Heidenfahrt. The name of the rest stop where our brave heroes’ journey begins. “Heathen’s Journey,” it would be called in English.* An appropriate place to hitch a ride if you’re a bunch of godless sinners hoping to fly north on the A61.
I like to think that Heidenfahrt is on my side, a kind place that gently delivers me onto the autobahn time after time. That I’ve been hassled by police (Oh daemons of Satan, return to the firey pits from whence you came!) several times there is only further proof of the name’s sincerity…
He was a truck driver in red overalls transporting cars, and sure he would take us and drop us off just outside of Köln, that is if we didn’t mind waiting for him to finish his 45 minute break. We threw away our cardboard sign and got comfortable on the curb, happy to have found a bullseye on the very first move.
Inside the truck I curled up on the mattress behind the front seats, and Rabbit took the passenger seat. Our driver couldn’t speak much German, so after a short-lived attempt at conversation (Where are you from? Ludwigshafen. Where are you going? Ludwigshafen. Where did you start today? Russia. What? It turned out he had started in Ludwigshafen, was from Russia, and was going to Dusseldorf) he turned up the music, and we rode north in silence.
I like to think of the torture that is three hours trapped in a small compartment listening to hit radio as a good time to catch up on the pop culture I religiously avoid the rest of the year. And I can now tell you with confidence that radio pop today is a banal as ever, populated with whiny-sounding but well-intentioned men singing about heart break, bluesy R&B women over using the trill, and a sprinkling of songs that are almost decent, if you like that sort of thing. There is an entire generation of teenagers that will remember this music with nostalgic reverie, I think, and then we get dropped off at a rest stop just outside of the city, and swept into the heart of it by a man with a snake skin in his back seat and a four-year-old son to pick up from Kindergarten.
*Unless the name is a reference to “Heide” (heath, wooded area) and not “Heiden” (heathen). I prefer to assume the latter. It’s much more exciting that way, literary even.