Back to the West!
Trip Start Aug 08, 2006
36Trip End Oct 11, 2006
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
It was quite a relief to return to the West! Although the cultures and landscapes of China, Mongolia, and Russia were fascinating, I did not feel a complete sense of security there. For instance, using the internet in Beijing meant temporarily rendering one's passport to an official and registering a computer with a complete log history of all the websites one was visiting. Hailing any street taxi in Moscow or St. Petersburg was advised against since tourist mugging was a common problem.
Getting out of Russia also was a big hassle. I had to have all my baggage X-rayed three times, wait in line for 2 hours to check-in and another 1 hour for passport control. Luckily I ran to the gate just in time for boarding call
After landing at Frankfurt Airport, I had to wait an extra hour for my luggage, lost in Copenhagen, to be flown in on the last SAS flight to Frankfurt. Then, I called up my American friend Jana, who told me she was waiting with a German friend, Sabine originally from Jena, East Germany, at home. I took the S-Bahn train to Niederrad Station, then the Straßenbahn (Tram) to Triftstraße. It was already dark, around 9:30PM. The outdoor cafe of Sky Lounge was packed with customers on this busy, cool Saturday evening (65F). I walked two blocks north past the Post Office and turned right at the corner of Schwarzwaldstraße, where the best corner cafe in Niederrad was located. Then, I saw Jana and her friend, Sabine, walking towards me. After having moved to Frankfurt in April, Jana seemed well adapted to her new life here where she was doing her post-doc in Molecular Cardiology at Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main. My first, striking impression of this American once lost in translation was that she had found herself in this linguistic labyrinth
Her apartment was located in the suburb of Niederrad (Lower Wheel), 10 minutes southwest of downtown Frankfurt by tram. It was located conveniently only half a block (1 minute) from all the essentials of living - several banks, grocery stores, bakeries, fruit stands, butcher's, clothing stores, drugstore, cafes, post office, pharmacies, washateria, dry cleaner, internet cafe, restaurants, pubs, taverns, clubs, tram stop, and most importantly, Döner eateries. (Germany is invaded by cheap Turkish fast-food diners serving pita bread with mutton and lettuce).
After washing up briefly, we went straight to Schwarzwald Cafe, a cute tavern where Jana's friend, Maria was working at the bar on this particular night. All of Jana's friends showed up, and for a moment, I was reminded of our big social group at The Gingerman in Houston. It felt like Jana was surrounded by her new family and strong support group
Throughout the evening, I had a chance to practice my German with these new-found friends. We did not call it a night until probably 2AM.
The next few days in Germany were for me to run errands - like dropping my suits at the Dry Cleaning Store called "Fresh Bloom," near the corner of Schwarzwald and Bruchfelder Streets, right next to an Optometry Shop and a delectable bakery. Then, I would stop at a cafe for some Quarktasche, a German pastry with melted sweet cheese covered with powdered sugar, and a cappuccino. How I longed for good coffee and pastries when I was in Japan, China, Mongolia, and Russia! I did have a chance to visit downtown Frankfurt, Heidelberg, and Rüdesheim during my short stay in Germany.
Heidelberg, home to one of Germany's oldest (1386) and most prestigious universities, was one of the few medieval towns to survive intact the ferocious bombing of World War II
Not to be outdone, Rüdesheim, also 1 hour by train from Frankfurt, was a cute wine and chocolate-producing town on the mighty river Rhine, which originated in Switzerland and flowed through France, Germany, and The Netherlands on its 820 mile (1320 Km) trek to the North Sea. Overflowing with terraced vineyards, iridescent summer flowers, taverns, and a forest trail on the hills, Rüdesheim also was very charming in its own rights
Tomorrow (Friday, Sep 8) will be the big reunion day in Italy. I will be together with Lucia, Carlo, Jana, Christina, Uta, Annalisa, and many Italian friends in Lucia and Carlo's hometown of Gubbio (Umbria). Leaving my German dictionary behind, I long for the sweet, melodious cadence of the Italian language, its rich food, and warm sun. Then, Saturday at around 4:30PM is the wedding church service.
There will definitely be many songs and dances in Bella Italia in my next travelogue...