Friday, July 24, 2009

My Cut-Rate Grand Tour, Day Thirty-one

Thursday, 5 January, 1989
Frankfurt am Main to Oostende

FRANKFURT-AM-MAIN-- The object in coming to
Frankfurt was to visit Richard Meier’s Kunsthandwerk Museum and its contents. And happily, it was quite within walking distance, across the river via the Friedensbrucke, along the Main on the Schaumainkai, and there you are.

Weather was gray and misty again today, but Mr. Meier’s pure white building showed itself well in it, regardless. The communicating spaces-- ramps, hallways, stairs-- are all lavishly equipped with large windows and skylights, so it seemed light inside in spite of the weather.

The exhibition galleries have to exclude the natural light, of course, in order to protect the artifacts. And they were worth protecting. Eric* would kill to see all those furniture pieces by
Van de Velde, Josef Hoffmann, and Rietveld! Me, I wished it were a shop and I were a millionaire: I’d be saying, "I want that one, and that one, and that one . . . "

As well as the early 20th Century work, there was also a modern gallery with ceramics and glass. Of course I think of the Art Institute of Kansas City and its
ceramics program . . .

After I’d seen the Kunsthandwerk exhibits I took the time to go back outside around the museum and photograph the exterior some more, including its relationship with the original Villa Metzler. Very nicely done.

I didn’t have a lot more time in Frankfurt, since I had to catch the train for Belgium and Oostende around 2:30 PM, in order to get the ferry for Dover first thing tomorrow. But I squeezed in a bit more pleasure crossing the Eisener Steg (the Iron Footbridge), which I liked very much, and walking into town to the
Römerberg Platz. Beautiful half-timbered townhouses and shops, with beautiful things.

I grabbed myself something to eat at a Koffeehaus. After that, looking in the window of a stationer’s, I saw something I simply had to have. It was a 1989 wall calendar, and the decoration for each month was a photographic recreation of an
English Arts and Crafts wall tile. Not only that, but these images were printed on semi-gloss vinyl sheets and anchored to the calendar pages only along the top, so they could be pulled off, their backing removed, and then stuck to your bathroom wall or wherever you preferred.

I dashed in and bought it. Then, still dashing, I did something that due and heartfelt devotion to Art demanded I do before leaving Frankfurt: I passed out the top of the Römerberg, through Paulsplatz with its great domed Kirche, through the little streets, and around to the Großer Hirschgraben to the birthplace home and museum of Johan Wolfgang von Goethe. Had time to do no more than to kiss my hand to the author of so many poems set to music by Schubert and others . . .

Then it was on by and continuing my counterclockwise career back to the hotel to pick up my bags and get me and them over to the Hauptbahnhof on time for the train.

ON THE TRAIN-- It’s a lovely journey. A ways out of Frankfurt, the Main runs into the Rhine and the train tracks run alongside the river. Not exactly your classic Rhine River boat cruise, but I got some of the same views of villages and Kirchen in the valley and castles and Weingarten on the hills.

Annoying, then, that I couldn’t remember the words of that poem I learned in Latin class back in Philadelphia, the one that starts

Quis color illa vadis

and goes on to say something about the "monte Mosellam,"† how the vineyards were reflected in the mirror of the river. This river wasn’t the Mosel, but it felt appropriate anyway.

The train stopped for a goodish while in both Bonn and Köln. From what I saw of it from the window, Beethoven’s birthplace looks like it’d be a beautiful city to visit.

Probably should’ve been catching up on my travel journal, but I spent most of the ride staring out the window at the scenery, even when that was only people’s back gardens and German factories and supermarkets. The rest of the time I was mentally spinning out a romantic fantasy in which I magically go back in time and end up lost and confused in the woods near La Côte St. Andre, and one of Hector’s sisters finds me and takes me back to chez Berlioz, where the (currently-unmarried) eldest son of the family just happens to be visiting from Paris, and well, hey, it was very relaxing and entertaining . . .

When we pulled into Bruges I was really, really wishing I had a day or two more on my EurailPass. Seems a pity to go through Belgium and effectively skip it altogether. But I’ve checked, and all my train travel has to be completed by midnight.

So it was on to the ferry port of
Oostende, where I was directed to a small hotel across a bridge, not far from the train station.

OOSTENDE-- Here I am at the Hotel Capricorne at Vindictivelaan 31, which boasts a bar and a restaurant, too. I didn’t feel like exploring whatever there might be of the town-- it was dark by the time I checked in, I was tired, and it’s rather confusing here, with the piers and bridges and canals and inlets and so on. So I stayed put and marked the end of my Europe tour with a dinner in the hotel restaurant.

The meal looked more towards England than back towards Belgium or any part of the Continent. Steak frites and chips, the most promising option on a menu obviously aimed towards Britons who have no interest in "that forrin muck." Boring, familiar, tasteless, and tough. Reminded me of what I ate on the ferry coming over.

The service, however, reminded me of the café in Lyons. I was the last one in the restaurant and the waitress (who may also have been the hotel owner or one of them) disappeared into the kitchen after bringing me my food. She may have gone on out the back door and jumped off the dock for all I knew, for it got later and later and I never saw her more.

It got so late, it was past 10:00 PM and I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to get to bed to get up early to catch the Dover ferry. So I did the rude but effective thing and presented myself at the kitchen door to ask for the check. Got it, paid, and returned to my room for my last night on the Continent-- at least for awhile.
†By Decimus Magnus Ausonius (A.D. 310-395); part of a larger work called "Mosella":

Quis color ille vadis, seras quum protulit umbras
Hesperus, et viridi perfundit monte Mosellam?
Tota natant crispis juga motibus: et tremit absens
Pampinus, et vitreis vindemia turget in undis.
Adnumerat virides derisus nauita vites,
Navita caudiceo fluitans super aequora lembo
Per medium, qua sese amni confundit imago
Collis et umbrarum confinia conserit amnis.

Obviously, though, I’d forgotten not only the words, but also the grammar. If I should locate the translation I did in class, I'll append it. Seems like cheating to use someone else's.


whiskers said...

I do so hate having to chase around after waitstaff...

I never had a problem in Paris, but in London and here, I am plagued by something I call "restaurant blindness." Waitpersons see a woman come into a restaurant by herself with a book, and think, we'll just let her sit and see how long it takes before she does something amusing...

The alternate version of this is when I'm out with my husband and we're both reading. The number of times I've seen a cute waitress address only him, and ask if we want separate checks in a hopeful voice is, frankly, insulting.


St. Blogwen said...

I guess it helps to hide the book until one's order gets taken. Me, I can hardly eat if I don't have something to read or another person across from me.

Amusing mental picture, you and your DH reading separate books together! But the interferingly hopeful waitress-- not so much.

As for what happened in Belgium, I now wonder if she thought I was going to put my meal on my hotel tab. Shows you how seldom I'd eaten in a hotel restaurant on that trip.