I spent seven years in the U.S. Army and traveled extensively; three years in Berlin (prior to the Berlin Wall falling) and four years in Wiesbaden, Germany. On a recent trip to Frankfurt, Germany, I decided to take a Sunday road trip to Wiesbaden to see what itwas like almost 30 years later.
The first thing I noticed was that the train had changed. Mind you it was still the S1 (same train number and same route), but no longer with hard blue plastic seats but high back blue seats with a headrest and covered in blue tapestry. Next, I noticed the passengers. No longer were there older Germans with their shopping bags engaged in political conversations. Now there were young people listening to their iPods while texting on their mobile phones. Things had changed: no longer was there the friendliness of the German people as I rode the train in my uniform. Now I was met with stares at my long braided hair.
Once I was in Wiesbaden and exited the Hauptbahnhof I walked to the tourist information area to confirm my departure time back to Frankfurt. I was faced with a well-spoken German lady who pleasantly confirmed it; so unlike the previous years were I was typically confronted by a grumpy old man. Onward to the exit, I emerged to mirrored steel buildings mixed with medieval architecture on my horizon. Apartment balconies with BBQ grills and others with hanging baskets of flowers. The old mixed with the new: the past with the past. I never expected such a stark contrast from the then and the now.
The tall mirrored buildings reflection was that of the beautiful sky. And as I walked toward the plaza, I saw a German restaurant that sold pizza, and there was a Crowne Plaza and a Best Western hotel a few blocks down. I stopped in the Best Western hotel to ask (in my rudimentary German) directions for a good German restaurant and was directed to the Rhein Main Grille, one block over. I made my way to the restaurant eager to have a glass of apfelwein (apple cider with a kick) and a plate of Wiener schnitzel.
The menu was posted outside of the restaurant and to my chagrin the entire menu was in German and I could not decipher any words except “kartoffel” which means “potato.” I resigned myself to eat once I returned to Frankfurt. I continued my journey admiring the shop windows: a toy store, clothing stores, a TV/electronics store and numerous side cafes. People were enjoying coffee while their children gladly licked their ice cream cones. Couples sat around the plaza to bask in the beautiful sun as the sound of water spewing from a nearby fountain filled the air. I reflected in its pool to my journey thus far. Things had changed; the future had arrived.
No longer was I the naïve 22-year old girl just beginning her new life in the military. I was now a grandmother, mother, aunt, daughter, sister and friend who had matured. Just as the world had changed, so had I. I was grateful for the opportunity to revisit this city and reconnect with my past.
Direction/Self-Portrait © Wetsun on Flickr.com
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