Frankfurt, Germany

To state what I believe is the obvious to all of you, I’m not in America right now. Please leave your name and number after the beep. On November 1st, I started my European world tour that will take me to nine cities and countries in 30 days.

I began in Frankfurt, Germany, where I arrived by train from Villach, Austria around 8pm Saturday evening. Because it was already late, I didn’t really plan to do anything that evening except get something to eat. After checking into the hostel I was staying at, I walked around the block to see what was available. As it turns out, just around the corner from the hostel is the Frankfurt red light district, so what was mostly available were strip clubs. There were people outside of each club who tried to persuade you to go in as you walked by. They were pretty aggressive with their persuasion. One man physically blocked my path so he could give his pitch. By only saying no, they usually assume you can’t speak German (or English, because they switch if you don’t reply in German) and give up. I stuck to that script the whole street until my last obstacle, the man who blocked my path. After rejecting his offers of a free look, drinks, etc in the usual style, I told him “I’m okay” as I walked away. As I passed, he smiled at me and said, “You should have told me you spoke English.” I settled with a döner stand right by the hostel.

The hostel was nice enough. It wasn’t a Marriott but it also was no horror movie setting. Among the nine other people I shared the room with were a husband, wife and their little girl, probably seven years old. The girl didn’t speak English (they spoke Spanish) but somewhere in the process of me going in and out of the room several times in order to get checked in, we developed a ritual of exchanging hallo’s. We would do this several times, usually several times in a row, even if neither of us left the room. That night, when the lights were out and everyone was trying to sleep, I heard a whispered hallo from the bunk above me, to which I gave my whispered reply. She then gave another hallo, this time at her normal, non-whispering volume, which was met with a stern shushing from her mother.

When I first met the dad, who spoke a little English, he told me they were from Afghanistan.This surprised me, because even at that point, I had heard them speak to each other and was pretty sure they spoke Spanish. The next day, he admitted that he was joking but I still have no idea where they are from (I assume Spain.) I also have no idea where they were going. I asked, but he didn’t directly answer or I didn’t understand what he said. They had tons of luggage, which took up an entire corner of the room, making the whole thing a little bizarre.

My day in Frankfurt was spent walking around. It’s probably nerdy, but one of the places I stopped at was the European Central Bank. 5I thought it would be an appropriate place to get a small souvenir for an economics professor of mine. I ended up getting some coins, including an old Deutschmark, Germany’s pre-Euro currency.

The next major place I went to was the Altstadt. This is a square outside Römer, the building on the left, which is the Frankfurt town hall. 8The group of people to the left of the Fountain of Justice are watching a man who was playing what looked like different steel UFO’s. Hitting different parts of the UFO made different pitches. I thought it was cool. I video recorded a little bit of him doing it.

Adjacent to the square was a teddy bear store, with this animatronic friend out front.1He would dip the wand into the bucket, raise it up, and blow bubbles. He attracted little boys that liked to aggressively pop the bubbles.

Just a little away from the store was the Eiserner Steg. Like several other bridges I had seen, it had locks with names and initials of couples attached to much of the available space.2I always wonder when people put them on, because I never see anyone do it but there are so many. I wanted to find a loose lock to take as a souvenir, but didn’t see any lying around. I eventually did find a small, heavily rusted lock that was broken off pretty easily. I see it as a symbol that the couple’s relationship is doomed to fail; it couldn’t even withstand time, erosion and a prying 22 year old. Also, it had the initials “WH” on it, which I took to be Whitney Houston, so I figured it would be okay.

I finally was able to try currywurst, in this case, currywurst mit pommes, something that I have been wanting to try since I heard about it in German class. I’m sorry I forgot to Instagram filter the photo.9And it was awesome, so much better than the plain bratwursts I’ve had so far. The sauce tastes kind of like a curry-spiced ketchup. I’m disappointed I didn’t try it sooner. Not pictured: meine heisse schokolade.

On the subject of food, something that I can never seem to resist is getting ice cream at the ubiquitous stands (I’ve seen the exact same style stand in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Slovenia.) I feel like it is the best thing one can get with a single Euro. I got ice cream twice that day, chocolate and cookies. And since no vacation is complete without a selfie, here is me with my cookie flavored eis.4

My last site was Zeil, a great, big shopping center (the photo of me eating ice cream was actually taken there.) It’s basically a four story mall with some cool architecture. These are the escalators I rode three times.6The first time was me looking around and the other two were me trying to do a time-lapse on my phone. My scarf managed to block the camera for about half of the first attempt, so I had to do it agian. I also tried to do a time-lapse of me walking around one of those automatic revolving doors. I think some people thought it was strange that I went around six or seven times. The time-lapse didn’t turn out to be as cool as the escalators.

I didn’t do much the next day, leading up to me leaving. There was some issues at the ticket office, so I had to take a later bus than I had planned, but it was probably for the better because it allowed me to get some things I couldn’t the day before. The Central Bank gift shop had been closed when I went the previous day. My bus for Brussels left around 4pm.

My bus company is officially stupid. Or at the very least, confusing. When you see this, what do you think the +1 means next to the arrival time?Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 10.01.10 AMI thought that it meant it arrived at the time listed but one day later. This seems most apparent in the listings of London to Brussels, where the only one with the +1 is the route that leaves late at night and arrives what appears to be the next morning. At least that’s what I thought it meant. With that assumption, I thought I would get to Brussels late, one day after leaving Frankfurt. This did seem strange since Brussels is only a 4 hour car ride from Frankfurt, but I didn’t know what else the +1 could mean, so I figured it must have been a convoluted path to Brussels.

It turns out the +1 doesn’t mean next day. Or there is an error on the Frankfurt to Brussels listings. I arrived in Brussels at 11pm, one day earlier than I anticipated.  Besides putting the rest of my schedule for the month into question, I was in a city I didn’t know, whose three official languages didn’t include English (everyone seems to speak English, so I wasn’t too worried there) late at night without a place to stay. The hostel I was staying at in Brussels wasn’t reserved until the next night, the night I thought I was supposed to arrive. Oh yeah, and it was raining.

Fortunately, I had made a friend at the bus station in Frankfurt. Bridget was an older woman from Germany who had worked briefly in Brussels and was returning in order to get something about her retirement pension straightened out. We talked a little bit before the bus arrived, mostly if we were in the correct place and where we were from. We sat by each other on the bus and talked more for part of the ride.

At one of our several stops, she told me that she thought we were in Brussels, which didn’t make sense to me at the time. But the bus driver confirmed to her that it was Brussels. I quickly grabbed all of my stuff and got off the bus, not exactly sure where I was going to go.

Bridget was planning to stay at a certain hostel, so I told her that I was going to tag along with her and hope that there was another opening there. I didn’t know what I would do if there wasn’t any. She wasn’t quite orientated to where we were in Brussels, so she had to ask several people for help. We got on the subway and got off at a station that she thought she would recognize. When there, one of the people she asked for help told us we should get back on the subway, right as the train was pulling up. While on that subway, she asked someone else for help. She seemed to be getting good instructions from the person (all of these interactions were in French) when an older person across the subway said something. It turned out he was going to show us exactly where to go.

I felt like it was the beginning of a horrible event. Two foreigners following a stranger in a city late at night. Except that he was old and had groceries. Muggers aren’t old and they don’t carry groceries when luring people, right? We got onto a bus with him and he told us which stop to get off. And as it turned out, the stop was right outside the hostel. And there were openings for me. So we didn’t get mugged. Or die. The end.

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