More than half a year after leaving Bangor my little ERASMUS group and I finally decided it was about time to meet up and walk down memory lane. Frankfurt - being somewhat central between Vienna and the Netherlands - was to be the location for our spring reunion and a date was fixed surprisingly quickly (after discussions stretching over many months).
The journey began one Thursday evening, when I boarded the train that should get me to Germany while I slept on a semi-comfortable bunk bed. The bed was about 20cms too short and the air in the compartment was hot and dry. Still, after a nice chat with an English musician now English teacher, who moved into an old Austrian farmhouse not too long ago, I managed to get a total of 3 to 4 patched up hours of sleep.
5 a.m.: wake-up call: an hour early. Me and the other Austrian girl in the compartment get off and soon find ourselves sitting in McDonald's, trying to wake up. She then leaves for the Netherlands - I for a certain flat.
6:30 a.m.: After walking through the dark deserted streets of Frankfurt, with only the song of birds in my ears, I buy freshly baked bread rolls and pastries and ring Felix' doorbell. He treats me to a lovely breakfast with most interesting cheeses, freshly squeezed orange juice, a soft boiled egg and whatever else I could wish for. Stuffed and properly awake, the two of us make our way to the city centre from where we take separate ways: he's off to work - I get out map and camera and start being all touristy.
11:00: I meet Rebecca, Elzelien and Miriam at the station and we all feel as though we've never been parted! Let the fun begin!
1st stop: Hauptwache for original Flammkuchen - a dish resembling a pizza, not typical of the area, but to be had everywhere. And until then unknown to me: I had to give it a try.
[n.b.: at the station: A guy aged 50+ asks me a) how I am, b) what my name is and c) if I'd consider being his future wife. I politely declined and we rushed off.]
2nd stop: The Zoo! The weather is gorgeous and we walk around in the sunshine, marvel at the Gibbons who use their long arms to swing from one end of the cage to the next. The Rhinos and Hippos are interesting too - but better keep at a healthy distance or you might get hit by feces...
Didn't happen to us, though. We laughed at the weird, sausage-shaped animal on spidery legs, that had a look on its face that made it appear either stoned or hypnotised or both. Best part: I got to see kiwis! Or the backside of one, which had it's long beak and the head attached to it down some hole in the earth and would not look up once. The other one darted about in the semidarkness of the cage, hiding behind the trees. Interesting animals, them.
I also really liked the emperor tamarins. I wish had one. Just for the moustache!
3rd stop: We met Fiepje at the station and went to have some dinner: Green sauce with eggs and potatoes - apparently a typical dish, although a bit...different. It tasted really nice - and was complimented with 1 or 2 or 3 glasses of Apfelwein (the German version of cider - actually much nicer than the English/Irish ones. And waaaay cheaper too!) and was followed by a couple of liqueurs. Very merrily we made our way to the...
...last stop for the day: Rebecca's place, where we all found a temporary home in the living room. We watched a 45 min video of our time in Bangor - the hikes, the trips, the discussions about food and slate - and barely understood anything for all the laughter!
Finally: bed and a good night's worth of sleep.
The next morning first led us to Maison du pain for some really nice, even if not exactly cheap, French breakfast, before we toured the city, had a look at the cathedral, got to breathe some market hall air (think of a mix of fresh fish, raw meat and baked goods), and rode a urin-specked elevator up to a terrace from where we got a close-up of the modern skyscrapers that tower in stark contrast over the beautiful timber framed houses, yet blend in - somehow - and give the city a very modern look.
Russian Choir: Don Kosaken Chor
Organ pipes pointing into the cathedral like cannon tubes - I felt slightly threatened
Good-bye to Elzelien it was next, as her train already left at noon. The rest of us felt quite tired and went to the botanical garden, where we had a nap in the warming sunshine before getting all hyperactive again and cartwheeling up and down the lawn. Tired once more we let the evening end with a pint of Guinness, some food and delicious ice cream.
At the risk of being repetitive: most beautiful beer ever
(yeah, I KNOW that technically Guinness isn't considered beer...)
On Sunday we left the city and went to Eppstein to do a bit of hiking/walking in the woods. Over the hills and far away we walked and I realised that my bike tour in September had already brought me very close to Frankfurt: from the top of the hill I could see some of the villages we'd passed then.
It was nice to be in touch with nature again and enjoy the soft ground and the air of the woods, spicy from the smell of pines and other conifers, whilst chatting to friends I rarely see - one of the best possible combinations. So, another sunny day passed.
In the afternoon we saw off Fiepje, then Miriam, before Rebecca and me went for a delicious burger (for the Bangor memory) and a really nice, long, overdue chat to Die Kuh die lacht - a restaurant worth mentioning, as all they sell is either grown/bred in the region and/or home-made (like the baps and lemonades).
11 p.m: rain sets in and my train sets off.
Although the compartment is meant for people to bear the excrutiatingly long journey sitting upright (the middle bunks had been converted to backrests and the ladder was missing), I decide I won't have that and, after discovering that only one of the top bunks is being used as luggage rack, I clamber up monkey style and lie there, listening to music till it gets light outside.
Very, very tired I get off the train and make my way home to recover...