On the German (Hamburg) and Polish (Poznan) leg of my Book Writing Tour 2013, I take a little time out from daily writing, and concentrate on eating and visiting with friends and relatives. But the book and storyline creation process does not stop.
After the land of the great French baguette, I crave the generous and diverse German breakfast. I am told that this meal remains the most authentic in German cuisine. I also debunk my own perception of the currywurst being a recent addition, particularly in Hamburg, which is a very large and long-time vibrant international trading port city, and where spices such as curry from the Far East have long-since engaged the Germanic sausage. The German breakfast, rich in breads, cheeses, fruit, veggies, eggs and fish, with a dab of marmalade if so desired, does give way on a couple of mornings to some homemade fruit smoothies that I have been missing for three weeks since leaving Vancouver on my Book Writing Tour 2013.
I spend a day writing and another one updating my website with the previous week’s stories, in written word and with visuals. It happens to be Canada Day, and I am huddling up wrapped in a blanket, wearing two pairs of socks, and a European-must-have thin scarf.
I eagerly await some higher temperatures on this continent, while receiving news of the heat-wave I am sadly missing back in Vancouver. In addition to the chilly weather, my uncertainty around the all-German menus at the nearby restaurants, which are otherwise most inviting with their rows of benches around long tables happily shared by strangers, keeps me close to home. I grow even more wary of venturing out on my own when, upon one such act of bravery, I receive now an international confirmation of a dreaded and unpleasant identity imposed on me because of my visible physical condition: this time in Germany, I am once again mistaken for a troubled drug addict unable to maintain control over her body. I manage to regain my composure and am happy with how much better I am able to handle the situation, explaining with a touch of humour to a partially-English-speaking German that their comment made me uncomfortable and that my body simply works differently because of my neurology. I am not crying this time, neither on the inside. Nonetheless, I decide to stay away from peering eyes and insensitive commentaries for a couple of days, and I write and take my meals in my apartment. I no longer feel as much of a need to prove that I, too, can live fully. I, now, know it more, that I can.
While staying in Hamburg, “The Eating Machine” (me) is happily reunited with her travel-partner from their “against all odds” South East Asia 2009 ventures. They cook up a storm, exchanging delicious recipes. Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup as an appetizer to Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea and Coconut Sauce over Quinoa on one evening; a fig and green peppercorn soup to whet the appetite for Eggplant, Lentil, Tomato and Cashew Curry on another. I am spreading the flavours of my favourite dishes across continents, travelling like a seasoned spice trader with my own collection of the more exotic spices. When we are not cooking or eating, my Hamburg hostess and I cycle around this most bicycle-friendly city. By bicycle, we join all types of other regular people: young and aged, business-suited and high-heeled, parents hauling children. We take in views of the historic city centre, the city’s centre-piece lake, the overcast beach, the still under construction new harbour HafenCity, and for an hour, switch to a boat for a favourite Hamburgerin past-time: boat tour of the working harbour while sipping a cold beer.
On my way onward, most surprisingly for Germany in my view, my train is cancelled when I get to Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof station. Without a minute to spare for an explanation, I rush to catch an earlier train and spend the 2-hour journey from Hamburg to Berlin peering out the window at the unvisited countryside from the cushioning comforts of my folded jacket on the floor in the train’s hallway. Most of the other overflow passengers pass the time in cyberspace, hunched over their handheld game devices. After making lemonade of my cancelled train, when I at last extract my 200mL bottle of Bordeaux on my connecting train from Berlin to Poznan, my compartment co-traveller, in true East-European fashion, produces a Litre of whiskey. We both indulge in relative style: I sip from a miniature wine bottle; in my co-traveller’s hands appear a real glass and an entire lemon for his spiked Coca-Cola.
Another co-traveller in my Poznan-bound train compartment is a Polish-German nurse, with whom I quite happily strike up a conversation in my native tongue after my weeks of learning French and not understanding German. Having briefly discussed my neurological condition as a mutual point of interest, the nurse shares with me a perspective of a friend’s daughter, whose muscles are neurologically degenerating, and the lengths that this teenage girl goes to so as to grab onto life while the opportunities offered her are limited. I offer my still-limited-access website details so that my co-traveller nurse can share them with the girl. Her English apparently is quite good. It is only one sign of her unimpaired intellect that she is intent on nurturing.
In and around Poznan, several family visits are arranged. For the long-weekend that I am there, my Dad and his Lady Friend join me from my birthplace in Krakow. I am on a mini-holiday from my book writing, but my eyes and ears remain attentive for details of my childhood and for impressions of what my life might have been like had I not been transplanted to my new homeland in Canada. Some of my story and my perceptions are confirmed; some debunked. My quest for my own truths continues.
Another multi-cultural Artist Date, this time in Polish and about the Jewish culture, unexpectedly presents itself when one of my relatives, a screenwriter herself, invites us to a Sunday afternoon outdoor theatre performance of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”. It is informative and entertaining. It also inspires a fresh perspective for me on what my book is about and how I might describe it when asked versus how I have been describing it until now. There is something true to the Artist Dates, and how art inspires art, and thought, and life…
My more frequent relocations of the past week and my mini-holiday from writing are intruding on my Special Dish for the Week routine. They are also making me crave getting back to my keyboard to write!