Lauda !! My German Adventure .. By Aman Sandhu
Sie Tunesien?? The cabbie asked me, he must be in his 40s and seemed puzzled when I said “No – Indien”. It was a warm German Friday (5 Degrees), I was headed to Oberhausen Hbf. (train station). “Lauda – Konigshofen” my jump instructor stressed, that was the little station I needed to get to. I started my Skydiving AFF course in Australia and I just booked levels 4,5 and 6 at a small aerodrome in “Lauda Konigshofen” J. The German transport system is amongst the most tourist friendly and it’s pretty simple to get your trip printed through a kiosk with connections across trains, busses and sometime boatsJ. Since my destination was rather small I headed to the tourist help desk and got my itinerary printed, the lady at the desk spoke better German than English so I wrote down the name of the station (you guessed it) for her, since I used a German Rail Pass all I needed was the itinerary printed with train changes and I was good to go. She handed me the print and there it was, 4 odd hours and a few train changes away “LAUDA KONIGSHOFEN”.
I sat back, got myself an espresso from the vending machine J and went through my logbook, My instructor was to pick me up from the station, I would be in time for dinner a small camp fire, thinking about that camp fire kept me warm especially through the train changes. A late evening train in Germany, especially on a weekend can be really interesting; you have the crazies who still think “Fubu” is cool, the parteeee crowd that seemed to be dressed for a tropical beach (I like them the most), the office guy who is still glued to the newspaper at 10 pm, the hard workers heading home after a long shift and of course the Lone wolf from Indien J sitting at the back staring at everyone!! I was on my last leg and there were just a handful of folks left in my coach, after a quick ride the lady finally said those magical words “KONIGSHOFEN”. It wasn’t much of a station but a parking lot with railway lines running through it. I called my instructor a few times but it went straight to voicemail, it was around 10 PM and I was in the middle of a village not sure what to do next. I walked a bit with the hope of getting to a coffee shop or a tavern but there was nothing, the whole place was a ghost town. Take a pause and ask yourself – How does one pay for sport activities run in a small aerodrome …. The answer is CASH, I had 800 Euros on me and I had to prepare myself for “Worst Case Scenarios”. I had a Parker Pen, it was all metallic and that was my primary tool of self-defence, I had a few chocolate bars in my pack so food was set, the temperature had dropped and it was freezing and at the moment I was adequately clad. My instructor wasn’t getting to his phone, it was way past midnight in India and I didn’t want to worry my wife and folks so I decided not to call anyone home. I didn’t have an internet connection nor did I have any emergency numbers stored in my phone. With just one car on the highway in over 50 minutes I started to walk towards what seemed like a few houses put together (it was 11 PM).
I walked for over an hour before I spotted an old couple steadily walking. I approached them and tried to explain what had happened but I couldn’t convey a word, I showed them a small scribbling of a skydiver I had on my diary, I wondered if there was an aerodrome around the locals would’ve seen skydivers and parachutes for sure. I could see they wanted to help but they started to give up, it was past midnight I could be crazy, a homeless guy or somebody worse. As luck could have it my instructor finally got to his phone and I put him straight to the couple. After a 5 min chat on the phone they handed it to me and looked concerned as I took the phone. I was in the wrong direction and over 150 km away from my correct destination, the government changed the station names from Lauda Konigshofen to just “LAUDA” and the station I got off was way off the grid.
It was past midnight now and my adventure had just started.
The couple agreed to walk me to a hostel nearby, I walked with them to their home where the old lady said her goodbyes and then we walked for a while till the old man pointed towards what looked like a 100 year old building. I finally got to the building rang the doorbell and waited, after a good 5 min a bulb lit and I could finally read what was written on what looked like a flag pinned to the door – It said “Nazis of ST******T”. If you are a Tarantino fan you know this was a SHITTY SITUATION. It was freezing outside and I still hoped that someone might come, after about 5 min the bulb went off and no one opened the door. I headed out of the compound and started to walk back, it wasn’t easy to ask but I had to get back to the old couple’s house and request them to let me sleep in their garage or compound. On my way back I spotted a small park with a park bench and for some strange reason I decided to stay there till the sun came up and then find my way back. I wasn’t carrying my sleeping bag so decided to hug my bag and stick my face in it. It was 2 am and I was 4 hours away from the first train out of that village. I tried to sleep and after what seemed like an eternity I checked my watch, it had just been 30 min. I knew another 4 hours on that bench would get me sick or mugged and I wanted to be in my best shape to jump out of a plane. I decided to go back to their house and only pray that the old folks get up. I rang the bell and waited.
The couple was really helpful, they woke up their son who spoke some English and worked in the city. He took out his car and agreed to drive me on the autobahn to the nearest train station at Aschaffenburg, he refused to take any money and told me I wasn’t the first tourist he had helped. Train stations in Germany are shut and you are not allowed to loiter around after hours, I managed to convince the cops on duty, showed them by rail pass and explained how I got lost, they instantly agreed and let me wait inside, once again I got some espresso from the vending machine and got the first train out to Wurzburg, a few quick changes and I was in “LAUDA”
In the end the weather packed up and I couldn’t really jump but the team at the club and all the ground training sessions in the cold were fun.
God bless that family in Konigshofen !!