Worms, May 27, 2017

So I went to Worms yesterday, on a specific mission. I wanted to buy some locally-produced German wine as a gift for my dad. Most of the wines available in grocery stores here are decent, but not anything I’d consider bringing across the ocean. My dad likes really high-quality stuff, so I needed to search out a dedicated wine store, and after some Google research, I found one in Worms.

I started the day around 9, did my usual morning things, then headed to the train station to catch the train to Worms. It’s only about 20 minutes by train from Mannheim, and the train wasn’t very full, so it was a pleasant little trip. I arrived at the Worms train station and plotted a rough course toward the St. Peter Cathedral, which I wanted to visit before the wine store, as I really love going into old European cathedrals.

IMG_5488

This is the Martin Luther Memorial in Worms. Very impressive and located in a lovely little park, which I passed through on my way to the cathedral. Worms is the actual name of the city, and it’s a famous and historically important city in Germany (although rather small, compared to other cities). It’s the city where the “Diet of Worms” happened (not the kind of diet that has to do with food). It was an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire to respond to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. You can Google it if you want to know more, but suffice it to say that if you’re a non-Catholic Christian, you owe the existence of your faith to Martin Luther. 😉

I also happened upon this, the “Memorial for the Victims of Fascism”. It’s normal for most cities in Germany to have memorials of various kinds for the people who were killed, tortured, and/or exiled as a result of the Nazi regime that came to power in the 1940s. Many cities also have “Stolpersteine” or “Stumbling Blocks” which are polished bronze plaques that are placed in the middle of sidewalks, each bearing the name of a family or individual who was killed. They’re raised slightly, although not enough that they cause any real danger of tripping, mostly it’s symbolic. Germany lives with the constant reminder of what they allowed to happen in the middle of the 20th century. I think of this often, and wonder how different other countries would be if they all treated their past tragedies in this way (slavery and genocide of indigenous peoples come to mind for my own country).

Past the memorial, I could just barely see the cathedral’s towers above the old city walls. I found a staircase to climb up and went through the passage to see the side of St. Peter’s Cathedral. Unfortunately there was some construction that overtook the whole area on one side of it, so I wasn’t able to walk around it entirely, but it was still impressive.

The interior was very dark, actually much darker than I expected, although I was able to get a few photos. Naturally, the area around the altar was the most well-lit, and it took a little while of waiting for other tourists to finish taking their pictures before I was able to get mine.

I exited on the other side of the building from where I’d come in, after paying a nice older gentleman 40 cents for a post card of the cathedral. I like to buy postcards from the various museums, memorials, and cathedrals I visit, as they tend to be better than my own pictures and they’re a lot lighter than bulky souvenirs like mugs or whatnot.

I really loved this little bronze representation of the cathedral, but when I started taking pictures of it, I realized that it was a visual representation for blind people. You can see in the side view where the explanation is all in Braille, and there were multiple Braille passages on parts of the cathedral so people would know which part they were touching. I thought that was really cool, and I think this should become normal for all monuments and places of architectural & historical interest.

After I left the cathedral, I once again consulted Google Maps and headed toward the wine store. It was actually extremely close, and when I arrived there were several men and women sitting on benches out front, enjoying glasses of wine and chatting amiably. It was a store and a wine bar, you could sit and drink wine and then buy a bottle to take home. I was greeted by the man working behind the counter. I told him that I was looking for a gift for my father, who likes strong red wines, and he recommended a couple different ones, and also said I could try their signature red to see if I thought he’d like it. I ended up buying two bottles, one of the signature red and one of another red, and hoped he would like them. I thanked the employee for his help, stashed the two bottles in my messenger bag (which I’d brought specifically for wine carrying purposes), and went on my way.

IMG_5518

Here’s my last picture from Worms, of the Siegfried Fountain. Worms is also famous in part because it’s the supposed setting of the mythical Nibelungenlied, which was the inspiration for the Ring Cycle by Wagner (it’s a pretty interesting myth, but don’t jump into Wagner without some preparation). Siegfried is the hero of the Nibelungenlied, hence why he gets a fountain. He looks pretty good for a product of incest.

It was getting hot and I was hungry, and a little thirsty after the wine, so I got some ice cream on my way back to the train station. That wasn’t quite enough, so I ended up stopping at a little cafe bakery and having some tea (despite the very hot weather) and cake before I went back. I’d considered trying to go to Heidelberg later on, but by the time I arrived back in Mannheim, I was hot and tired and a little sore from the heavy wine bottles, so I ended up deciding against it.

IMG_5525

I did end up finding a walk-in salon and getting a haircut and eyebrow styling (threading, not waxing), because my boss told me last week that she wants to get a picture of me on Tuesday for the company website, and my hair wasn’t looking very good (I’d been growing it out, so it was in that shaggy in-between stage), so I made the decision to do that. It should also help once I get back to the states, not having hair on my neck will definitely be a blessing in the Florida summer heat.

Overall it was a lovely day, and I was pleasantly sleepy by the time I got to bed. 🙂

Advertisements

Berlin, April 30, 2017

First I make my way to Museum Island. On the way I spot a beautiful bird looking at me. I think it’s a hawk at first, then it turns its head and I realize it’s a corvid, a crow or raven perhaps, but half of its feathers are grey instead of black. I manage to take a few pictures before it flies away.

