After finishing work unexpectedly early this evening (who knew mainland Europe were all work-shy? I want to move here *immediately*). Seriously though – I’m used to arriving in the office before 9, and working through often until 6pm. I arrived at 10am, and things were winding down by 4pm. How does that even work? How do people get anything done?
So – I wandered back to the hotel, changed out of my work clothes, tried to call home, and then wandered off into Frankfurt to see where my feet might take me. First stop was “Romerberg”, in the old part of the city. I say “old”, but most of it got blown to bits during the second world war, so nearly everything you see has either been re-built, or is designed to look old – a bit like Shakespeare’s house in Stratford, which is completely and utterly fake (if you didn’t know already).
While walking along the side of the river Main towards Romerberg, I was continually passed by people cycling, or roller skating. Cycling in particular seems to be a huge thing here – most streets have cycle racks in the daytime that are filled to bursting with bicycles, and there is a steady stream on all roads throughout the city of cyclists either in cycle-lanes, or among the traffic. It makes the efforts to install bikes in London look laughable.
After arriving in the old part of the city, and joining the tourists in taking endless photos of the fake houses, I looked around for somewhere to eat – and chose a traditional-looking bar/cafe in the corner of the cobble-stone covered square. Not realising I could just sit at a table and await the curvaceous fraulein that appeared to be running in ten directions at once, I wandered into the bar – and OF COURSE the barman presumed I was German.
I looked lost, and said in a rather feeble voice “English?”, and he laughed.
“What can we do for you ?”
“That’s a great start. Now we have to make a further decision. Which Beer?”
“Ok – and now we have to decide which size of glass you would like – half a litre, one litre or two litres” (he lifted the biggest beer glass I’ve ever seen in my life into view).
“A half thankyou.”
“Ok – if you would like to find a seat, the lady will serve you at your table.”
I found a quiet corner out on the cobble stones, and will quite happily admit it was purposely chosen so I could watch everybody – to get some sense of what people over here are really like. There was a flaw in my plan though – an obvious one. I’m sitting outside a bar in a tourist trap in old Frankfurt. What sort of people do you think you find there? Lots of Italians (gesticulating wildly), lots of Japanese people (being indecisive and subsurvient about everything), and weirdly, lots of dutch people.
After a few moments my beer arrived, and I decided that I was hugry too, so did something of an impulse food order – for something a German friend in England had told me I had to try if I was in Frankfurt – “green sauce”. The dish it came with wasn’t overly descriptive – four eggs and potatoes with green sauce (or at least that was my translation of it). It was unexpectedly wonderful. Similar to pesto, but much more creamy, and much more mild. Served with hard boiled eggs, and boiled new potatoes, it was the perfect food to fill you after a busy day. I’ve noticed that of a lot of the German dishes I have read on menus while here so far – much of the traditional food is hearty, warming, and healthy.
While finishing my beer, I started to listen to the group of twenty-something guys on the table next to me. They were all speaking English, but it was obviously not their mother tongue. I suspect they were dutch, but kept very quiet indeed – because they were busy bashing the “idiot English” over and over (no doubt because of Brexit), and claiming we should be barred from using mobile phone networks, internet connections, and pretty much anything else they thought up. I didn’t like to tell them that most of the fibre from the US to mainland Europe goes through the UK.
After a little while the waitress finally made her way back to my table, and I paid for my meal. I felt bad that I didn’t have any change to tip her, so will probably walk back that way later in the week and find her again. She was run ragged, but still found time to stop and smile while explaining things to me.
After leaving the square, secure in the knowledge that my phone had a decent amount of charge left, I wandered off into the centre of the city – towards the main shopping area. I didn’t go into any shops, but wandered along taking it all in. It struck me how few coffee shops there are compared to home. It also struck me how clean everything is. I saw a demonstration taking place in one central piazza, and wanted to take a photo of the police, but didn’t dare.
I’m not entirely sure how many miles I walked. I started looking up at the ornate mouldings and stonework on some of the older buildings – of the “germanic” crests adorning door-ways. I wondered if there is some meaning to it all – if there is a heraldic background behind it all. I also encountered my first sex shop – a HUGE one in the middle of the city, called “Dolly Buster”, that seemed to be as big as most supermarkets. I wanted to go in and have a look, but walked straight past – a little more quickly than I approached. I’m not sure why.
Before long huge skyscrapers towered overhead – a mass of concrete, glass, and steel stretching in to the sky all around. I took endless photos of the evening sun shining off the half-mile high shards of architectural wonder, and realised these were the headquarters of some of the biggest banks in the word. One particular building had revolving doors big enough to fit Hagrid’s big brother through – I found myself wondering why, and laughing to myself as I continued on.
After an hour or so of wandering along, I made it back to the hotel, and recalled seeing a supermarket on Google Maps a little way down the road. Ten minutes later I found myself standing in the middle of quite the most bizarre experience in quite some time.
Imagine standing in the middle of a supermarket in a foreign country when you know NONE of the language. Actually – that’s not entirely true – I know a few words, but most of it may as well be written in Swahili. I thought “I know, I’ll buy a bottle of wine”, but then it took a couple of minutes – and the help of Google Translate – to figure out that “Trocken” is “Dry”. The only reason I obsessed over it was because I had real fears of arriving back at the hotel with a bottle of desert wine.
This is the bit where I tell you it took me twenty minutes to find the orange juice. I had a bit of a headache at the end of the day, and thought some orange juice might help. Do you think I could find it?! I looked bloody everywhere – and in the process discovered there are about twenty eight thousand varieties of milk in Germany. Eventually, I discovered an entire other room of the supermarket – that nobody was in – stacked to the roof with beer, and fruit juice. Go figure.
The girl on the checkout took one look at me, and started talking Germany alarmingly quickly. I looked absolutely lost, and she smiled the biggest toothy grin, and said “do you have a reward card?”. I smiled back, and quietly said “no”, and looked at my feet. She smiled even more, and quiety put the rest of my things through the checkout.
I’m back in the hotel now. Somehow it’s already 10:30pm. Time to watch a movie and open that bottle of wine perhaps ?