My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Triumphant return to Bielefeld

Upon our early-morning arrival in Cologne (via an even earlier-morning flight from Stansted, after an even-earlier-than-that minicab ride from my flat), we rented a car to take my parents, sister and I around Europe.

Normally, there’d be a rant about the car rental agency here – either they wouldn’t have any standards left, or the car would be some freakish quasi-stick shift, or the van wouldn’t be big enough.

But because my dad has a magical Preferred Members card, everything went smoothly. Go figure. Gotta get me one of those…

And because this is Germany, the home of quality vehicles, our rental was an Audi A4. Nothing is so well engineered as a German sedan; hell, it was even a Gauntlet cliché.

Enough of that. From Koln-Bonn airport, we maneuvered our way on the autobahn to Bielefeld, childhood-home of my mother.

Despite the horror stories my mom told us, Bielefeld is a quaint, cute town. We found the pub her father used to drink in and had lunch there, before walking in a park she used to play in.

We’re walking along, watching a game of football, listening to my mom’s stories of her and her young sisters playing. Nice, nostalgic stuff, this. Then she breaks into a story about how a pedophile tried to pick up her and her sister… okay, not so quaint, then.

From there, we walked to my mom’s old home. She found it straight away; amazing, given she left when she was just eight, and has been back only once since… and that was 27 years ago.

The apartment looks nice, and we mocked her for her dramatic remembering of her early years. But her nine-member family had only a two-room apartment, and the whole place was heated by coal you had to lug down to the basement. And, when she lived in it, it was on the edge of town, bordered by fields and farms. Streets and shops now surround it.

From there, my mom and I walked down the route she used to take to school, passing her church, her school, and a toy shop, from which she once bought a toy tea set after saving up for months and months.

After – literally – walking down memory lane, we went to what must be Bielefeld’s only tourist attraction, Sparrenberg tower. It’s a smallish but pretty tower set on a hill in the center of town. We arrived right as the gift shop was closing, but my mom managed to persuade them to stay open for a shopping spree.

Many euros later, we headed to the train station my mom’s family left from. It doesn’t quite look the same, given the McDonalds and all. After standing around in there for a few minutes, hunger struck, and we went down the street to a German pub for dinner.

With my German phrasebook in hand, I attempted to decipher the menu, but without too much luck. Thankfully, my mom’s German kicked in, and we managed to order some not too greasy food that didn’t involve veal…

And then, on to Cologne – home to cathedral, Kolsch beer, and yes, cologne.


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