…Is a surprisingly lovely city. Especially after spending the night, tossing and turning, on an eleven hour flight from San Francisco. I’m en route to Johannesburg, seemingly the longest flight in the world (I’m sure there are others, but right now I’m not on them). When I checked in at the Lufthansa desk for my boarding pass for Frankfürt to Johannesburg, the agent handed me the paper, routinely pointed out the gate number and boarding time, then halted. “Whoa. You’re not boarding until 22:10 tonight. That’s a long layover.” I nodded and smiled. Thanks for pointing out the obvious. My plan was to work during my 8 hour layover. That was all good and well until I sat down and realized I had packed my international, everywhere in the world converter in my checked luggage. I had a few hours left on my computer battery. Lovely.
I worked for a bit while sipping an exorbitantly expensive Diet Coke. (I asked if I could pay in US dollars, she said yes, then quoted me the price in Euros. The dollar’s not doing so well these days.) There must have been a shift change, because a young waiter approached me, asking if I needed anything else. I asked him how long it took to get into town. He assured me not long, we were very near the train station, the trains run every 15 minutes, the next one comes at 5:02. Without meaning to, laughter tumbled from my mouth. How is it that he knows the *exact* train schedule? Oh, yes, we’re in Germany. He wrote down the line I should take, where to get off, what to see.
On the train a surprising number of people were drinking bottles of Beck’s beer. I looked around. Were they selling beer on the train? Where could I get a Beck’s?
I watched as people got on, got off, talked to each other, read, stared out the window. I arrived at the designated station and got off. I emerged from the underground station. Sun! Light! Fresh air! A welcome change from the confinement and stuffiness of the airport. As I looked around, my first thought was “This looks just like Disney World.” I immediately checked myself. OMG. I’m comparing a beautiful European city to Disney World. Silly egocentric American.
The museums had closed; the churches had not. I entered several as I wandered along my route to the river. Beautiful, vaulted ceilings welcomed me. Austere saints stared down at me from stained glass. Severe wooden benches offered a place to sit as I calmed my thoughts and contemplated my upcoming weeks in Africa. I walked along the riverfront, watching boats gracefully slice the waters, sailing under bridge after bridge after bridge. I settled at an outdoor beer garden for a leisurely supper. I watched the bicyclists pedal home from work, briefcases slung over shoulders or attached to racks on back. Businessmen in suits and ties surrounded me, talking loudly and laughing over steins of amber ale.
I began my walk back to the train station. I passed by shop girls closing shop, locking locks and walking away briskly, ready to start their evening. The evening was still light, even at 8 pm. As I neared the station entry, I heard music. An outdoor concert, perhaps? Why was this strange? I listened more carefully. The singing was in English, not German. That’s what was strange. I had adjusted to not understanding and suddenly I could understand. I looked closer. “Jüden für Jesus” was emblazoned in white block letters on navy shirts. Nice. A Jews for Jesus rally. In Frankfurt. I made my way down the stairs, prepared to navigate the ridiculously punctual German train station back to the sterile Frankfürt airport.