After being “back” for only a week I find I am already struggling a bit to remain in the cocoon of wellbeing spun by having been “home” the week previous…so I decided to quickly tell a couple highlights of my adventure in the interest of hanging on, at least in words.
The citizens of Würzburg, in the center Bayern Inferioara not Hessen, determinedly identify with their neighbors on the Main in Frankfurt as opposed to affiliating with the residents of the Kingdom with whom they actually share statehood. One citizen explained to me that Oktoberfest was not celebrated in Würzburg, “only in Bavaria.” (Just to clarify, Würzburg is in Bavaria.) I cannot be exactly sure why this is, since, while it is certainly not as wacky and zany as any place in UB, it is very agreeably weird in its own way. I will investigate further in the future.
In any case, a number of amazing things happened while I was there. The first one was that suddenly, I could speak German. After the fiasco of this past summer, I had really only been studying haphazardly, by which I mean listening to the “party music” programming on Radio Bayern 2, reading just a couple pretty easy books, and practicing with my friend the idiosyncratic new language based on 30 percent German and 70 percent JDilla.
However it became obvious even in the short distance between the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and the Würzburg hauptBahnhof that an increased level of proficiency was going to be necessary and that filling in the unknown vocabulary with French, Italian, Dutch or Lupe Fiasco would be both impossible and sociologically ill-advised. For some reason I was not very worried, probably because when you are fortunate to be on a train in Germany in Bavaria and it is cold enough to wear a hat, scarf, and gloves, there is not really anything to worry about. When I got to the hotel, the lobby of which doubles as a Mexican restaurant (see I told you this place is afterall in Bayern), for some reason without really thinking anything about it I just asked (bitte) for die Schlüssel zum Zimmer zweihunderteins? A few minutes later, looking out the window of said room, I realized something must have gone horribly wrong since in the past I rarely get articles and never numbers right on the first try in conversation.
Yet this was not an accident or aberration ( at least for the week or maybe the whole thing was). After that, I just could speak German. I know it sounds like some sort of miracle but actually I should be able to speak German, I just hadn’t been able to until this very moment. After I tested out this new ability over the next few hours – getting directions, getting a magazine at a newstand, chatting with some people who were also standing by the Main admiring the swooping bats and rain on the river – I was convinced of its existence.
At that point I was suddenly overcome with one of the greatest senses of ecstasy I have ever known. I remembered this feeling of overwhelming joy from my childhood, when I realized that the chatter going on around me at a Sunday market in Brussels had coalesced into identifiable conversations and sentences, that I could understand French, but I had not expected either this to happen at all with German or to be able to recover that intense sensation of ebullience and elation.
So it was with hushed delight I was able to explain in a few sentences what my gig was to my CLAS colleagues „..seine Tiermalerei natürlich, aber auch seine Schriften und vor allem seine ursprüngliche Konzept…“
Actually after a few days I got used to this reverse Tower of Babel event and by the time I met up with my friend to go to Kassel I could tell my lack of reliance on Kanye West-isms was something of a shock.
The other, or I should say the second, since there were more than two, thrilling transformative experience happened the day after the language breakthrough. Würzburg is in large part laid out not on the modern European village grid but is instead a somewhat irrational labyrinth of narrow Medieval passageways, some leading nowhere but most generally curving back to the river, so it is easy to get lost but impossible to become hopelessly so. There are many new glass buildings sprung up right next to 15th Century turrets and arches. There is a typical lack of motor traffic, and much to my delight it rained almost the entire time I was there…and there were the bats…and the numerous illuminated statues of Martin Luther…“now this is an ‚eerie city,’” I found myself thinking several times. But in the Venice way of being eerie (and not a Der Tod in Venedig way), not ‘terrifyingly,’ something soft and intriguing, not sinister.
Anyway, during one of the brief moments it was not raining, as I was standing on one of the bridges upon which people congregate to drink beer and Federweisser in the evening hours, the full moon came out and remembering over the past couple cycles I realized that it had been, like, two months since I had had anything solid to eat, or been hungry.
Of course at the exact moment I tabulated up the 60 days of fasting I was seized with an incredible desire to … at least snack. In a blur of activity that will be condensed (sort of) here, a Seelachs-Ei Baguette presented itself. I have not been able to determine what exactly “Seelachs” means in the context of food vended from the vestibule of an on-bridge bar, but I’m going to say that it’s a kind of fake fish. Being that I couldn’t see it all that well (and actually didn’t see it until I examined to blown up image of the accompanying photo) I initially thought “Seelachs” went with “Ei” the way a lot of German food words do, and hope the “Ei” part would bode well for something not consisting entirely of meat. I carried it around uncertainly in my pocket for a while, but even in the cold weather the scent of a Seelachs-Ei Baguette was pretty overpowering – I mean really, incredibly strong, like an explosion in a caviar bottling factory — and there was no way to get on a tram with it, or take it indoors. Sitting down on a curb to examine the baguette I was reasonably convinced I had managed to purchase about a kilo of caviar on bread for €2,80 (and as you can see it is liberally doused at least with fish sperm, eggs, and the unidentifiable “Seelachs’). There was nothing to do but make the best of the situation, photodocument, and ingest away. Not surprisingly this was the best food ever. At least while I was in Germany I realized it was probably advisable to return to eating regularly and since that day, without as much enthusiasm or curiosity, but with diligence, I have had a little to eat at least for lunch.
There are more adventures to follow but I wanted to bust out those two while they were, um, fresh, in my mind. Next, Kassel, and then Frankfurt…