For 7 nights I stayed in Hannover and in the company of my host, Azad https://www.airbnb.ca/users/show/229115028. It was more of a learning experience than an exploratory endeavor. Hannover, with one n, is the English spelling; double n’s is German. Some secondary schools in Germany rise to Grade 13, a German driver’s license cost upwards of $2000 (yes, you read that correctly) and include mandatory driver’s education. That being said, foodstuffs are incredibly cheap, trains run between and trams within cities and bicycles bearing helmetless riders are everywhere.
For days I wandered around the outskirts of the city, sitting in parks and working on Acazia. Mornings and nights I stayed at my little place, still writing, clocking work hours, watching German and occasionally English speaking TV and chatting of matters little and large with Azad. To some disappointment, nothing much happened in Hannover, as I didn’t pursue it, yet it was as I wanted. I was still getting used to this place and this new lifestyle.
Traveling day was a little different. After leaving Azad’s a little while after noon I stopped at the corner grocery store I’d been to before. I had been told that in Germany, ‘cash is king,’ meaning most stores don’t take bank cards. Yet everywhere I have been so far, does; chip only, not swipe. Another guy and I approached the cash resisted at the same time. I let him go first. He spied my purchase, a piece of fruit and a single baked good and told me to go ahead of his full cart. The lady rang me through, and I swiped my card. It didn’t work. I struggled to get out another card and must have slipped up speaking something English, for the guy behind me smiled and shook his head. He paid for my lunch, in full; 0.99 euros.
After returning to Hannover’s main train station I started a march to another station 8 km away. I figured it wasn’t too far; after all I had all day, but I gravely underestimated the weight of my pack after a few hours on foot. Down the manmade lake, the maschsee, I sweated and panted in the noon warmth. My feet hurt and my mouth was parched, but my legs kept surprisingly strong; until a sat for a while to eat and drink and upon standing again, a weariness formed. The last 2 km was back through city streets, suburbs of brick buildings and cars both old and new. Then, up the last hill was the station, to wait and to rest. And rest I did, down the street at the golden arches of cheeseburgers and cold drinks.
The station, Messe/Laatzen, was tiny, pitiful and looked forgotten. There were maybe four rails, opposed to Hannover stations dozen or so. There were no grand electronic screens like at an airport, except a tiny one on each platform. Instead the schedule was tacked to a cork board behind Plexiglas. And just as my luck seems to be, the train was late, by 45 minutes.
On the train it hit me, as it had once before, a bout of doubt. What am I doing here? Why am I doing this? Am I trying to prove something to myself, or someone else? It is hard, harder than it appears. I have to find a new place to live every few days and carrying my heavy pack between cities. I cannot eat what I would like, if not by cost then by the limitation of fridge space and the cooking power of small kitchens. Everyone appears from afar to be native to this country, and I’m embarrassed, ashamed as to not speak their language. I have never been homesick, but at that moment felt unwell. Families, friends and couples brushed past me, and I just sat there, letting the train rumble along the track. The train was packed, so I was jammed on an extra seat in the bicycle cargo area. I felt alone.
“Do you want me to move my bag?” she asked in perfect English.
I looked up. She gestured to a huge black suitcase against another chain. We moved it. I laughed.
“It’s quite heavy,” I said.
She said she was moving, and for some reason that snapped me out of my slump. I didn’t know her situation or her story, but it gave me some comfort knowing I was not the only one alone on that train. We hopped off, and I helped her with her suitcase. There was a subtle exchange of smiles, thank yous and good lucks, and then, she walked the other way. (And yes I am absolutely kicking myself for not getting her number, but that’s not the point.)
The hostel had a key code for the door since I’d gotten there so late and an envelope was left with my name on it. Key in the door, bag-o-bullsh*t down, shoe’s off. Lock everything up, bathroom break and bed. Now that I’m getting more comfortable and used to the situation, perhaps I’ll explore a little more. Perhaps, in Berlin, I’ll find my reason.