One thing that marks me as either a foreigner or perhaps a sketchy fuck from Berlin is sunglasses and headphones. I know i should probably take them off, but if i have to hear one more kid screaming i'm gonna go postal. I really hope they're not getting out at the same stop as me. Which i forget what it's called, because i just picked a random location and jumped on the train.
There is perhaps nothing quite as terrifying as climbing the spiral staircase of the tower of an abandoned castle. The restaurant is closed Monday, and i am the only one here. As i made my way around the pitch-black staircase (lit only by the odd arrow-slit), i heard a soft rattling, like chains in the distance. The staircase got narrower and narrower, as they do in medieval buildings, till i finally found my way out. The rattle turned out to be the wire attached to the flagpole, adorned with a cornucopia of touristy stickers. Oklahoma City was here! Or a fan, at least.
Funnily enough, as soon as i sat down to write, the rattling stopped. Perhaps the ghost just needed some company, sitting here all alone on a beautiful Monday. I am now wishing i had brought something to drink. I could sit here a while, in the (now) silence, relaxing with my thoughts.
Unfortunately my fat ass is exhausted from climbing the damn hill to get here. No doubt i'm sunburned too. Sweating like a pig, i feel the the archetypal American tourist.
I hear the bells from the church tower in the village. I guess it's 2:45.
* * *
Had my first kaffee und kuchen. Even though i wanted a beer - ha! I guess not all kids are annoying. The little shit zooming around the patio on his scooter yelling "achtung! hier kommt ein auto!" is kinda cute. Or maybe it's that blonde hair and cherubic face making me soft. He's making me think of my childhood in Germany. The oldies at the next table talking about trips to Scotland remind me of my Oma and Opa.
All these little things reminding me of my childhood. Ordering wienerschnitzel with pommes frites, my favorite food as a kid. Mayonnaise on my fries. Sitting at one of those ubiquitous coffee shops attached to a castle (different one). The gardens strewn with daisies and dandelions. Do they even have daisies in Canada? I've never noticed.
I haven't tipped since i've been here. I can't remember if people do it. I don't ever remember doing it. I do remember working at the restaurant i had my first job, they always loved it when Americans came by.
[Bedroom addendum: Turns out you are kinda supposed to tip, but only up to the next euro or two, so now i feel like a shitheel. Or just Dutch.]
I got lost in a forest this evening. I'm not sure if it was an attempt to conquer my fears, or just burn off all the calories i've been consuming, or maybe another throwback to my childhood, but as i wandered past the castle mausoleum and saw the entrance to the "exotic forest", i just decided to go in.
It was very peaceful, perhaps because it was a Monday. I had been walking about 20 minutes when a familiar trunk stopped me in my tracks. Memories hit me in the face like ocean spray in a storm. A few steps further and i was surrounded by giant redwoods. I swear my heart just stopped a moment. That trees could bring so much back... On one side, a redwood forest, the other, rolling hills with medieval castles. It was like two halves of my life crashing together on a quiet forest path. I pressed on.
I passed a sign saying "romantischer weg" and figured - well, i'm a romantic, why not? Later (much later) i discovered it was a Romanischer weg (much less interesting). After following it i popped out the other end of the forest, but instead of turning back, i went up some unmarked path to God-knows-where. At some point i had the sinking feeling i should've turned right a half hour previous. I kept walking and saw what looked like a hunting blind, though being Europe it was probably a bird watchers' hut. There was not a soul on the path, nor any evidence of recent foot or vehicle traffic. The sun was setting, and although i could've retraced my steps an hour or so, i decided to walk deeper into the forest. I figured eventually the trail had to lead somewhere.
And it did. The first sign i saw pointed to the next village over. Fuck. I kept walking and eventually found a marked path back into the exotic forest. I felt better when i passed another redwood. Then washed my feet in a random pool in the middle of nowhere. But when i ended up back at the redwood thicket, i couldn't hold back the tears. I bawled and bawled. The ground was covered with lavender and nettles and other purple flowers i'm going to pretend were forget-me-nots, because that fits with my breakdown.
I don't know, it was cathartic. I had had that Cure song going round and round in my head as i walked (now i understand why people need 80 gig iPods - so when the moment strikes you have the song). I was facing a fear as well. I have always been scared of trees, of forests. I don't know why, i just don't feel safe. And although i got a bit worried after i'd been walking an hour without seeing anyone, i kinda made peace with it. I needed it.
When i got back to town i saw the Hexenturm (a bus stop and... witch's tower!?) Also Katzenlauf. These small towns have the best street names. Crèpe for dinner, and now i'm having a beer on the old town square, where my hotel is. A German and an American are playing chess behind me. His German is about as Texan as it gets. I wonder if he's a banker on break from some business trip in Frankfurt? Who knows?