Monday, September 28, 2009

Saarbahn

Saturday morning started with everyone getting up to continue setting up for Sunday's party. I came upstairs in my Pajamas [ I usually don't walk around with my hair disheveled and in my plaid pajama pants... but I didn't even realize that I just wandered upstairs - I guess I am really just becoming a fixture family member in the household ]. My host family got a kick out of my T-shirt that reads "Everyone loves a foreign boy" which a good friend of mine back home gave to me as a gift. I am still addressed sometimes as "Amerika" and none of us can really believe that my time here as their new international son is coming to a close within a few days!

At the table, we chatted a bit about the national elections taking place this Sunday, and the press in the newspaper about it. As we were discussing, and I was trying my best to understand the German, let alone comprehend this German election process, Stefan noticed something that startled him in the newspaper - apparently today was the grand opening of the new Saarbahn rail rout in the city and Stefan remembered he had a special invitation to be one of the first riders on the rout. He was already dressed for the day - but he asked if I wanted to go, and how fast I could get ready - I don't pass up any opportunity - I was showered, towel dried, and dressed with my shoes laced in 5 minutes. Here we go!

Once I was in the car, I finally learned what we were actually going to [ I find it funny that I often quickly accept invitations before I even know what is going on - all part of the adventure, right? ]. The Saarbahn is the train that runs through Saarland [ and the one that I can take to Saareguemines when I feel like traveling for a cafe break! ] and on the other end of the rout, in a connecting city of Riegelsburg, the Saarbahn now has an extended rout that is just opening for the public. Stefan is actually friends with the director of transportation in Saarland and I learned a day after a nice dinner Angelika hosted at the house that I had sat right next to him along with the previous mayor of the city - I had dinner side by side with the director of transportation and the former mayor and you didn't tell me ?! - but regardless, Stefan always seems to have events to go to with his wide array of connections from his job and close friends. I was actually really happy to be spending an outing out with just the two of us.

As we came closer, the train stops all had the festive balloons in colors of the Saarbahn's orange and blue ads. There was a big crowd of people amongst some tents and Stefan pulled out a name tag that served as his pass to be a guest rider on the first voyage of the new train rout - Stefan actually laughed because he said that this was his first time riding on the Saarbahn ever! It makes sense because his work is very close, but I utilize it a few times a week here.


Very similar to my experience at the art gallery, I was introduced to many people and shook hands and small talked. Some people I recognized from the art museum before, and others were such prominent people that I recognized them from posters around the city - WOW! there is the leader of the SPD here in Saarbrücken - Isn't that one of the men running for election in the Linke party?! - It was almost as if I was seeing celebrities around me since I had seen their faces on posters since arriving here in Germany, but the event was packed with important figures of the area for the grand opening of the new addition of the public transportation rout.


There were a few interesting notes about the event - for one, there was an outdoor mass with a priest to christen the first voyage of the new railway. It seems sensible, but I just found it almost out of place here in a country where probably only 5% of the people in the crowd actually attended church. Even so, Germans are a people that are very proud of tradition. As the crowd moved toward the train to tour the maiden travels, a band that was reminiscent of the bands in Oktoberfest were bopping tunes away on a tuba, accordion and other instruments, as well as a man singing with a twang into a hand-held loudspeaker. The setting was pretty comical.




Once everyone was crammed into the train [ just imagine a bunch of semi-formal clad business and political figures all squished for a trip on public transportation - kind of funny ] the conductors all came around to punch everyones card to give the experience a fun feeling of authenticity. Stefan told me about the 40 Euro fines if someone is caught on the transportation system without a ticket. Apparently they are called Schwartzfahrer - or black riders. He asked me what we called the same thing in America and I really don't know - maybe something as literal as " a person that didn't pay...".

- oh, you don't call them black riders?

- no... in America that would probably be considered racist...

The train cruised throughout the city, and the funny thing was that people were waiting at the stops to get on, but since this was a special train it just passed right by. You could imagine the confusion of the people if you were waiting for a train and then it just whizzes by without opening its doors, and you possibly catch sight of a well known politician in the window!


Along with the politicians on the train, the event seemed to be highly political for other reasons - especially with the national elections taking place the next day. At one stop, protestors from the FDP party were carrying posters that essentially said " We have already waited many years for you" and wore long, aged beards, as if to proclaim that this groundbreaking event for the train was already long overdue for the members of their political party.



Once we arrived back at the main starting station, Stefan and I grabbed some refreshments and chatted with a few other people he introduced me to. [ I found it interesting when shaking hands with the leader of the SPD party here that he wore a "Yes We Can" wristband] A lot of people asked what I thought about the transportation system, and I have to admit that it is very nice in the city. I can only elaborate to them that I come frome Detroit, MI and that there, public transportation systems virtually don't exist, which gets me some very surprised responses. Learning about the train system here, and observing this event for the Saarbahn has once again peaked my interest in public transportation. I have actually been reading articles about Detroit lately and been writing about this issue, so it came at a perfect time.


While talking with different people Stefan told me that he constantly meets people all over the place, especially at events, since his clientel for his civic lawyer duties has him working for over 5,000 people a year. 5,000 people!? Wow, I did not know that about his job, but I was definitely very appreciative about the fact that he invited me along for the event, and I had a chance to check out a lot of cool sites and experience another highly attended social event with many prominent people here in Saarbrücken once more.

2 comments:

  1. yea...that whole Big 3 and the drive for highways (no pun intended) sidelined any public transportation for Detroit...you are funny agreeing to go places and you don't even no where you are going...kind of reminds me of Bugs Bunny shoving Yosemite Sam on train to get him out of town ;)

    Maria K.

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  2. Christina Antoinette VresicsOctober 15, 2009 at 2:22 PM

    "- oh, you don't call them black riders?

    - no... in America that would probably be considered racist..."


    hahahahah i literally laughed out loud in the fishbowl <3

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