Esslingen am Neckar, Germany
Given the amount of walking we´ve been doing and the levels of humidity, then rain, then sun, then clouds, it would come as no surprize to discover that one day you find you´re on your last pair of underpants, last t-shirt, and last pair of socks. Today was that day. Off we went to the waschsalon in Stuttgart to “freshen up” the travel duds. In Germany, nothing is done half way. To wash your clothing you throw the dirty undies in the machine then walk to the back of the place and tap the touch screen, select your machine, your partner will have tossed in soap, and then you start the washing process and off you go to stroll the Koenigstrasse while the clothes go for a soapy swim. After the clothing was done we stopped into a cafe and had ourselves some tasty buttered pretzels and a rhubarb cake and custard raspberry cake, depending on where you were sitting. Laundry done, food consumed, we hopped back on a train (we have come very close to having reached the point of getting our money´s worth for the train ticket) and headed back down the tracks to a small place called Esslingen which is nothing less than beautiful. Rows of lush green vines hang off the hills above the town providing for wine industry and an old factory site has been remade into the usual trendy restaurants, a cinema, and some public spaces. The heart of the town is the town square with the most amazing timber framed houses, a church or two and the old fortress wall that once surrounded and protected the town. We strolled up the pedestrian walkway admiring the town, headed for the main square, and Noam spotted a friend. Could we take a photo of him with his friend? Of course! Elke posed Noam as I snapped the photo and friendly man came out of the shop and asked if we would like to take Noam´s friend with us on our journey. Mmmm, maybe not this time. On hearing that Noam was a Canadian the man went back into his shop and returned with two tiny travelling companions. We continued to the square, took loads of photos, stopped in a local apotheke to pick up some homeopathic remedies and carried on through the streets window shopping and taking photos. As we headed back towards the hauptbahnhof to catch our train back to Wernau Elke spotted a shop she once visited on occassion to purchase natural fibre clothing so we decided to stop. As she browsed I stepped out into the walkway. I took off my two packs and sat down against the wall to relax my camera strained back and do some people watching. I got my fair share of odd looks as well. Finally, Elke returned saying she had found something and we would need to come back with more cash as they didn´t take credit. I reached into my pack for cash for her as a man bent over with his hand out, I thought to ask for some of what I was giving Elke. In fact, the man thought I was a panhandler, I get that a lot you know, and was about to give me a Euro. He said that if I put out a dish I could make 10 euro an hour. Maybe next trip. We headed home then and enjoyed some ordered food, all that walking, we deserved it! PS: Tonight we booked our hostel beds at Saint-Etienne – Les Enchands. We´ll be there on the 23rd of July. For those not in the know that is the finishing point for one of the stages of the Tour de France! We tried to book in Narronne on the French Riviera but everything is booked already.