IMG_5387

I visit the Bode Museum, which I’ve never been to. It’s interesting, but most of it is Christian art. They do have an exhibit on coins through the ages, which is really cool. I wonder why almost all coins have been round for forever? In another gallery I find a marble statue of a girl putting on her sandals and I fall in love with her face. I take pictures so I’ll remember her. I wonder what her name was.


After the museum is the antique and book market. I’ve been here multiple times before, and each time is interesting, but I’m also a lot wiser than I was the first time. I walk right by the stalls full of tourist-y crap and focus on the books and antiques. I’m caught by a book stall that has several tiny books, around the right size for the dolls. A few stalls down is a bunch of miniature household things, most likely made for doll houses, and I have to tear myself away to walk further. I come to the end and turn back and get caught by the miniatures again. I tell myself I’ll come back once I’ve seen everything. I walk through and nothing else catches my interest. I was half-hoping to find a beer stein that a friend and I had found a few years back and he loved, but neither of us had the money for it. I was going to buy it for him, if I saw it, but unfortunately I didn’t. I return to the miniatures and buy several, about six of them for 10 Euros. I buy two of the tiny books too, another 10 Euros.

I sit in the Monbijou park, resting my tired feet after two hours of museum and antique market walking. The sun in bright but the wind is brisk. I’m warm, so I sit in the shade next to the fountain. A doting father poses his little girl in front of it for a photo, the picture of familial bliss. A long-haired black dachshund runs by, his owner biking behind him, and the girls giggle and run to their mother, acting scared but also pleased. The dog is happy, tongue lolling, and his owner smiles at the mother reassuringly as they pass by. I see the street car pass and I suddenly want to cry. This Berlin will always be my heart, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get to stay here. Passing through, like a ghost, leaving only the smallest trace behind me.

I’m cold now, so I get up and walk again. It’s a beautiful day.

IMG_5403

Two young men practicing boxing while another films them. On the other side, another pair of young men appear to be practicing American football. I assume they’re American students, studying abroad, until one says something in unaccented German.

I reach Hackescher Markt and a musician is finishing up “Country Roads” and it’s kind of hilarious and sweetly naive. As I pass, he starts into “Hey Jude”. He’s pretty good, but it’s too safe. The Beatles are always safe. I guess he does have to make a living, though.

I walk a bit down the street to where I remember there being a noodle shop next door to a döner place. The noodle shop is gone, but the döner place is still there. I order a vegetarian one with cheese, garlic sauce and every vegetable. I walk back to the open area of Hackescher Markt and sit down to eat it there. It’s delicious and tastes just like I remember, except this time the cheese sank to the bottom of the pita instead of the red cabbage. I’m still 25 minutes early to meet Emilie, so I sit and people watch.

Two Italian (I think) men approach me and ask if I know where a restaurant called “buong” is. I say no, they ask if I’ll use my phone to look it up, as neither of them have a data plan. I don’t sense any harm to them, so I say yes. One of them sits down next to me so he can see my screen as I pull up Google Maps. It turns out after some searching that he means “Monsieur Vuong” which is a famous Vietnamese restaurant nearby, and I’ve been there years before. I tell them how to get there and they thank me gratefully. I smile as they say goodbye and walk away.

Emilie arrives, and I don’t recognize her for a moment because her hair is very short! It looks good, of course, because she always looks good. It’s so good to see her, we end up sitting at a cafe right at Hackescher Markt for several hours and catching up on each other’s lives. I can’t express how happy I am to see her again. I remember how few friends like her I have, the ones who I always miss and it doesn’t matter how many years go by, we’re always happy to see each other again.

We walk back to the antiques market, which she says she hasn’t visited since I took her there three years ago. We find the artist’s market, which I hadn’t realized was open today, and walk through it, bemoaning our lack of funds and how we’d like to buy everything. I get caught at a stall with beautiful ceramics, including hanging tiles with various types of cats painted on them. It’s almost time for the markets to end, so some people are already packing up, but we see enough pretty things. On the way back I end up buying one of the cat tiles, a little brown sleeping kitten who reminds me of Kočka.

We walk over to the antiques market to browse there as well. People there are also starting to pack up, but not very quickly. Emilie notices a pewter plate, “Berlin 1990” and laughs and asks if I remember. Suddenly I do, a rush of memory of buying her that same plate (the same design, anyway) for her birthday three years ago. She wanted it, but didn’t have the money. It made me happy to buy it for her. She says she still has it, it’s sitting in her library at home.

Emilie ends up buying a handmade journal with an embossed leather cover, a beautiful thing. I love journals, but I write so slowly by hand that I never use them. She also asks after the price of an old typewriter, which is out of her price range right now, but she’s glad to know, just in case.

We make our way back to Hackescher Markt to the S Bahn to head home. Emilie asks if I want to walk to the Goethe Institut, but my feet are starting to hurt so we head to the train instead. It turns out we’re going almost to the same area, so we talk some more while we ride the train. It’s bittersweet, knowing our time together is coming to an end, but we’re also so happy to have the chance. We hug once more as I get off at my station, and I look back one last time before the doors close, one last glimpse of my dear friend.