We went round Goethe’s house

I do love a wander about the homes of cultural and historical figures, and so on Saturday I thoroughly enjoyed a look around the house where Goethe was born. I’ve also been to the Brontë Parsonage and Charles Dickens’ birthplace, which survived WWII bombing, unlike his later childhood home in Hawke Street which was demolished. Goethe’s Frankfurt home was also almost obliterated by bombs, but was restored to almost original condition, greatly helped by the foresight to remove as much as possible to safe storage early in the war. I spent ages reading the titles in the library, and although we all know they are bound with calf skin, some where really, obviously skin-ish. Mottled and warped, and patterned with hair follicles. The only downside was the floorboard creaked. Not just a little bit, but violent, deafening squeals, and with many people going through the rooms all day, it was a continuous din of protesting wood. The gift shop was quite small, but had a good selection of books, and I bought a biography, postcards and a lanyard. If you have the type of job that requires swinging an ID badge about, and almost hanging yourself on door handles and trapping it in drawers, then you may have colleagues who wear sparkly lanyards, beaded ones, or souvenir ones from Disneyland. Not me, I shall super-cool (in my own head) with my Goethe one.

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We went to Frankfurt as it’s the only German city I could get a cheap, direct flight to from Aberdeen. I organised it as a motivational trip for my daughter, who will shortly be sitting her Advanced Higher German, and was some months ago complaining about how dull it had all become, which I suppose is only natural when bogged down in grammar. So, I surprised her with the weekend trip, telling her I was just going to sit back and let her do all the talking and planning. I also surprised her by saying she needed to set her alarm for 2:30 am as cheap flights are often daftly-timed flights.

It was the most exhausting weekend ever and I have monster blisters, but all the walking was necessary as Germany = wonderful cakes!! We went up the Main Tower, and although it was a hazy day there were excellent views and exceptionally fresh winds, and visited the Judengasse Museum which documents the Jewish history of Frankfurt going back hundreds of years, with all the artifacts, exhibitions and cool visual displays and chances to pick up headphones and push buttons you’d expect. My daughter’s also doing a photography Higher and her chosen theme is ‘Memorial’, so everywhere we go she seeks the cemeteries. She then gets on the floor and climbs on top of walls with her expensive camera while I snap about a bit with my phone. We went to the old Jewish cemetery first only to find it was locked, but after going around the museum she asked about access and they gave her a key in exchange for her passport. It was surreal and wonderful to be given private access to what is probably the only original part of the old Judengasse left standing. And then on the way back to the hotel we had to take a detour as the road was closed for a film shoot, so we got to stand behind a barrier and watch as smoke machines did their thing, and a pretend riot kicked off, with protesters and flare guns and emergency vehicles screeching about.

It was a real trip out of my comfort zone, not only to switch roles, stand back and leave my fate, ticket buying and restaurant ordering to a seventeen year old (spaghetti ice? Ice cream spaghetti? What am I eating here!?) but although the hotel was nice it was near the main train station, which is also the sex shop district, making for some interesting viewing out the window at night. And at the station itself my daughter had a run-in with a pickpocket on an escalator, catching him in the act and removing his hand from her pocket with her own, making him disappear and her immediately burst into tears. On the upside, now she realises she is old enough to be the adult victim of an adult-style crime, and understood where all my ‘be careful with your stuff’ nagging was coming from.

The flight home was also an experience. I was listening to an Audible purchase, a BBC dramatisation of Samuel Pepys’ Diary, adapted by Hattie Naylor, starring Kris Marshall and  Katherine Jakeways, 12+ hours of Pepys’ diary and funny bits inbetween. The flight was bumpy and took longer than it should have, and I love getting the extra-legroom emergency exit seats, but I didn’t like the way water kept dripping on me through the top of the door (condensation, I hoped), and the slightly smelly Lufthansa sandwich arrived at the time Pepys’ neighbour had been neglecting his cess pit, and Pepys’ cellar became infested with sewerage, leading him to complain ‘The whole house is full of my neighbour’s turdy odour’. Then my daughter passed me a note to say she could see through the seats to the man in front of me, and that was was watching a sex scene from ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ over and over on his iPad.  All in all, a learning and eye-opening experience, and a lot of life packed into two days for both of us.

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