It’s 8pm, and I’m sitting in a hotel less than 100 yards from the place I will be working tomorrow, munching on chocolate coated cardboard. At least I think it’s chocolate - I don’t know the German word for Chocolate, so it could really be anything.
I suppose a story is in order to bridge the gap between the earlier post, where you found me twiddling my thumbs in the London Heathrow departure lounge, and right now, where I am sitting alone in a hotel room eating chocolate coated cardboard.
The flight was cancelled once, and the substitute flight was delayed twice. The gate announcer in the airport mentioned something about the weather, inbetween apologising in both German, and English. The German apology sounded more like a rant. It’s a funny thing - the german accent - those that speak softly sound like perverted porn stars, and those that speak confidently sound like they are threatening to do something to you. Not understanding a word of it beyond “hello”, “thankyou”, and “please” doesn’t really help either.
The flight did finally leave. Obviously it did - otherwise, how the hell am I now sitting in a hotel in Frankfurt writing this? Once away from London, and the impending chaos brought about by the edge of a storm lashing Northern Ireland, the skies became filled with brilliant blue, and after stuffing a pastrami sandwich, and glugging a plastic beaker full of orange juice, we began our descent.
I suppose I should mention the pretty chinese lady sitting next to me on the plane, that deemed it necessary to do her year’s worth of clothes shopping just before getting on the plane. She then discovered that our row of seats had no over-head storage available. Cue a rather entertaining scene as she screwed and crumpled everything she was carrying beneath the seat in front. I imagine the passenger directly in front of her unwittingly became the owner of a reclining chair with shopping bag foot-rests.
During the flight my fellow passengers once again amused me with their tiny bladdered antics. No sooner had the seat-belt sign switched off, somebody ran to the bathroom. I guess when you’ve got to go, you’ve really got to go. Likewise, when we landed at Frankfurt airport, the plane halted momentarily on a taxi-way, perhaps a kilometre from the terminal building. Nearly everybody jumped out of their seat and began ripping overhead compartments open. The head stewardess had to tell them all to sit back down again - in the manner you might with small children. She was not amused.
After trudging through the airport (it’s all becoming a bit too familiar now), I picked up my bags, and then wandered down to the railway station. The airport is only ten minutes from downtown Frankfurt, and trains run every fifteen minutes or so. I found a ticket machine on the platform, and joined the queue behind a guy in his mid twenties who was taking rather a long time to buy a ticket.
Five minutes later he was STILL messing around with the machine. A train arrived. He ran for the train, and left the screen open with whatever he had been doing. The rest of us missed the train. Never mind. Fifteen minutes until the next one. Shit head.
The lady in front of me - next in line to use the ticket machine - looked at it, then turned to me, and with a thick Indian accent said “I need some help”.
I pointed at the Union Jack flag at the foot of the touch screen, which magically changed all of the buttons into English.
“Where are you going?”
I pointed at the massive button at the top of the screen in bold-face lettering, saying “Frankfurt Station”. She dithered, and finally pushed it. Two minutes later she had bought her ticket, and I had bought mine. While waiting for the train she wandered up, and sat next to me.
The train rolled in - with double announcements, in German, and English, telling everybody that the train was calling at a variety of places, including Frankfurt Railway Station.
“Does it go to Frankfurt?”
“Yes - they just said it does, and look - it says so on the sign - see that big word after Frankfurt - that’s German for Central Railway Station”.
I got on the train, and she got on after me. And sat next to me.
“Are you sure this is the train to Frankfurt?”
“Yes - look at the information screens - Frankfurt Central Station is the third stop.”
I then proceeded to pull up Google Maps on my phone, and show her where we were, and where we would be in five minutes time. She appeared to be happy.
Of course as we rolled into Frankfurt station, she checked with me again. I grinned, and nodded. While walking away from the train in a massive hurry, she shouted over her shoulder “Thankyou very much - I don’t want to miss my connecting flight!”
I couldn’t figure that out at all, and lost her in the crowd. I have a horrible feeling when I return on Friday she will still be there, trying to find her way out of the railway station.
After a short walk from the station - avoiding a Turkish protest march along the way - I checked into my hotel, unpacked my bags, and thought “Right then, food”. It just so happens there is a traditional German bar a few doors from the hotel. When I stayed here previously, I never got around to visiting. What better time to put that right?
The bar was all I had imagined from the stories and photos I had seen on the internet. Imagine if two elderly Uncles ran a pub, but had no real skill at doing so. Imagine them running from client to client looking very busy, and writing receipts out on scraps of paper torn from old printouts. Imagine also massive glasses of beer, and plates filled with Stegosaurus ribs, and enough saurkraut to sink a battleship.
I ordered a local beer, and a selection of sausages served with saurkraut and mashed potato.
Alongside me a long table was filled with Americans, one of which was several orders of magnitude louder than anybody in the entire bar. He looked vaguely like Stephen King, and within five minutes I knew all about his wife that can speak several languages, and the difficulty of communicating in Italy when compared to Spain, France, or Germany. He didn’t seem to be able to shut up.
Closest to me, among their group, sat a Japanese gentleman and I’m guessing his teenage son. The Japanese man was greying, a little overweight, and wore a shirt and tie - the only one in the group to do so. His son looked like he had just walked from the pages of a Manga comic book. I wish that was all I had to say about them, but unfortunately a few moments before food began arriving from the kitchen, the Japanese Dad leaned over onto one side of his bottom, and let rip with the loudest fart I have ever whitnessed in a bar. He kept talking as if nothing had happened, as did his son. The rest of the table paused, but then carried on too. I didn’t know if to laugh out loud or not.
My food was fine. As so many have told me, traditional German food is hale and hearty. It was true. No thought was given to presentation at all. It filled you up, it tasted nice, and it wasn’t bad for you in the same way that chocolate coated cardboard might be.
I’m getting there, honest.
After paying, I wandered out into the early evening air on my own, and set off for the nearby supermarket. I’m here all week, so thought it mike make sense to buy some supplies. I’ve been to the supermarket before - it’s the same one where it took me twenty minutes to find the orange juice, along the way discovering thirty different kinds of milk.
While picking up ridiculously cheap wine, orange juice, and a variety of snacks, I spotted something that looked vaguely like “Jaffa Cakes”. They are very probably only sold in England, so I should probably explain. They are small, flat sponge cakes, with a small amount of marmalade on top, coated in chocoalte. They are addictive. So I saw soemthing vaguely like them, and picked them up. They were only a few pence for a box full.
I am such an idiot.
After getting them back to the hotel, and setting up camp with my cheap wine and sweet chilli crisps, I opened the mystery Jaffa Cake substitutes. I should have guessed after discovering they were backed with rice paper. Imagine a cake made out of corrigated cardboard, with rice paper stuck underneath, and a think layer of chocolate substitute coating the top. You know the weird thing? After a glass of wine, and having eaten two thirds of the packet, they become a little bit moreish.