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Schaffhausen, Switzerland and Leaving Germany

Updated: Jun 21

Saturday - my last full day in Germany. Eli suggested we go see the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. I asked if we could take a slight detour along the way to visit Bianca in the Black Forest.

I had not seen Bianca since the Saturday before. With Eli's help, another visit with Bianca was possible.

I had moved from Bianca's back to Andrina's. I had figured that, since my luggage was stored there, and because I wanted to say goodbye to Andrina, I would stay at her place before leaving Germany.

Whenever Eli picked me up at Andrina's for an outing, he would park on the same street and text me, "I'm here." He did this because Andrina's house was situated off a quiet walkway between two streets, making parking in front of her house impossible. I would sit in Andrina's downstairs apartment waiting for Eli's text, walk down the walkway to the street, and find him. He would be sitting in the driver's seat of his vehicle and I would hop in on the passenger side. There was no fanfare, no hug. We would greet each other, drive off, and start talking.

This day, we talked some more about Eli working in the military, life in Germany versus the US, and Eli's upcoming plans. He was planning to travel a couple of times before May, when he would meet his parents in Italy. His parents... my friends. We drove for an hour and a half or so toward the Rhine Falls by way of the Black Forest and found Bianca's parents' house.

Seeing Bianca was bittersweet. It was sweet because being with Bianca was sweet. Bianca's way in the world is graceful and kind. Her voice is soft and her words welcoming. Seeing Bianca at her parents' house, though, exuded a bitter taste in my mouth. I felt frustrated for Bianca, knowing that her ill health had forced her to leave her apartment in Stuttgart and basically give up her autonomy. Bianca had known she needed more help and had made the painful decision to move back in with her parents. And here she was. I tasted her pain.

The visit itself was sweet because Eli and I sat with Bianca in her upstairs apartment, in the quaint kitchen, with her grandmother's furniture, sharing tea and talking. We could see the nearby trees of the Black Forest out the window, and hear the birds in those trees chattering. As we departed, waving goodbye, I again tasted the painful bitterness of this situation... knowing I was moving on with my travels and Bianca was left behind. I sunk into my passenger seat as Eli plugged in directions and drove away.

Eli and I drove through and out of the Black Forest of Germany to Switzerland. It was an overcast day, so we were not able to see the Alps in the distance. Still, our drive by expansive farm land, seeing cows and wind turbines, was lovely.

Our crossing from Germany into Switzerland was exciting. This was not because of anything external that happened. Nothing happened. There were no border patrol police. There was no stopping. There was nothing but paved road and a simple carport-type roof to drive under.

Our crossing was exciting because Eli made our crossing exciting. Eli is that kind of person. Eli is grounded and calm and excited all at the same time. "We will be crossing from Germany to Switzerland," he said. "Counting down..." he continued. "Here it comes..."

Though Eli comes across as calm, I could tell he was excited. I could tell because I know Eli. Plus, he said, "I'm excited." He's a straight talker.

This place felt familiar to Eli. He knew where to drive. He knew where to park. He knew where to walk. Eli drove his familiar route, parked in his familiar garage, and we walked into his familiar town. It was a quick-paced walk, underlined with anticipation.

I noticed the cobbled streets, buildings, shops, and people. A man holding a Free Hug sign caught my eye. I walked over and accepted his free hug. It was full-bodied and filling. His was the kind of hug that is pure, like a long, warm drop into Love... love with no agenda, with no wants or needs. It was a drop-in, soak-it-in, and feeling-held kind-of hug. When the hug felt done, he looked at me and said, "pass it on." I walked back to Eli, who had stood on the street a distance away, waiting for me. I told him that I must pass on my hug and he opened his arms. Eli is an excellent receiver of hugs.

This was our first hug of the day. Hugging Eli was like hugging his whole family. I was hugging him. I was hugging his sister, Julia. I was hugging his dad Michael. I was hugging his mom, my high school friend, Melody. I felt my ecstatic love for each member of the family. Hugging Eli is very fulfilling.

All this talk of hugging may be causing you to want a hug. Here... I am cyber hugging you right now. This is a long, warm, drop-into-love hug. Close your eyes and take it in.

Eli and I had not yet eaten so our first stop was breakfast. I vaguely recall that the food was good, though I do not remember the details of what either of us ate. What stayed with me was how relaxed, friendly, and kind the people were. The servers, the customers... every person seemed like the kind of person who might hold the Free Hug sign. Maybe they did. Maybe the whole town took turns standing on the cobbled street at the center of Schaffhausen, giving away kind and loving hugs, and asking recipients to pass them on.

After eating, we roamed the streets. Eli pointed out ornate details and art - frescos and sculpture - on the outside walls of some of the Renaissance era buildings now housing retail stores.

Some buildings, like the clock tower with an arched drive through at the base, were made of stone. The clock was placed at the top of the tower, in front of a square piece of art. At the center of the tower roof there was a weathervane. I had noticed a weathervane store. I had thought that unique... a whole store dedicated to weathervanes. I am guessing that it was one of that store's weathervanes that topped the clock tower.

Some of the ornate art on the outside of buildings seemed to tell historic stories about what had happened inside or around that building.

For someone like me who loves cobbled streets, the town was beyond charming. Cobbled streets were everywhere. And clocks... there was an abundance of clocks.

I did not know that Eli was a watch guy until he stopped in front of a watch store and looked, for some time, at the watches in the window. I stood next to him. Eli talked dreamily about his possible plans to learn watchmaking and watch repair.

