The University of Iowa

Lost in Lüneburg

September 11th, 2014

Peter is a senior from Burbank, California, majoring in English and Journalism at the University of Iowa. He is spending his fall semester studying abroad on the USAC Lüneburg program in Lüneburg, Germany.

By Peter Frankman

I got lost yesterday.

It was the first day of class in a building I had never been to before, but was only 15 minutes or so from my apartment. After class, a girl I just met whose name I immediately forgot was walking with me. She expressed her admiration for Iowa writers and the state in general. We turned left, hoping for a shortcut, and when the road expanded and forked, she suggested we turn right and cross a bridge neither of us had seen before.

 Peter's new friend overlooks the gorgeous view from a bridge as they explore.

Though we conferred and confirmed that yes, we were lost, we decided not to turn back, ultimately ignoring the "Universtät" signs pointing behind us.

The bridge led us over an abandoned train covered in graffiti sitting in some forgotten rail yard. When the street became a highway, one side leading over the dirt foundation of a construction site, we took a small side street over the river which, at this narrow point, was hard to recognize as the one that split the city in half.

On either side of this little road were small offices which quickly turned to trees trapping us in their shade.

We kept right, figuring it was the best way to find where we were trying to go. That led us into a neighborhood on a street she recognized on her map. This was a neighborhood full of small houses. Each had a distinctly manicured lawn that led up to a different style of house. Some were modern: white and black with silver and aluminum piping, exposed bars, and windows the length of the house. Others were medieval: bright yellow paint on stone walls, with oaky brown trim that blended into the background.

Another small street appeared, cutting a line in an otherwise unbroken forest. This road was even smaller than the last two, leaving barely enough space for a Volkswagen Golf to whiz past us.

As it curved, it changed.

To the right sat a dark line of trees, hiding the neighborhood we walked through, but to the left was a green meadow. A pasture was also seen under the bright sun with another forest wrapped around the horizon.

Peter and the girl encountered an abandoned train covered in graffiti - just one of the many interesting findings during their adventure.

In class our professor told us about "spazieren gehen," which means to take a walk without a real destination. There's not an English phrase quite as concise with the same meaning, but it's somewhere around to stroll or to wander. She tells us this is a very German idea, but she is wrong.

Yes, it's a very German phrase, but it's a universal idea.At the end of this curve was a small tunnel with train tracks up above, marked as 3.2 meters high. Past the underpass was the zoom of buses and cars – the Main Street that would lead us back to university.

"Not all who wander are lost," is still as true as when Tolkien wrote it, but it's incomplete. It doesn't include the case of someone who is actually lost.

Not all who are lost should worry. Not all who are lost should turn back.