Shrugging at Hauptbahnhof

1 JAN 2017

I can glimpse a pale, pink light on the horizon, the first dawn of 2017. It begins to illuminate the clouds below which appear as dark, windswept tundra. As morning advances, the tundra gives way to thin wisps of overcast, the waters of the English Channel below.

I am on my way to Frankfurt. For two days will I stay there and wait for the Strasbourg bus to arrive. From where I sit, in seat 42G, I can see windmills peak through thick, low snow clouds. The sun shines bright in all directions until we descend through opaque weather covering western Germany. I assume the pilot must rely on the air traffic controllers and their radars to search out the runway. I can appreciate the effort it takes to land a Boeing 767 in these conditions.

The airport is large, but signs are posted in German, French, and English. Next thing I know, I am on the number 61 bus to Sudbahnhof. There, I take the train to Hauptbahnhof and then walk to the hostel. According to Google Maps (thanks technology) I can take almost any S train to Hauptbahnhof.  Naturally, I board the first train that arrives, the S3. It would have taken me right to where I needed to go if only I had boarded the train going in the opposite direction.

I am three stops in the wrong direction before I realize this and exit the train. One half hour until the next S3 comes. My gaff made for a pleasant detour. A quiet stop. Snow and ice blanket trees that line the railway in either direction. Resting helped the soreness of having sat for the past 7+ hours.

Back on the proper S3, I make sure to follow my location in Google Maps, just to be sure this time. Sixteen minutes later, I am where I should have been an hour ago. No worries, I still cannot check in until 2 PM. More standing-by time, joy. Thank goodness for the luggage storage room the hostel provides at least.

The lounge/reception area is homely, befitting of a hostel. About 15 or so other guests and the host are present. Arabic, English, French, and German can all be heard. The window by the table offers a nice view of the street below. Two hours slip by in post-flight mediation, or stupor more like.

Neununddreißig euros later, I have a bottom bunk for the next two nights on the top floor of Frankfurt Hostel. At last I can rest truly for a bit, and I do.

I wake up a few hours later and head down to the third floor reception lounge for the advertised free dinner, penne pasta in light tomato sauce and herbs. It was surprisingly simple and equally delicious. It all being free helped, of course. I am told breakfast is also free. This place keeps getting better by the minute.

A little more time passes and I decide to step outside. Atlas shrugs at me from the Hauptbahnhof arch bearing his weight. It is snowing on Kaiserstraße, and I stand here below the street lamps acclimating to the cold.

Coffee, schwartz, is just the thing I needed for a short walk around the block. Just on the other side of the building, a doorman entreats me to see his dancers. “Hallo, gentlemen. Care to look? I can let you look for free, and the first beer is on me.” I politely, repeatedly decline. As I escape his eagerness, I spy a kind old couple in the next entry way further down the sidewalk. And as I smile and nod in greeting, “Come and join us won’t you, sir?” the lady asks. They, too, offered free looks and beer.

The next corner is much less promiscuous with its Asia Land convenience store and adjacent camera shop. I arrive full circle at the halal falafel stand where I stumbled through my high school German to order coffee. Again, I stand on Kaiserstraße to appreciate the Hauptbahnhof’s architecture. It has been quite the day, and now I am ready to call it a night.

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