‘I Always Cry on the Bridge’

Just last night, I was talking with a friend of mine who lives in Hong Kong and had popped back to Sydney this week for a little surprise visit. She said she was finding Sydney this time round quite irresistible, that it would be harder than ever to leave it. She said she cried driving over the bridge and I assured her I had a moment too, when Mum and I drove back from the airport a month ago. Another friend said when she came home after a year away, she was driving around her neighbourhood and when she came to a particular spot that just happened to be home to a speed camera (immaterial)  but more notably was a dip in the road, a momentary haven of great peace, lushly furnished by Australian bush, she burst into tears. I said I always cried, no matter where I had been, nor for how long, at Sydney airport when you walk out to the arrivals lounge underneath the big sign saying ‘Welcome to Sydney.’ I also cry if the QANTAS pilot says – after a bloody long, delirium-inducing flight, mind you –  ‘and for those returning home to Sydney, welcome home.’ This time round, I cried when I walked into my bedroom, two days after I farewelled my little flat in Weiden and SG at Frankfurt airport, put down my 27kg bag and thought, ‘I’m here. And you’re so far away.’

When I was in Germany, I missed – as well as the more obvious things – the funniest little things. Things like eucalyptus trees. Movie dates with a big caramel muffin and a large latte. Birds, big colourful ones, ones with loud, rambunctious song that wakes you up in the morning. My old handbag collection. High heels. Rice crackers (I know, odd). Good Thai food. A glass of Australian white wine. I suppose it is no different then, to have the funniest little things make you cry, when you are reunited with them at long last. I can’t get enough of the birds that chill out in my Mum’s garden, tilling the toil with their little beaks for seeds and wherever possible over the past month, I have gotten a big take away latte. We all had dinner last night, a big group of us, at a Thai place in North Sydney and the sweet chilli, basil and coconut chicken tasted unbelievable. So did the wine. Walking back to my car, I crossed the road to stand at a spot which has the most perfect view of a city I will leave again soon, but must love hugely while I am here. Standing, framed by trees was the huge, lit-up Sydney Harbour Bridge. I didn’t cry, but I did just stand there a while and take it all in. There’s no Sydney Harbour in Germany.

And because I promised to do this weekly in my quest to really appreciate my time in this city – which may not be as long as initially planned – here’s what is around me at the moment.

And finally, to all the new followers who have found their way to this blog of late, HELLO and thank you for thinking this is worth your while. 

What I Love About Germany

It all started with cheap bananas. As I stood in the supermarket, marvelling at a big bunch of bananas that would set me back a whole euro (as opposed to my left arm in Sydney) I started thinking of things I would miss, should I leave this fair land. And I will leave it, obviously, at various points, and return to it. I suspect I shall live in another country for a period of time, perhaps a couple of other countries. There will be points, down the track, where I will miss Germany as I miss Australia. Because, when it comes down to it, I love Germany. And, on top of that reason that sometimes cannot be put into words beyond one, ‘home’, here’s why …

Schnitzel.

Excellently priced wine in the supermarket (you know, 3€ for a bottle that would be about $16 in Sydney).

A good slab of Brie for 2€.

9 borders for the crossing and …

Road trips to cross them.

Radio stations that aren’t afraid of adding 90s classics to their playlists – who, in fact, do it as a matter of cause.

10€ every three months for unlimited visits to the doctor.

The big cities.

The little towns.

The bakeries.

Kölsch.

Glühwein.

The ubiquity of seriously good chocolate.

Dutch wine gum stalls at the markets.

Spring, marvellous Spring, with its flowers and rapsfeldandSpargel and sweet, sweet promise of warmth.

Clean public toilets (I’ll pay 70 cents for hygiene).

The choice and consequent cheapness of grocery stores. No Coles and Woolworths duopoly here.

H&M delivery service.

Kitsch homeware stores, Nanu Nana and Butlers.

Busses that run on time.

25cent pots of yoghurt.

Medieval towns.

History at every turn, under every rock, down every cobbled lane.

The fierce pride in and protection of sub-cultures, dialects and traditions as produced by the twists and turns of this aforementioned history. This can, however, get mildly irritating when ten people who live within 20km of each other refuse to be identified as belonging to the same region. Franconian people, I am looking at you.

Kiel.

The Germans.

***This post is here as a page and will be added to as I find more reasons to love this place. Which, of course, I will.

Image credit

Where I Live

Sometimes, caught up in thinking about where I have been, where I come from and where I would like to go, I neglect to consider where I am. This is especially the case because it is with greater ease we offer up what it is we don’t have, rather than what it is we do. Lamenting Weiden’s size, its lack of ‘scenes’ and neighbourhoods, the stretch of its Altstadt coverable in the time it takes to open a bottle of wine is something I do all too often. And something I do at the expense, and I say this with head-bowed regret, of etching into my consciousness, the good about where I am.

Yes Weiden is small, but it is also sweet. It is quaint and cute and the buildings are all brightly coloured like flavours jostling for space in an ice cream shop. Yes the Altstadt could fit in the palm of my hand, but that’s manageable. A night out involves merely zigzagging across a cobbled rectangle. And I can safely say I know, without a doubt, where the best coffee, the best Greek food, the best schnitzel and the most abominable house wine can be found. And I cannot honestly say that about many places in the world, except perhaps an even smaller village on a very small island.

Weiden is completely different to anywhere else I have lived or spent extended periods of time – Sydney, Santorini, Münster. It is a whole new experience, culturally, aesthetically, gastronomically, linguistically, historically, environmentally. It is absolutely nothing like a harbour metropolis of millions, Mediterranean island or north-west German city of students and churches. This is another corner of the world and I am within it.

As I write, the bells of two nearby churches are going off, seemingly of their own volition and without reason or rhyme. Weiden and its bells, the sounds of which will always make me think of this funny little place, won’t be forever. In time it will become ‘this town I used to live in’, my first (and, maybe only, who knows) experience with Franken, Bavaria, and all of its habits and idiosyncrasies. So I must remind myself not to wish it away, not to pass the time looking elsewhere for fuel and food, not to lament it so. Not to see it for what it isn’t (big, bustling, international!) but only for what it is – itself.