Today we slept in long enough to completely miss the hotel’s breakfast. Around 11:00, I walked to the corner and grabbed a sack of McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. The girls slept even longer, and we were lucky to be up and moving in time for Sophia and Meltam to pick the girls up for a shopping trip into the city.
The girls spent most of the afternoon exploring Wuppertal with their expert guides.
Mike and I decided to spend the day riding the Schwebebahn. In doing so, we learned a bit about the city. Wuppertal is built down in a valley along the river Wupper. Its factories were an important part of the industrial revolution (aspirin was invented here, and Bayer still employs a lot of people). In 1901, the city decided the best way to unite its long, linear city was to make it easily accessible to everyone. A train through town was not practical because the solid rock in the area made that an impractical option. However, the river running through town meant that a suspended railway over the river was possible. The suspended train, or Schwebebahn, still runs along the river and on one end through town. Getting from one part of town to another is easy and fast. We started our trip just outside our hotel and rode Schwebebahn from one end to the other.
There was a lot happening at the Wuppertal Zoo stop, so we got out for a bit to look around. We didn’t visit the zoo, but we assume this is where the stop where, in 1950, someone decided a good promotion for the town would be to have a young elephant ride the Schwebebahn. I’m not sure how they got young Tuffi onto the train, but surprisingly the elephant did not like swinging around high above the ground. Tuffi the elephant broke free from the train car and crashed 40 feet down into the river. Tuffi survived, and we later found the elephant’s storybook in the children’s section of the local bookstore. I’m still puzzled about who might think elephants would enjoy riding in swinging trains, and I felt a sense of relief knowing Tuffi lived a long life at the Wuppertal Zoo.
We stopped by Rewe to stock up on water and juice for the hotel rooms and spotted a Smurfs magazine in the checkout. I like reading the checkout magazine covers because the celebrity ones are all so similar I’m pretty sure I can figure out what they’re saying without understanding the words. The Smurfs was a fun change.
Grabbing a late lunch, Mike decided to try currywurst from one of the street vendors. It was good (I tried a little of his), but my bratwurst was just as good.
At 6:30, Sophia arrived and helped us navigate the bus to her neighborhood and home. Her family had invited us for a German cookout, and once again, we were overwhelmed with the friendliness of our students’ families. The Klinkau family served us a delicious meal of German meats, cheeses, and salads. For the second night in a row, we ate until we simply could not eat anymore. A favorite was the grilling cheese that was solid on the outside but soft and “melty” in the middle. Sophia’s parents were extremely nice, and we enjoyed talking to them for a few hours until we started to get anxious about our upcoming early morning travels. Sophia had clued us in that the local announcements were all about how train service to Cologne was suspended for the weekend while construction was being done on the rails. That meant we had to purchase tickets to Düsseldorf in order to get to Cologne to catch our train to Paris. We are so glad someone who knew German could give us a heads-up, or we might have missed our train to France. Anyway, the Klinkau family understood and gave us a ride back to our hotel.