For the next 3 weeks following my departure from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, my route took me through the Netherlands, down to Belgium and through Luxembourg before I finally returned to Germany, where I would spend the next month in Stuttgart and Berlin. A long 6-hour journey presented itself before me, as the bus departed from Luxembourg Central station, first passing through the beautiful rolling hills to Schengen, the town marking the tri-point of Germany, France and Luxembourg, and where the Schengen Agreement was signed. The journey then took me through the more pronounced plains of the Saarland in southwestern Germany to Saarbrucken, and following an entire hour’s wait at Kaiserslautern, I passed through Mannheim and Heilbronn before finally disembarking at Stuttgart North.
My weary face was washed awake by the evening sun, and my spirits were instantly lifted when I saw my friend Simon that I met in Lombok, Indonesia, standing nearby awaiting my arrival. I would stay with him for a week in his hometown of Vaihingen an der Enz, a suburb in the greater Stuttgart area. You can’t imagine how delighted I must have been to see him again, despite being only a month and a half. He walked me to his Skoda and we set off for the final 20-minute leg to Vaihingen, stopping at a Rewe supermarket along the way for groceries and of course, a few celebratory beers. Along the way he talked me through the bus accident that he and another mutual friend, Manuel, were involved in back in Indonesia. It was crushing to know he’s no longer in this world, and although there was a slight feeling of grief on the way, it could not have trumped how thankful I was to be able to visit Simon, and I’m sure Manuel must be smiling to know I managed to make it all the way here.
We spent the next few days cruising around town, picnicking and hanging out with Cassandra and Philip, Simon’s close friends, of whom were very welcoming of my visit. Vaihingen’s population consisted of around 30,000, and has been around for at least nine centuries. It was also the site of a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, and a memorial remembering those who perished has now stood in its place.