off my stuff. I then walked around the area that my hotel is in and found a kebab shop for dinner, then walked down and watched the most acrobatic family do some street performing that was quite impressive—I don’t’ know if I was more impressed by their gymnastics or by their sparkly matching spandex costumes.

I then walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.