We arrived in Stuttgart mid Tuesday morning. As we exited the train, we immediately realized Maria was not with our group. Ominously, the train jingled a happy about-to-depart tune. Inside the train, Maria was battling for her freedom. She had unknowingly entangled her bag straps with a chair arm. Her hands full of bags, she moonwalked towards the chair attempting to escape. The chair resisted. Maria made a sad and worried little sound, alerting watching strangers to her plight. Outside the train, Giana wondered aloud, "Maria?" Panicking, Maria pulled harder without success. A sympathetic girl leapt to her feet and began yanking on the bag straps. Just when it seemed all hope was lost and Maria was about to soar off towards some mysterious destination, the chair surrendered its prize. Maria dove off the train.
We met up with Philipp Würfl, a family friend who stayed with us when he traveled abroad with his high school class. He showed us around Stuttgart and entertained us with stories from his life as a student in the city. We visited town markets, a sturdy tower that even Maria could climb, an old church, King's street, an old castle, and a great park for hanging out in. We checked to make sure we could walk on the grass, unsure if that was allowed in Germany. Apparently Germany is more free than Great Britain in this particular way.
Philipp took us to lunch at a food court inside a huge mall. We had some delicious food that we can neither pronounce or spell. The English translation was roughly "cheating on God" as the food was created by monks for consumption during Lent. It was delicious.
After lunch we visited the Mercedes-Benz museum. It was vast and filled with the full historic splendor of Mercedes' past. We were thrilled to see the old models of developing engines, cars, and trucks. The copper detailing on the weathered vehicles was spectacular. Our favorite car was probably the L-300 with the gullwings. It was pretty fancy. The museum also incorporated historical events that had shaped the development of the world alongside the development of the Mercedes-Benz brand. It helped us to understand the design and directional choices taken by the company throughout the past.
Philipp's dad, Harald, picked us up from the museum and drove us home. He works with Mercedes and has for nearly 25 years, so we got to hear an insider's perspective on the company. Needless to say, we were left with a great impression of Mercedes. We drove through a quaint German village on our way home so we could see an example of non-urban architecture and life.
We met the rest of the Würfl family at their home. It was wonderful to finally get to see them all in person. We walked just around the corner to get dinner, marveling that a restaurant could be "just around the corner" from anyone's home. We enjoyed each other's company over traditional Schwabbian food and wine courtesy of the Würfl's tremendous hospitality.
Back at the Würfl's house we ate two delicious desserts that Silvia had prepared for us. They were phenomenal. We chatted about history and politics and loved getting to see a little bit of Germany through the eyes of living Germans and not just museums.
After our dessert, Philipp showed us a built in model train track that lives above his bed. It was very elaborate and super cool. We fully understood how he ended up as an engineering major. We were very sad to say goodbye to the Würfls, they had been wonderfully kind hosts.
After staying in apartments and night trains for the last few days, we found ourselves happy to settle back into the hostel lifestyle. Our two roommates, Giovanni from Italy and Alexa from Germany, charmed us and reminded us how wonderful it is to spend time with other travelers. Giovanni was in town for an audition to join a theater company. His grasp of English was such that he not only understood American slang and sarcasm but could also use it in turn. Our conversation was refreshing. He wished us good luck on the rest of our travels as we slipped out the door in the morning on our way to Nice.
"Part of the ship, part of the crew"