“How do we get out?” my new friend asked.
I reply I’m trying to get out of the airport too due to a layover, Mom’s threat that I’m forbidden to do precisely so obliterated from my conscience like a warning sign extinguished by a blackout. Ah, you have a layover too? Mine’s around nine fifteen too… Great! Yeah let’s take a trek around downtown Frankfurt together. I was inwardly stoked to have his company but also relieved that I will at least have a buddy with me as I venture about this foreign city. Oh man, it’s appalling how I still can’t recall/pronounce his name though.
So he buys our S-Bahn train tickets while I buy our weiβbiers (he finishes 60% of mine. It was a tall-ass glass! Like holding a slim, golden tube of ice topped with delicious foam.) at Römer (I had been mistakenly spelling this word with a double “m” all along in my journal). We initially hopped onboard the wrong train before being redirected by the German ticketmaster and finding our way to Hauptwache [allpte-wo-kh], a shopping hybrid of Central, Hong Kong, and Chun Xi Lu, Chengdu, except with refurbished European Church towers squeezed between the streets and buildings. If I didn’t pay enough attention, I might have forgotten I was in Germany at all!
Römerberg Plaza was charming to my untraveled eyes, although I later discovered that every major (and sometimes minor) European city is complete with a similar town square. It was just like sipping my weißbier (“wheat beer”) in an IMAX postcard, complete with a lean boy playing “Turkish March” on his flute, rows of checkered houses lined by local cafes, beer barrel bars, all of which mesh harmoniously around a cobble-stone plaza, its centre pierced by a classic fountain spurting water over wish-bearing coins. I took it all in. Then there’s the movement all around: of pigeons, of streaming water, wavering fringes of the café umbrellas, camera flashes, and of course, of the people. Tourists just like us. Some looking impressed and a little lost as they absorb 360 degrees of the plaza.
We felt like such locals, watching them, nursing our beers, exchanging cultures, life stories, and advice on life and love (one-sided: imparted from elder to yours truly). I learnt about the Israeli military service, the fighter jets involved (frontline details not disclosed to me), that strong opinions prevail about splitting the country to separate the Palestinians, that over 2,000 Sudanese refugees continue trying to cross the border to shelter, that Russian ladies are known for being stubborn (I won’t go further to describe the metaphors we used here), that straßhe [stra-shah] means street in German. It’s not everyday you wander about the streets of Hauptwache, Frankfurt, in the company of a fascinating stranger on his way home to complete his PhD. In spite of the humidity and heat clinging to my clothes, I found the afternoon wonderfully refreshing. Taking ownership and yielding to spontaneity makes a trip so much more enjoyable.
Besides Römer, the names of the other sights all blur into one in my rapidly shrinking head. I remember strolling along the River Main (Thames of Frankfurt. Appears every major European city owns one.), seeing the Städtische Bühnen (white stretch of government aura building with unidentifiable purpose), and chancing upon a Music Festival in full force at the Opernplatz, the Old Theatre, the air enriched with enticing aromas of sausage, sautéed mushroom, and fancy drinks.
Then we walked back to the S-bahn station on the Zeil. To my buddy’s disappointment, the Calvin Klein store had closed (duh, it was 8pm, standard!). Until we meet again, my friend.
No way! We’re landing near Oslo already. We’re literally flying toward the never-setting sun. Strangest thing is I can see the moon behind us too at the same time. OK never mind, we’re disappearing under some clouds, hence the turbulence. It’s 14 degrees (I’m always a Celsius girl) outside, a temperature I welcome. Bloody hell it’s cloudy. We’ve been descending through foggy whiteness for almost 10 minutes.
In Andrew Stevenson’s “Summer Light: A Walk Across Norway”, they say you leave your heart in Norway. If Norway really turns out to be the Western Tibet in my imagination, I’d better prepare to bid my heart goodbye.
TOUCHDOWN. And here I am, in Scandinavia.