Sunday, September 15, 2013

You can't get there from here

Our lovely little town is on a hill above the Neckar Valley. The Neckar River flows from the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) through our state of Baden-Württemberg and flows into the Rhein (Rhine) River at Mannheim. Horb lies right on the Neckar, down in the valley.  The drive from our house to the Bahnhof (train station) in Horb takes about 5-7 minutes, depending on traffic, or 8-10 minutes by bus.


This weekend, however, we learned that a 4-block section of the heavily-traveled road going through Horb will be closed for badly-needed repairs. Traffic is being re-routed along the top of the hill near where we live, through the countryside and several small villages, to cross the river at the next possible point, just west of town. So the 4km (2.5 mile) bus ride to the Bahnhof will, for the next few weeks, be a 13.4km trip that will take at least 25 minutes.  We could otherwise drive ourselves down there via another route - which the bus can't use because it can't navigate the hairpin turns of the narrow road going down into the valley.  But then we have to pay to park the car all day at the Bahnhof, which can get expensive.

For those of you who know Sheboygan, Wisconsin (where nearly every street is badly in need of repairs!), this route is sort of like going from the Mall to Kohler via Sheboygan Falls. Enlarging the scale, say the road is closed from Milwaukee to Sheboygan, so you have to drive via Madison.

Why can't we just skirt around the closed road, you wonder? In Wisconsin, for example, if 4 blocks of a road are closed, we take a 6-block detour that adds perhaps 45 seconds to our drive. Here, there is one road that goes through Horb over the Neckar. One.

Looking at the map above, we live at point A. The Bahnhof is at point B. The red route shows the road going down into the valley and through Horb. The construction site is near the H (the former location of the hospital that closed down last year).  The blue route shows the 13.4km (8 mile) bus detour on little country roads.

This map shows our other option as well, if we go by car to the Bahnhof. The road marked in red is the usual route, and the blue road to the right (east) cuts the detour down to about 11km (6.8 miles). You can even see the hairpin turns that the bus can't navigate heading down into the valley. This route takes us down into the tiny town of Mühlen, over the Neckar, up the other side of the valley, and through the town of Nordstetten, which is up on the top of the hill opposite our side of the valley. Then we drive down again on the other side of the Neckar to reach the Bahnhof.

There is another road that goes into Horb, but it connects to the main road on the wrong side of the construction, so one still can't get to the Bahnhof. That secondary road gets us to the north side of Horb just left of the H, at the foot of the hill coming down into the valley from Bildechingen, facing another big hill on which sits the Stiftskirche (church), the Marktplatz (market place), houses, and businesses. You can't drive over that hill, though, because, although a narrow winding cobblestone road goes up to the Marktplatz from the north, there is no road going down on the south side. Only footpaths.

Normally this would not really bother us. I can avoid going down into town for months at a time. But my daughter, who is studying in Berlin this semester, is coming for a visit next week and we had planned to take some day trips. Our thought was to take the bus to the Bahnhof and catch a train to wherever we want to go. Now there's no way to plan well, because the bus schedule will be entirely unpredicatable. Martin can drive us down the hill via the secondary road and dump us on the north end of town, and from there we'll walk up the big hill, across the Marktplatz, perhaps stop in the church to pray the construction crew stays on schedule, down the hill through town, and across the river to the Bahnhof - probably a 12-minute walk. This is not a problem, and it's what we'll do. It's rather inconvenient, though, and a bit strenuous for those of us who are more out of shape than we'd like to admit.

The next time you have to take a 6-block detour (and yes, I know it's often more than that), be glad you don't have to completely circumnavigate the entire city to get to your destination!

**Update (17. Sept., 2013): There's a long article in the paper today about this construction and other construction projects in the county going on at the same time, and the ensuing chaos. One line from that article: "Ortsfremde, egal ob sie mit Navi geleitet werden oder nicht, sind aufgeschmissen." Translation: "Drivers unfamiliar with the area, whether they have a GPS or not, are screwed."

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