If you live in the center of town, or have visited the area recently, you may have noticed that our quiet little town has been pretty noisy lately. The sound of birds sweetly chirping as the sun rises is now met with the sound of metal beating and burrowing into stone pavers all up and down the main walkway, Louisenstrasse.

April 25th, Thursday morning. I stepped out of my favorite cafe, leaving my writing things and hot coffee on the table behind me, to go and see what on earth is all that ruckus? I was trying to write. I saw the crew of men, rough looking and muscled, wearing bright orange gear (as if you could miss them). They were working hard to rip up the walkway I enjoy every day. What they were doing looked rather interesting to me, so I took a picture. Just as I did so, a man with salt-and-pepper hair and suit pants approached me and asked me why I was photographing his men.

Men at Work

This is the picture I took of the men hard at work on Thursday morning. You can’t see the rest of the crew, which was perhaps 5-6 strong.

I was really tempted to confess that I am a super spy because I’ve always wanted to say that, but I didn’t. I told him the truth instead. He wasn’t very impressed, but he nodded a cursory acceptance of my excuse. Somehow, explaining that you’re a writer gets you out of all sorts of potentially sticky situations – much more so than admitting you’re really curious and have a thin-to-nonexistent grasp of propriety. (Hey, I’m an American. In the U.S. photographing work crews is illegal in certain areas – like shopping malls and airports and other places I’m sure super spies go. So my impromptu little picture of Louisenstrasse is practically porn, it’s so naughty. Naturally, my inner American rebel couldn’t resist taking the shot.)

I shivered briefly at the thought I might be in trouble, but he shrugged it off and told me some rather interesting things.

In our talk, I found out that the man’s name is Reinhold Gehrmann of the Betriebshof for Bad Homburg. He’s responsible for all this sort of maintenance and repairs to public areas in town. Did you know that the pavers we walk upon day in and day out come from a quarry in China? They do – as really large slabs. Those stone slabs are then cut in Germany and trucked to our town.

I asked Mr. Gehrmann how often the pavers needed to be replaced. He couldn’t tell me for certain because it is so often, but the crew comes to do major repairs all along the 1.5-kilometer stretch of Louisenstrasse, at least four times a year. I had no idea it was so often! Additionally, many pavers are replaced by smaller crews for quick fix-ups should a tile or two be shattered.

Why so many repairs?

Louisenstrasse to me is a pedestrian zone, but it’s the delivery trucks that bring goods to all the shops and restaurants – the trash pick-up, food recyclers, box and pallet disposal – not to mention all the farmers who come every Tuesday and Friday to set-up their wares on Market Days. Taken all this together, you realize that this pedestrian zone sees quite a bit of traffic. Heavy traffic, and it drives over the pavers and stops on top of them.

A lightweight truck is about 6,000 pounds, roughly 2720 kilograms. The larger trucks, ones that are refrigerated or for recycling, can easily weigh 20,000 pounds or more.

If it weren’t for the strong men fixing, replacing and pounding away on a regular basis, Louisenstrasse would be pebbles. I for one am very happy for the noise.

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