Good bye, Freiburg

“I’ve been wanting to do this from the very first day,” said Olga, grinning as she put the bottle of beer she had just bought into her backpack.

“Me too,” I smiled. I stuck the beer and the bar of chocolate in my bag, and we walked up the stairs and out of the train station.

“How do we get to the bridge?” She looked around as a street car passed over the bridge ahead of us.

“Um, this way, but I have to get my bike first, otherwise I’ll have to come back for it.”

Olga looked across the street at hundreds of bicycles huddled together in the bike park. “How do you know how to find your bicycle in all that?” She shook her head. “I’ll wait here.”

I jaywalked hurriedly across the street, straight towards the corner where I had stuck my bike this afternoon before we left for Breisach. I unlocked it, picked up the bike, lifted it over the fence and headed back to the end of the station. Olga and I walked together towards the blue bridge which stretched perpendicularly over the rails of the main train station in Freiburg. I locked up up my bike in the very middle of the bridge, and Olga and I cross the bridge to the other side. We climbed up on the bridge rails, long blue half-ellipses of steel, and walked to the very center, and sat down facing the mountains.

“Oh, can I open this without a bottle opener?” Olga held her bottle towards me.

“No, but I think I have one.” I rummaged around in my bag. “Actually, no, I don’t.”

The people next to us on the bridge needed to get down, so we scooted back down and let them off. “Do you have a bottle opener?” Olga asked the young man.

“Actually, I do.” He handed it to her. She wrenched off the lid and foam spilled all over the ground. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” He shook off the opener and walked away across the bridge with his friend.  Olga and I clambered back up onto the bridge railing, walked to very center and sat down.

“Oh, here comes one already,” she motioned towards the train tracks on the ground in front of us.  A small white light could be seen far ahead between the rails.   Fairly soon an engine was visible, and then we could see the cargo boxcars behind it.  It rushed underneath the bridge with a sudden roar of wind, which flew up around our faces in a constant updraft, and the steel bridge beneath us began to shudder back and forth.

“The bridge is shaking!”  Olga cried out, just audible above the train rush.  The boxcars thundered underneath us, disappearing one after the other in a blur of color and vibration and noise.  And then with a whisk of sound and air, the train was gone and the evening was still, except for the sound of people talking on other parts of the bridge.  The sun was setting behind the two towers of the church west of the bridge.  The trees on the Schlossberg to the east shone bright green in the light of the sunset.  People walking past on the bridge looked up at us, bicyclists pedalled swiftly by and other people swung their legs over the bridge on all sides of us.   I grinned at her.  “That was great.”

She took a deep breath, smiled a me, and kicked her legs back and forth over the space beneath us.  “Yes.”   She took a sip.  “I want to come back here.”


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