Angel on Autobahn 81

Bonjour, Strasbourg!

A view from the breakfast room of Hôtel Cathédrale…

We could see the square slowly getting ready to receive another tide of visitors…

From Strasbourg to Würzburg, our next destination, it was estimated to be a 3 to 4 hour drive, covering 286km (178mls). Autoroute 35 would become Autobahn 9 automatically once we crossed a border between France and Germany. I had visited Germany a few times in the past and had been on their famous Autobahn – a motorway system famous for having no speed limit, as a passenger but never driven on it. You can imagine how nervous I was at first. Mum stopped being chirpy and I couldn’t help noticing my palms became slightly clammy over the steering wheel.

Autobahn 9 ran northward parallel to River Rhine. Even though we didn’t see the great river itself, there were numerous ponds and streams which were outlets of it often filled our view.

At Speyer, we changed to A61, and then again at Hockenheim, we took A6 towards Heilbronn.

‘Shall we have a break since we have almost reached the halfway point of our journey today?’ We decided to stop at a service station at Sinsheim.

An airy and bright service station cafe…

My mum had her very first Gugelhupf…

Over the cake and latte, I recounted to her how my first homemade Matcha gugelhupf was a total disaster. I didn’t mix the dough well enough for fear of the sponge turning overall pale green, as a result, my gugelhupf turned out to be a ring consisted of a layer of plain yellow sponge on top of the very green and bitter sponge. It did not make any marble pattern at all.

Maybe for this Christmas, I may try to bake another gugelhupf since I still have a pan somewhere…

By the way, our first day on German motorway didn’t end without a drama. And I didn’t know what I would have done without help from a total stranger at a Grünsfeld service station.

I wanted to readjust a satnav before approaching Würzburg city centre so we decided to stop at the service station. The parking area had a slight slant, therefore, I pulled up a hand brake harder than normal. Once I sorted out the satnav and was ready to start the car, I noticed the hand brake was stuck and refused to release itself! I struggled with it for a while but it was of little avail. ‘Mum, stay here with the car. I’m gonna go and get some help.’

‘Sprechen Sie Englisch?’ I approached a man standing by his car and smoking a cigarette. He replied ‘Nein’ but understood somehow that I had a problem with my car so he followed me. I pointed at the hand brake and gestured to him the best I could to express what was wrong with it. He sat in the seat and tried to push the lever down. However the brake didn’t budge so he left, shrugging his shoulders.

Undeterred, I walked to the petrol station and asked a motorcyclist by the pump if he spoke English. He shook his head apologetically. Oh, what am I gonna do?! I have a European breakdown cover with me but how am I gonna arrange an assistance or a recovery on Sunday in Germany?! I became increasingly desperate.

Then, I found my angel!

A man in an orange t-shirt was queuing by the till and I asked him if he spoke my language and he replied ‘Yes.’ I was overjoyed! ‘I’ll be with you once I’ve paid for the petrol and coffee.’

I showed him where my car was and he reappeared shortly afterward with a cup of coffee in his hand.

My angel with no name…

He sat in my seat and after some manipulation, managed to free my hand brake. Yay! ‘Don’t apply it too hard. Just a click will be sufficient.’ He advised me.

Why did he speak English fluently? He explained that he was German but lived in Canada for a long time. He was happened to be in the area because he was visiting his mum. What a good luck I had that day!

I wished if I was calm enough to ask his name and contact detail so I could send him a thank you note…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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