“Oh. Wow. Cool”, she says. It’s morning and I am buying stuff for lunch. She is about 17 and she is standing in the supermarket looking at me with admiration and envy in her eyes and in her voice. Where I’m going, for how long, how I find my way, how do I feel? She would so love to do this one day, she tells me.
It’s about lunchtime and I need more water. There is a sound from the garage just off the road. Hello?, I try. A middle aged man in clean overalls, pulling off his clean white gummy gloves emerges. There is a vintage Jaguar or Audi car on the pit inside I notice. And a beauty of a Mercedes on the drive way. Yeah, he says, I love my cars. His haircut is as meticulous as his overall and his cars. Of course I can have water. Do I really want plain tap water? Hesitatingly he goes to fetch it. In the meantime his wife emerges with a glass of bottled water. Am I really walking all the way to Passau? Madness, silly adventure, waste of time; they conclude, looking lovingly and affirmatively at each other. But had I seen their cat somewhere on the road? She usually comes in before 22.30 at night but she has been gone since yesterday evening. It has only happened once that she didn’t show up in the evening. Have I seen her? I have not, I admit. Ah, that’s a pity. Well, she’ll be back, yes? The woman is clearly anxious about the cat. He says it’s about lunch time isn’t it, the time being 12.30. When I say goodbye, they happily go to their meal together.
No camp site so it’s wild camping today. It’s a densely populated area though. I don’t like that very much, but there seems to be nothing to do about it. I lean over his fence and ask for some water, to cook a meal. Bernd says that I can have a beer as well. And a ‘bratwurst’ since they are setting up the bbq. Beer and bbq are more enticing then the darkening sky is threatening. Later that night I sleep on his couch. Bernd does the sausages, neighbour Czech Martine the shrimps. Stephan emerges, he has to go for evening shift at a plastic chisseling company tonight. He drinks beer for courage. Not too much, Bernd warns him. He took Stephan under his wings a while ago, he says, him beginning to look like a lost case. Now at least he works. Florian, Bernd’s son from a failed marriage joins as well. He just did his ‘abitur’, finishing secondary school at 17. I am proud of him, says Bernd. Think it’s quite an achievement when you see what he has been through. That’s ok, yes? Florian goes off to Berlin tomorrow morning with two friends in an old VW van. Two neighbours join in with the beers and sausages and the conversation turns political. What with all the refugees that are being housed in the small southern German villages. I had seen them, a strange phenomenon to see black people in these small isolated villages. Maybe we are still paying for our history, says Bernd, when we discuss the comparative amounts of refugees in European countries. Bernd tries to be more responsible he says, after going to music university and failing to become famous, he now works with refugees and tries to become an educator. At age 38 he still has to borrow money from his mum every now and then.
At six, Stephan comes home from work. I am getting ready to go for my 45 k at 40 C. He takes a beer. Did he make his boss happy?, I ask him. Smilingly, he shakes his head.
I think Bernd is doing great.