Driving to Germany

Posted on 21 June 2006

I feel such a sense of accomplishment, driving from Albi in the south of France to near Frankfurt in Germany, along the autoroutes where drivers often do 160 kph. I wonder if this would be any big deal for a guy. (I can imagine Rob saying better her than me driving – I am the worst passenger in the world.)

Germany is so different than France… but how to explain without generalizing… guess I’ll generalize… The Germans appear hardier, squarer, taller than the French. And kinder, less formal, more straight-forward. Thez “schloss” their words – and this is not the right word to use, I know, but there is a s that rolls off their tongues that is beyond me. And although German is a sister language to English, I have trouble understanding the simplest words, except for “gud morgan” (wrong spelling) and danke that the whole world knows.

Susan is travelling with me and we thought we’d be over two days on the road but the autoroutes were so direct and fast, we made it in less than two days. I called Kate fearing that an early arrival would throw her off but she said no, come today – Kate always makes me feel welcome and loved – even with two babies – one three year old and a six month old – and a writing career.

Susan and I took the family out the first night for dinner at a German restaurant set in a garden and I drank beer with John and found that the Germans love potatoes as much as me. The second evening, Kate and Susan made a Bulgarian dish – Brian’s favourite. During the day, we walked through the town, or rather the old part of the town with classic architecture – or what I, ignorant, think of as classic – wood posts exposed, surrounding squares of white plaster, windows with boxes of trailing roses. It is a lovely place. Another observation is that, on the streets, unlike France, many men go topless exposing their hard lean chests – or is it just the hot hot days, unusual I hear for this time of year. And many people, lean over to Mary Christina, Kate’s baby, to win a smile. She is a beauty, a cherub, who is perfectly content to have Susan and I in her home – smiling and smiling, one of the happiest babies I’ve seen. Kate said that she doesn’t understand the emphasis on nuclear families: hers is so much better behaved when they have guests.

On Monday evening, Kate and I drove with Brian and Mary to Frankfurt to try and catch some of the soccer fever that has caught this city. (When Germany won a game yesterday, the town of Langen, where Kate lives, was filled with the sound of honking horns. Cars, store windows, house windows, have small German flags waving in the slight breeze – man, is it hot. I am forever asking if it’s me or the temperature. Both.

Anyway, we parked miles from the river, the centre of Frankfurt, and wound our way through the city streets to the river bank where soccer fever was evident in the many little ethnic food stands there – most with television screens so no one could miss a game. Unfortunately, we had waited until Brian finished kindergarden and the excitement was at a low, and he was tired and the baby too (oh I remember those days) so we climbed onto a river boat/restaurant and I had another beer (quite unlike me) and a famous german pretzel (more like a skinny bagel.) By the time six o’clock rolled round and the next game was to start, Mary was screeching and refused to be pushed so Kate and I took turns carrying her and Brian, exhausted, climbed into the stroller. We eventually took a taxi back to the car.

What else can I tell? I’m loving being with Kate and her babies and Susan. During the days, it’s only females. In the early mornings, I’ve been taking off by myself for coffee and reading and writing… Oh dear, I haven’t mentioned much of the guys -I suppose because they’re gone all day. John to his work. Brian to school. When they arrive home, they’re both tired. John is also a soccer fan so the television goes on and he watches whatever country is playing. Brian plays by himself or with his sister, though we caught a little time yesterday evening when we went toy shopping.

Today, Susan and I will go to Frankfurt to look at museums, Kate will work (how she does all is amazing) and tomorrow, Susan and I hit the road to find our way down to our village. We will go slow and easy this time.

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