We arrived from Frankfurt sans-sleep after a 10 hour plane journey that ping-ponged us across ontario, finally slingshotted over the sea and landed us in the tallest bus terminal I had ever seen. Emery and I were sore, battered, asleep on our feet, indescribably happy.
I had planned on visiting the beer gardens and cafes of Berger Strasse in downtown Frankfurt, maybe visiting the lock laden bridge that lovers cover every year. We stayed in the bus terminal for about two hours. Had our first ceremonial beer, found that it only worsened the drowsiness and had another.
We walked around the city centre, which to be honest did remind me of Vancouver. A little grungy, colourful characters, and all bus stops, apparently. Eventually, the pavement let out into cobblestone roads, and suddenly the buildings were gabled. Now, we are talking gabled gables here. Quintessentially European and full of churches, we wandered around the unmarked doorways and winding side streets a few blocks from where we’d arrived.
I remember a surreal moment of turning a corner into an archway with a bistro style sign hanging, heavy and wooden. It opened into a square. Across the way, a wall of elaborate, old-style german buildings in different colours reclaimed the city’s heritage. A church stood pensive and tall, its cross the highest peak in the block, its bricks the colour of a nostalgic sunset. The square was full of people. They stood in the drizzling rain, holding candles. We realized after some math that it was Unity Day. We joined in. Watched the performers play the German anthem. I was struck by the enormity of the event we had just stumbled into, half asleep and carrying a pizza box. It reinvigorated us completely.
We had booked a late train to Berlin, and had plenty of time to explore. We wandered the haphazard streets, letting the crowds guide us. Fairy lights illuminated a square down the road, and we decided to follow. We weren’t disappointed. Cue beer garden. Guys were marching around with the biggest tankards of fruity, bright apfelwein and kolsch. Jager was everywhere. Emy and I were careful walking over the cables taped down to the ground. Energy was high, and we took a moment to find a table and take it all in.
We got lost. We got horribly, intensely lost. Wandering back, we refused to spend the precious bit of data we had on Google Mapsing our way along. We found a shopping plaza, all glass and neon lights. It let off into the financial district, which we remembered from earlier, letting us make it back to the bus terminal. Almost everything was closed, but we found an incredibly quirky, hole-in-the-wall African themed pub just outside the bus stop we needed.
Inside, it was warm and lit with an orange light. The benches were hung with cow hides, and pictures covered the walls. Everyone was jovial. It was an even mix of obvious regulars being called by name by the waitress and proprietor, and young, bright faced adventurers with electric backpacks full of necessities and “why did I think I would need this”s.
We ate ice cream and mangoes, had fruity cider beers, and shared our plans with our server. Working alone, and both a dedicated listener and passionate talker, she made her way from table to table, only going to the back to get drinks or food when absolutely necessary. She’d owned the restaurant for 10 years, and looked with wonder at her Wednesday night crowd. If I had any idea where it was, I’d go back.
It seemed like we’d been in the city for days by the time we made our way to the Flix bus, got on board and spent 8 hours puttering toward Berlin.
Watch a little video compilation of the first little stint of this trip below!