According to my personal blog update schedule, this post is almost two days late. Monday night was going to be a smooth ride, a leisurely balance of writing and reading under the dizzying protein high of eggs on toast (because I don’t believe in time anymore, and breakfast equals dinner).
Needless to say – and if you’re Facebook friends with me, you’ll already know this – my night took a different turn.
The short answer: I am an idiot.
The long answer: I am an idiot who thought it would be a good idea to download the latest version of Photoshop onto my senile, panic-at-multiple-tabs, who-needs-a-working-email-when-there’s-the-power-of-friendship laptop. And under the stress of an Adobe application– you could say it paled in fright. You could also say it simply shat itself and faked a coma for two of the more panicked hours of my life.
I spent a very long time walking around Frankfurt, trying to calm down. On the steps of the one and only café that doesn’t disable its Wi-Fi at night (shout-out to Cafe Dreißig), I punched out several capitalised Facebook messages to people who were asleep in Adelaide. I made some back-up plans. And of course it rained on me on the way back, because my life is a Richard Curtis film.
When I got home, I discovered that my laptop is in fact Jesus Christ, and likes being the Son of God so much that it’s died and risen from the dead twice since. It has probably caused my first grey hair.
And that is why the rollicking anecdote I envisioned for this post has deteriorated to a rage against technology, and against myself.
Now I shall balance it out, by talking about the day I walked to Poland and back!
(Glares at laptop.)
Time for some war talk.
So: Frankfurt (Oder) and the Polish town Słubice are separated by a bridge over the Oder river. These towns have a fascinating history; they were one and the same until 1945, when Russia’s Red Army burned the majority of it down on their march to Berlin. Post-war, the German-Polish border was reduced to a straight crop along the Oder, and Słubice was abandoned to the Poles.
These days, Frankfurt and Słubice have let bygones be bygones. Whilst Słubice is still a Polish town, border patrol on the bridge is virtually non-existent, which means that anyone can (and genuinely will) amble overseas, do some shopping, and then amble back home twenty minutes later without having to flash a passport at anyone. Apparently most people in Frankfurt cross the bridge to get their hair cut – the wage laws are quite different, and consequently a Polish hairdresser can save you 10 or 15 euros.
I had cultivated this perfect, fool-proof idea, whereby I was going to walk to Poland and get a haircut. My original plan was to go on Saturday – but terrible weather kept me inside, staring at my rain-soaked window pane, thinking about all the coffee that was elsewhere. So Sunday it was.
But here’s the catch, the tremor in the perfectly smooth plan. I’ve been listening to German conversations, flung up and torn down around me for over a week now. I still don’t understand a lot of it, but the cadences are familiar, the rhythm is sewn into my head. German shares a lot of similar word fragments with English; I found out today, for example, that the word for Writing Centre is Schreibzentrum – Scribe Centrum.
Makes sense, right? Old English and Old German were once closely related before that whole cultural obsession with French words, and a lot of that trace remains.
Polish is an utter nightmare of incoherence. It’s a Slavic language – a child raised in a completely different house to both English and German, except that at one point it jumped the fence and stole a dictionary’s worth of z’s and y’s from someone’s backpack.
Forget about getting a haircut. I had a tricky enough time getting something vegetarian for lunch.
Nonetheless, I had a really great day. I met the littlest dog in the world, which has made my month. Acting on a plucky but terrible sense of direction, I ended up wandering around the countryside for an hour longer than intended – but the photographs I managed to take were beautiful, and it was a warm day –and Słubice in the sun is a wash of Instagram pastels, it is children playing in the streets, bird houses, vintage cigarette stores, second-floor balconies, and peacefulness.
It is a lovely little town. But as I crossed the bridge back to Frankfurt and heard someone say Danke, I could feel the weight leave my shoulders. Back to rhythm. Back to comfort.
It’s strange how a language I still barely understand has becoming reassuring. Strange, but nice.