Because either my company is, or Germans in general are, awesome, the whole company (including some retired members) took a day trip to The Science Museum! And not only this, but the bus we rented came by my apartment to pick me up, so I even got to sleep in.
(It may also be that we took the trip to celebrate the German equivalent of Independence Day, but still…)
About an hour into the trip, the bus stopped at a restaurant for a buffet-style breakfast. The place really reminded me of the sort of road-side cafe/gas station that I'd pull into in western Nebraska or southeastern Colorado; even the writing on the wall was in English! But the breakfast was thoroughly German. Lots of sliced meats that hadn't been discernably cooked, a selection of cheese, numerous choices of good, heavy bread. Orange juice.
About seventy or eighty years ago, Volkswagen decided to build a factory in the relative middle of nowhere. And, as sometimes happens when this sort of thing is done, they ended up building a city. Apparently, when the Allied forces invaded Germany, the city wasn't marked on any of their maps and thus came as something of a surprise. Today, the part of it that we saw seems to be a bustling mass of ultra-modern steel and glass. Not that everywhere else I go here isn't like that; rather, every else I go has these components mixed with billion-year-old brick, stucco, and wood.
No sooner has the bus come to a stop, then a secret compartment (possibly used for storing luggage) beneath the bus is opened and racks of Cola, juice, and beer set out. We have a little party right there on the sidewalk whilst waiting for the doors of the Museum to open. The architect that designed the building ended up winning that field's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, but the structural and concrete engineers out there will not be too surprised to learn that a new form of concrete needed to be developed (by someone other than the architect) for this building to be built (many angles greater than 45°(?)). Architects are always doing things like that.
Between a bed of nails, giant air cannons, contour lights, Klein bottles, and THE MOST AWESOME MAZE EVER, I had a great time. Seriously, every year someone buys me a little maze puzzle which I eventually decimate. But this thing kept going and going and going.
I will build one.
Afterwards, we found a brewery in a part of the town which was older, and had a buffet-style lunch.
I've been keeping a map of all the streets and places in Heiligenstadt that I've gone. Before I came, I looked at Wikipedia and, seeing the population of the town, figured I'd have gone everywhere there was to go within a week or to. But Heiligenstadt has defied me. The layout seems simple, but you keep discovering places you didn't know existed. Again and again and again. I thought I'd found the best, shortest, and most scenic route to work. But, the other morning, I found a better one.
And yes, those tracks are safe. They're part of a disconnected rail line about a mile or more long which is owned by the city's railway club. Every so often, they take their engines out on joy rides, but not in the mornings when I'm using the tracks. I get there by crossing the river, traversing the city's soccer field, and then climbing an escarpment to where the tracks end. In some former time they must have connected to something, but I can find no trace of that connection now.
But what I didn't know when I discovered this route was that I was destined to find one which was… even better!