Alongside the River

After arriving at Frankfurt Airport, and picking my way through the various hurdles that have become so familiar, I finally found myself standing in the queue for a train ticket at the railway station beneath the airport. I wondered quite what everybody was doing, taking so long over buying tickrets, until I finally got to the front of the queue, and put my journey details in. Instead of suggesting a reasonably priced ticket to get me from the airport to the city, there was now a full-blown journey planning application with ten screens, all sorts of choices, and tickets that costs three times as much as they used to.

I didn’t bother trying to figure the ticket machine out. The passengers in front of me obviously had, given the amount of time they spent pouring over the menu choices. I spent three times more than normal – still cheaper than the London Heathrow Express – and went on my way.

It has to be said – Frankfurt is a beautiful station. After the train rolled to a stop I spent some time wandering along the platforms, taking photos before heading off into the city to find my hotel.

You know the thing where you walk into a hotel and see the reservation sign, and suddenly remember the email you received 24 hours before inviting you to do advance check-in – and that you totally ignored? Yeah – that. So I spent the next several minutes filling out a piece of paper with my passport number, address, and so on.

Fun times.

I’m on the fifth floor of the hotel. I’m almost certain I’ve stayed in this exact room before – the first time I visited, about 18 months ago. Since then it’s had a pretty spectacular face-lift, and is almost nice now (not always the case for budget hotels). Oh yes – this is a budget hotel – not the grandeur of the idiotic suite I stayed in last time. I have no coffee machine, no fridge, and no wardrobe this time. Oh, the trials I suffer. On the plus side, there is no step in the floor half-way along the room that I will trip over and fall flat on my face three times either.

After unpacking my bags, and giving my phone a few minutes to charge, I headed straight out for a walk along the river. I don’t think I’ve ever known Frankfurt this hot. I spent the next ten minutes kicking myself, having not packed any shorts. The attire of the day though – judging by people stretched out on the grass alongside the river – was swimming trunks though. Tiny swimming trunks. And tiny bikinis. To be honest, it was difficult not to look.

I’m not sure if this is culturally offensive or not, but older German men do creepy really well. While the younger people stretched out on the grass, absorbing vitamin C from the sun into every corner of their body, a number of old men walked past with their bicycles – and they made sure they had a damn good look. One particularly hilarious looking old man, with hair sprouting from each side of his head like a mad professor, took quite some time adjusting his bicycle clips while simultaneously leering at an admittedly beautiful woman asleep in the sun wearing not very much at all.

A little way past the army of sunbathers I spotted a riverside bar, and almost got run over by a girl on a bicycle while trying to reach it. Maybe an exaggeration. She had to swerve, and I apologised, but then realised she probably didn’t understand me anyway.

Five minutes later I found an seat at a bench table, and rested a marvellously huge beer down in front of me. Thankfully the beer was labelled on the bar, otherwise I might have had a very entertaining conversation with the barman, doing my best charades act to describe a “big beer”. I smiled while the lady on the till talked away happily at me in German, and nodded occasionally. Let’s hope she wasn’t asking me anything where nodding was a deeply offensive answer.

While sitting there, sipping my beer, and polluting Instagram with the last several hours goings-on, I watched life going by, and wondered how I might luck into such a life. A life spent sitting around in cafes and bars, watching people, and writing about them with humor, honesty, and candor. I could become a tremendously successful travel writer – but a writer that only writes about places he happens to be visiting. Maybe it could be called “While I was doing something else”.

I thought about it some more half an hour later at a Japanese restaurant – the same one I frequented last time I visited Frankfurt. The same pretty Japanese girl ran out to greet me, and I spent much of my time there alone. While eating, I watched the city workers leave their offices for the day, and get on enumerable scooters – twirling helmets onto their heads, and vanishing off towards the suburbs among the traffic.

Do you ever wonder about people when you’re sitting alone in a restaurant? Where they are from? What their homes are like? If they have big families? What they worry about? What makes them laugh? If they have children? If they have somebody at home waiting for them? I do.

After paying for my meal, I wandered on down the road, and picked up a few groceries – among them a gigantic bottle of water, a bottle of orange juice, some apples, a bar of chocolate, and a huge bottle of cheap wine. Reading back through it, it’s not exactly a balanced diet, is it.

So here I am. Sitting in the hotel room once more. The hotel has a bar, but I’ve already blown today’s budget for food and drink. It might be quite entertaining though – to find out if the perverted old men extend to hotel lobbys too. I imagine the bar will be filled with tourists and business people though – which provides it’s own kind of entertainment too. I’ve spent enough awkward dinners with co-workers to know all about waiting for the ground to open up, or a Monty Python foot to fall from the sky and squash somebody for dithering over menu choices.

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