The Chinese girls arrive home at the Boppard hotel from Frankfurt at midday Saturday; an all-nighter. Karaoke, shots, Chinese songs, R&B, Rihanna, Jay-Z. I tell them about “Online” and the sounds of the 1080s. Sounds horrible, they say. Exhausted now, they need sleep. What else did you do…? Can’t really remember. Time for Homework.
At the Romer Burg restaurant, nicely ancient and, the Chocolate Cafe People tell me, the best place to write, I don’t write, seems gratuitous, and instead read some more Goethe, eat well, but am surprised the staff are insistent I don’t drink German red wine; Chilean, that’s the stuff. The soundtrack is samba heavy and the guests wear jackets and whisper. A first-holiday together couple, American-English, laugh too loudly at each other’s jokes and think about a cocktail. I wander the high street, mid-afternoon. Tom is setting up his Dobro guitar. He’s from Koblenz, plays in a jazz cum blues band up there. I’ll be in Koblenz soon enough; just have a couple of detours, to Frankfurt and Brussels. Tom plays beautifully, sparse and with feeling.
Way down upon the Swanee River,
Far, far away
That’s where my heart is turning ever
That’s where the old folks stay
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam
Still longing for the old plantation
And for the old folks at home
All the world is sad and dreary everywhere I roam
Oh darkiness, how my heart grows weary
Far from the old folks at home
I start weeping gently. Which must be telling me something. Back in Bingen for the night before Frankfurt I am in Swiss luxury and photograph sublimity and the mouse tower and end up in a bar full of Two Pint Glasses, Accordion Bands and Take Me Home Country Roads. Natch.
I am in bed early. Clouds over the Rhine in the morning and via Mainz I’m in Frankfurt by mid-Afternoon. Tom took a barque, so feel utterly justified in taking the train, even if some of the factories, especially Opel’s, look worthy of a wander-weg. Frankfurt is a shock. Skyscrapers; Ayn Rand -esque Euro signs the size of Louise Bourgois sculptures. Starbucks and “Dolly Busters” porn everywhere, on Kaiserstrasse at least. And Hotel is slap bang in the Red Light Slapper-weg; a Tourist Office Recommendation, of course. I wander down to mid-town, then the old town, but it feels utterly rebuilt. Try to write in a few cafes but in the morning the elegant prose looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Of course the Germans were good at deciphering that stuff in the nineteenth century; not me. At mid- morning after a wifi cheesecake and double espresso somewhere that could be in New York or London, I brace myself for Frankfurt’s double-dose of modernity, the money towers and the strong sense of rebuilt-ness, and head, as all must, to the Goethe Haus. Calm at last.
There is something so nice about reading Goethe in his own garden. Is that a wanky thing to say? Who cares, really? It is fantastic. Frankfurt begins.