(Achtung! Bitte beachten Sie, here follows what will either be an exceedingly boring, or an exceedingly interesting, account of my everyday movements in Trier. You’ve been warned)
Today was an exceedingly warm Saturday, but I know from last time that that’s to be expected at this time of year in Trier. After a relaxing, quiet morning in the WG* I decided to go for a walk into the Hauptmarkt (Main Market, or the city square). Unsurprisingly it was packed with folk out enjoying the sun. Some coordinated effort – the motives of which I’m unclear – had brought together a number of booths with attractions for children: games, face painting, colouring exercises, even a stall where you could throw weighted javelins at a moving cut-out of a wild boar.
Finding the crowd a bit much, I retreated up into the Cafe Weimar, one of my favourite places in Trier to sit and enjoy a coffee in peace and quiet. In the summer you can’t beat their patio around the back, off away from the Hauptmarkt with a slightly obscured but still pleasing view of the Dom (Cathedral) and Liebfraukirche (Church of Our Lady). Usually I visit the place after my classes to do work or to write, and usually I’m alone out there. Today however I managed only to get the last available table out there, as the others were full! A gaggle of Luxemburgers (they kept switching from French to German to what I assume was Luxembourgish) sat nearby chain-smoking, and the patio awning trapped the heavy pall over the other tables. Na ja, you get used to it.
Down in the square below, in front of the Dom, a brass band started up with an amateur but spirited rendition of “New York, New York.” Not quite up to Sinatra’s standards, but what they lacked in ability they more than made up for in zeal! Combine this with the crowd and masses below in the streets, and you would expect to lose the peacefulness that makes the Cafe so appealing. But quite the contrary, if anything it added to the peacefulness, knowing I was surrounded by such chaos. This sense stayed with me until an American couple came and sat next to me and began arguing about what day of the week it was.
Some interesting character studies could be done of the other customers around me: a grandmother doting over her middle-school aged granddaughter, the two enjoying a piece of cake; a trio of old women sitting together in silence, one assaulting her cucumber salad occasionally with a fork; two sisters earnestly talking over glasses of un-touched tea; a Dutch couple who, whenever they wanted the server’s attention, would snap their fingers and call out, “Fräulein!”; the lone nutjob creeping on the people around him and occasionally drawing them (creeper).
I’m slowly regaining my schedule. Thankfully my sleep pattern has evened out – for awhile there I was tired all day and unable to fall asleep until 2 or 3 a.m., something unheard of for me! On school days I’m up either at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., depending on when my classes start. I shuffle off to the shower first though, then lay the day’s foundation with a hearty breakfast: two soft-boiled eggs, toast**, yoghurt, and muesli.
My walk to school takes me almost 30 minutes if I hit every traffic light along the way. One doesn’t simply jay-walk in Germany! It is one of the more despised crimes here, and is strictly enforced with a fine. Smoking in prohibited areas however is a different matter entirely (and even encouraged – note the servers placing ash-trays on bar tables at midnight, when the by-law enforcement officers have signed off for the night).
Before walking home I might go for a stroll through the Hauptmarkt, first passing through a narrow passageway along the side of the Dom. My school is directly behind the cathedral more or less, and I have a very fond memory from my last time here when, after a morning class in January, I plunged out of the darkness of the entry hall of my school’s second campus (an old church and monastery) into the just-breaking dawn, the gently falling snow carpeting the street in white. Everything was still and silent, when the bells of the Dom began ringing.
That stillness I associate in many ways with the Dom, even in today’s heat and bustle. You feel it, even as a non-Catholic or as someone who would not describe himself as spiritual. To get from my school to the Hauptmarkt you must ass through a passage between the Dom and the neighbouring building, which is dwarfed by the Dom in all its ancient grandeur (its foundations were laid by the Romans shortly after the reign of Constanin Magnus, some 15 centuries ago). You feel insignificant as you walk along that passage, and you even get a touch of the sublime, as if there’s a greater presence around you that’s far bigger than you can fathom.
This feeling of insignificance only intensifies when you enter the Dom‘s cavernous interior, like a giant bare stone cave carved out by human hands.
ANYWAYS – otherwise my evenings have been fairly busy, largely thanks to my roommate, who has been very kind in taking me along with her to visit her friends. My other two roommates are currently out of town until at least October. I’ve managed to see my old chums, including a thumping good dinner at their WG – a Wolfi-made Goulash, with a table of 12 well fed. Wolfi is the resident WG-cook, one of his many professions: cook, fireman, lumberjack, bridge-builder, and student, to name what I believe are just a few of his callings. Some of the teachers have also invited me to play soccer with them on Monday, a common enough invitation for language assistants I believe. I told them though that soccer isn’t my speciality (what sport is?), but they don’t seem to mind. Na ja, we’ll see.
*Wohngemeinschaft: German shared-accomodation, what my apartment is. Essentially a WG is usually a mutli-room apartment, often without a living room, but with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. They are very popular for students and young folk. My WG is of the medium-sized sort, with four individual rooms, a small shared kitchen (our common space, essentially), and a large bathroom. The distinction here to a Canadian apartment lays in the rental agreement, as it feels more like you’re renting a room with shared facilities rather than renting an apartment with others.
**By this I mean toasted bread. I’ll elaborate more on what Germans mean when they say “Toast” in the future.