Once upon a time, I traveled through the Black Forest region of Germany with my dear friend Katie. If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember our visit to Heidelberg and Freiburg, but there’s a third town we visited that I never actually talked about: Tübingen!
I was in the shower the other day, reminiscing about past travel memories – as one does in the shower – and remembered our comical adventure in Tübingen. It’s one of those travel experiences that was uncomfortable and anxiety-ridden in the moment, but turned into one of the best memories ever.
My friend Katie and I have completely different travel styles. She is more spontaneous, frugal and social. I am more about planning, splurging on nice meals, and mostly keeping to myself. We decided to take this trip to Germany as inexpensively as possible, so we booked bus rides that cost from 2-10 euros, tried to cook our own meals, and couch surfed. If you’ve never heard of couchsurfing, it’s essentially staying with strangers! Locals open up their homes to travelers and often it involves a cooked meal and great conversation. It’s customary for the guest to bring some kind of gift for their host, but there’s no money involved. There’s a website, couchsurfing.com, where you can browse hosts, see reviews that previous guests have left about them, and message back and forth to see if the experience will be mutually beneficial.
I won’t lie – I was really nervous about couch surfing. There’s no real guarantee that the host won’t cancel on you last-minute, so it’s a planner’s worst nightmare. And guess what, that’s exactly what happened in our first city, Freiburg! We ended up getting an AirBnB at the last minute and everything was fine. It was my first lesson in learning to not freak out when things go a little off-course.
By the way, the image below is available as a print in my Etsy shop! See it here.
But back to my story about Tubingen…
Our bus into town arrived quite late in the evening. The sky was almost completely dark as we disembarked and tried to get our bearings using a map on our phone. For some reason, we had a really hard time figuring out which direction to walk, so we chose one. Eventually, after crossing a bridge in search of a cross-walk that we never found, then backtracking, we ended up approaching quite a large road that led into a tunnel. It was pretty obvious in my mind that pedestrians didn’t belong here, but Katie was completely fearless – she wanted to walk through that tunnel even though there wasn’t a proper sidewalk! I told her she was crazy and demanded that there must be another way. I think this is probably the closest thing we ever had to a fight! (I’m laughing as I type this!)
We do some more back-tracking and finally, a pedestrian tunnel through the mountain comes into view. “OK!” I think to myself, “THIS is where we’re supposed to walk, this makes more sense!” But as soon as we get closer, I see some graffiti on the walls of the tunnel, and I get this eerie feeling, probably from the yellow-toned florescent lights illuminating the concrete walls. My mind goes to the worst possible scenarios: kidnap, murder, theft… I’m pretty sure we made some jokes about how creepy the scene looked in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Thankfully, we made it through the long tunnel unscathed. Nothing bad happened! In fact, on the other side of the tunnel, I saw the first hints of a charming town, but everything was dark, so I honestly couldn’t see much.
We walked for what felt like an hour, the buildings becoming more and more spaced out, the streets becoming quieter and progressively darker. At one point we passed some kind of warehouse and I thought – this is it. We’re going to be murdered. Oh and did I mention it was drizzling during this entire adventure?? Katie seemed to keep her positivity the entire time, but later on she confessed that she was internally freaked out too, but she kept it together for my sake!
Finally, when we think it can’t get any creepier, we arrive at our home for the night. Our host was still at work (she was a nurse at the local hospital), so she instructed us to find the key hidden in a boot on the front porch. We found the key, gingerly stepped inside, made our way upstairs where she told us we’d be sleeping, and finally, finally let out a massive sigh of relief.
What we found was a super cozy little home. Our host had left us the sweetest handwritten note. She told us to help ourselves to some hot tea, feel free to use the shower after our long journey, and to get cozy in the bed she had perfectly made up for us – this cozy bed was the most comfortable one of the entire trip! She even had a little essential oil diffuser that was so calming. We slept like logs that night.
The next morning, in the light of day, we discovered that there was really nothing to be scared of. Our host was the sweetest, kindest lady who was so curious about our lives and travels. She had traveled a lot herself, so she shared some wonderful stories of her own. Our walk back into town, tracing the same route as the night before, was entirely pleasant, not a single scary thing in sight! It’s amazing what the dark of night can do to the imagination!
The old parts of town were absolutely adorable, filled with storybook charm: pastel buildings, overflowing flower pots, babbling fountains, and in the middle of town, the high church clock tower. We admired the architecture, climbed up to the top of the tower, and laughed about our previous night’s adventure.
The next day we’d be taking the long bus ride back to Paris, and then a train back to Versailles. It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken, not only because of how utterly charming the Black Forest region is, but also because of the people we met and the unexpected bumps along the way. Katie, if you’re reading this, I’m so happy we took this trip, even if it was a struggle at times! Love you!
Guys – don’t be afraid to take a few risks every now and then, to get a little lost, because that’s usually when the best stuff happens.