Last night I fell asleep to the therapeutic sound of thunder and rain. It was my last night in Switzerland. It had been magical so far — better than I could have imagined.
I’m having a love affair with the European summer, I think to myself.
It’s cool this morning. The rain is gone, but a chill still clings to the air. I venture outside to sneak my last sunrise. I woke up earlier than I imagined, stirring to the sound of the early birds just before 6am. I relished these quiet mornings that allowed me to sit on the balcony and drink in the landscape.
That’s exactly what I did this morning. I wiggled myself into a comfortable position on my favourite chair and gazed at the lake. It was dead quiet this morning, despite last night’s disturbance. I survey my kingdom for the last time, memorising the curves of the mountain, the bristling trees and the flagpoles that perturb the calm horizon. I even commit the sound of the train to memory.
Then my alarm started. It was time.
I launched into packing and cleaning mode. Marc and I gave the house a once over before leaving to catch the 8:45 am train to Zurich. He was moving to Frankfurt to continue his studies and had packed a large enough trunk that it looked like he was embarking to Hogwarts for a year. I recall him scampering around the previous evening to collect ties, rugby shirts and bedding. Heaven only knows how he managed to close his suitcase!
We set off early enough, but my selfish side made us stop for one last picture. Just one more photograph. With a start, we checked the time and lifted out suitcases to run to the station. I still do not know how we managed. I was exhausted, and Marc wasn’t exactly packing light either.
This time the train journey was quiet. I enjoyed the silent farewell. Marc was getting lost in the morning newspaper 20 Minuten. We disembarked at Zurich and mounted a very nice train to Frankfurt.
We passed the next four hours by with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and even managed to squeeze some Kingsman before nearing Frankfurt.
We had a couple of hours to kill in Frankfurt, so we rented a locker for our luggage and set off on foot to find a place for lunch.
I was surprised. As we navigated out of the large train station a woman came to me, asking me for money. There were also several homeless souls sprawled along the sides of the station, seeking shelter from the sun in crannies offered by the Neo-Renaissance features.
Marc pointed out the financial district which dominated the skyline. I was fascinated by the grandeur and intricacies of the buildings that lined the road we picked to follow. Kaiserstraße was bustling with life and I could hear Arabic music on one corner then African drums on the next. With all the added graffiti, it felt like I was in Cape Town.
We opted to eat at My Urban Kitchen where I got to experience my first (and only) Weissbier. Weissbier (Weißbier rather) is a wheat beer, perfected by Germans but originating from an area near Iraq some 10 000 years ago. I coupled it with a delicious beef burger that made me salivate by just looking at the menu.
After a snappy lunch, we headed back to the station to catch our third train of the day. I was getting tired and the sun was pulling high in the sky. We got our luggage, mounted the carriage and we were off.
I admired the countryside, surprised at the vineyards that strung together the landscape. It was also flatter than I had imagined. But I didn’t know much about Germany, to begin with. I noticed that train stations were looking more decrepit and colourful as we drew further away from Frankfurt. Some places looked so South African, with a shell of a building lining the railway and graffitied walls.
We dismounted at a dusty looking station at Hattenheim, a town that bordered the River Rhine. I dubbed it Funky Town. Somehow, in the time that Marc and I made it to a restaurant to sip a late afternoon wine, I had spotted nine of eleven ladies were all wearing pink. Bright pink.
Tired of lugging our bags and the long journey, we desperately looked for a bus that may take us to Hallgarten. Apparently, our journey wasn’t over yet. The restaurant owner was friendly enough and even called us a cab.
€20 later we were deposited outside a rather neat looking apartment building. Upon entering Hallgarten, Marc met with the leaser of his apartment. We stumbled into the bachelor pad, dazed from heat and fatigued. Wooden floors decked all corners. It was simple and sufficient. Grey, white and green splashed the abode.
The leaser led Marc through a very thorough tour. I just wanted to lie down, but I held my composure, arranging myself (somewhat) elegantly on the couch while they gabbled in German. Then we had a quick tour around the building to the laundromat (which is in the cellar by the way) and the common room which housed sofas, a kitchen, a TV and two dining room tables. Did I mention the great view?
It was nearing 8 pm when we wrapped up. We established there was a restaurant in the town right below where the apartment building was. Still in the same clothes as this morning, but in a much poorer state, we hustled to the restaurant and grabbed a table.
The menu was rather concise: including cheese and meat platters, a long wine list, and variations of schnitzel. Of course.
I got the schnitzel with mushroom and sauce and Marc kept it simple with a regular cut. The waitress was very friendly. Upon hearing my estranged accent she quickly switched my menu out for an English one. I was grateful, and so was Marc, as he no longer had to translate.
It was a lovely evening out. We stayed out until after the sunset and the moon hung in the sky. The restaurant was very busy. I guess it always was — as it was the only place in town. I looked around at the residents. They were a jolly bunch who regularly laughed, cheers’ed and schnitzeled at the Gutsausschank Tannenhof (not sure about pronunciation).
Be warned: they have no card facilities and there is only one ATM in town at Rheingauer Volksbank that sits 400m away. Poor Marc.
Bed never felt so good as after that day.