When I was 21, I backpacked across Europe. Two-thirds through the trip I met up with my best friend. We made our way to Prague then travelled to Frankfurt. In Frankfurt we met a couple of grifters at a train station. I suppose, as grifters go, they were hospitable. We ate well and drank better. That said, hanging out with a grifter invites a sort of paranoia about the presence of your wallet and your wits. In the end, I found the whole experience exhausting. And then there was the time I ended up in a remote pensione near the Austrian border. I was stuck in Salzburg without a place to stay and the nearest available option meant crossing over into some small German town by way of a half-hour train ride and a mile walk on a country road in the pitch dark. I woke up in the middle of the night to find a guy breaking into in my room.
So I had low expectations for our next stop.
We flew into Frankfurt on Sunday morning. I spotted this sign in baggage claim, which I basically interpreted as, ”Willkommen in Deutschland! Stand the f*ck back.”
(By the way, I totally get you, Germany. *wink)
We took the autobahn to a bucolic, enchanting town about forty minutes away called Weinheim. Weinheim is literally one thousand years old. That’s like, slightly older than me. It has castles and an annual drunkfest in August.
Maybe now you understand why I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE. EVER.
The bustle of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Singapore combined with the rapid travel and long days left me tired and cranky. So nestling into the cobbled, quiet streets of Weinheim came at the perfect time. We stayed at a small hotel with Buddha statues in every possible corner and windowsill. I’m not even Buddhist, and in a way I only barely understood, it felt like home.
I checked into my room and went for a run. Steps past the original town walls, there is a former monastery that opens to an expansive park dotted with the town’s citizens enjoying the perfect blue sky. At the edge of the park lies a forest. Its paths wound through dense trees. I felt like I could run forever in that forest. Maybe I just wanted to.
Just after noon we all met for lunch in the piazza in the center of town. The piazza is a huge open area lined with restaurants and bars and a really delicious gelato place. The waiter looked at me like I was a crazy when I asked him if the fish I had ordered would be served with the head still on it. We drank a bunch of wine and then went back to the hotel to work.
At 4:30, a colleague from the Weinheim office arrived at our hotel. He had graciously offered to give us a walking tour of the city and take us to dinner. We walked through botanical gardens, to that lovely park, and strolled through the piazza, settling in for drinks. Later, over a meal of salad and bread and Argentinian beef we talked about the state of nuclear plants in Germany and the merits of using the proper beer glass. We talked about the proliferation of motorcycle gangs across Europe. We didn’t talk about work.
We returned to the hotel late in the evening satiated, sleepy, and ready for the next day in the office. These are my new favorite memories of Germany.