Watches were a thing in my family. Uncle Dave had sold a variety of gorgeous watches in his jewelry store. I do not remember if Uncle Dave or my cousins who worked there also did watch repair. Uncle Dave was my dad's brother. My dad looked up to his brother. My dad had loved watches. My son Michael had looked up to my dad. My son Michael had loved watches.

Eli had looked up to my son, Michael. For years, Eli followed in Michael's footsteps. Michael was into reading. Eli was into reading. Michael was into manga and anime. Eli was into manga and anime. Michael had long hair. Eli had long hair. And so it went.

I do not know when Eli first started loving watches and their mechanisms. Like me, Melody also had an uncle who owned a jewelry store. Maybe Mel's uncle sold watches. Maybe they did watch repair in her uncle's store. Maybe Eli grew up around watches. Maybe Eli had been impressed by Michael's love of watches. I do not know.

I took a picture of Eli in front of the Swiss watch store and sent it to Michaelson.

Then Eli and I walked to the castle-turned-fortress, the Munot.

In 1905, a section of the Munot moat was "turned into a game preserve for fallow deer."

We stopped to watch the deer in the moat.

Inside, the Munot was dark, except for the light coming in through open windows. The walls were cool and damp. The rooms, stark and echoey.

We walked up a spiral stone staircase and looked out from the open windows along the way. Below, we could see the vineyard in the Munot garden, the surrounding town that the Munot had protected, and the River Rhine that had carried people to this town.

We could see a railroad bridge - part of the rail network that connects Germany and Switzerland.

After taking in our fill of the Munot, Eli suggested we head back to the car and drive to the Rhine Falls. In the garage, I spotted and talked with three musicians dressed in Scottish kilts. They were headed to a gig in town, and let me take their picture.

Then, patient Eli and I drove to "the most powerful waterfall in Europe," the Rhine Falls.

We missed the last boat tour on the Rhine that went across the river to the Falls . We walked around the grounds and shopped in the gift store.

Eli was looking for a specific item. I walked around the crowded little shop as he did his thing. I saw a couple of postcards that made me think of my music-loving housemate, Daniel. Daniel and I share a birth year and have similar taste in 70's rock. One postcard said "Wish you were here," reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Another said "Stairway to Heaven," reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. I also saw a tiny compass and whistle on a keychain with a Swiss flag symbol that made me think of Ash's friend Seth. Seth was planning to hike the Appalachian Trail in a year or two. I purchased the postcards and keychain.

Outside, Eli and I stood quietly, looking across the Rhine River at castles, and at the powerful Rhine Falls. I loved the heart-shaped cloud in the sky behind me. Eli took my picture.

I had Eli take another picture of me, this time without my hat on. "Someone told me I don't look good in hats," I said. It was one of the first times I had referred to Mujdot out loud.

I had thought of Mujdot a lot since leaving Turkey. I both missed him and felt haunted by him. He was both good company and bad company, kind and unkind. Inside, I felt mixed emotions. Above, in the blue sky, dark clouds surrounded a bright heart.

Eli took a selfie of the two of us. Eli said his mom (my dear friend Melody) liked receiving pictures of him, especially when he was smiling. Eli does have an excellent smile. He sent the picture to Mel.

We got a late start back to Stuttgart. We had hoped we would have daylight for the whole two-and-a-half-hour drive home. We drove for a while with a rambling river next to us. At some point, we watched the sun set. At some point, it became night.

As Eli drove, I kicked my sneakers off onto the passenger floor. I could smell them from above. They stunk. I tied the shoelaces together, opened my window, and hung my stinky sneakers on the exterior passenger side rear view mirror to air out. I closed the window.

At some point it rained. For a short period of time, it rained hard enough to make visibility challenging. Eli concentrated on driving and I concentrated on healthy, calm, safe energy. Before and after the hard rain, we were talking. Between talking and praying, I forgot that my sneakers were hanging on the rear mirror outside, in the rain. Though we did not drive through the pounding rain for long, when we arrived at the street by Andrina's house and it was time for me to get out, I found myself putting on wet sneakers and sloshing up the walkway.

Andrina had a washer and dryer. Having a washing machine was common for places I had been traveling. The dryer, however, was quite uncommon. I put my dirty clothes in the washer and then the dryer. I put my stinking wet sneakers in the washer, along with the towels I had used. I pulled my clean, dry clothes out of the dryer, and put the wet towels and sneakers in the dryer. I left the laundry room to pack my things, and then went to bed.

I could not sleep. I often do not sleep well when anticipating travel. At one point, I got up to check on the towels and my sneakers in the dryer. They were still wet. I turned the dryer on and stood there, watching. The sneakers inside kicked the dryer door open. I turned the dryer on again and held the dryer door closed.

I held the dryer door closed for the entire time it took for the towels and my sneakers to dry. In the end, I got maybe two hours of sleep that night. In the end, my sneakers came out with a couple of little holes in the fabric. In the end, my sneakers were clean and dry, and did not have any stinky smell left in them.

On Sunday morning, Eli came back to pick me up. We went for breakfast at a restaurant he liked. There was a line outside. Eli could not find parking and drove around for quite a while while I waited in the line. He arrived just as it was time to be seated. We sat. We talked. We ate. Then he drove me to the airport to leave Germany.

On the way out of town, I got one last picture of a tall, impressive clock tower church.

At the airport, Eli and I shared a last long hug. I went inside the airport, checked my bags, waited, boarded the plane, and settled in. I had snacks packed and kicked off my sneakers.

Standing by the dryer in the middle of the night for over an hour and putting holes in the fabric of my sneakers by washing them in a washing machine were a small and worthy cost to having not-stinky shoes beneath my seat.

Bye-bye, Germany. Hello Amsterdam...

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