You know the feeling where you’re simultaneously exhausted and just killing time until you board the plane the following day … and melancholy because you know the end of your trip (and vacation) is right around the corner?
I feel that today. I especially dread my attitude when I return to work. After Spain last year, I was cranky for at least five weeks. I’m really not looking forward to seeing that woman in the mirror on Monday morning.
It’s cloudy outside, cooler than it’s been the entire trip, and has been raining sporadically. It almost matches my frame of mind this morning.
I eat breakfast, send Kelly an e-mail about meeting up with her briefly (she has to pay back some money I lent her the previous day), and then I hurry and get myself on a free walking tour leaving from the hostel shortly.
The tour guide is an exuberant dude from Texas, wearing suede lederhosen (no joke), who takes us from the hostel to Marienplatz via the metro. Once there, we become part of an even larger group, which is then whittled down according to language.
The tour begins in earnest with another tour guide, an Australian girl holding a can of Red Bull in one hand and gesturing with the other, yelling in an already husky voice so we all can hear. We actually get to witness the movements of the Glockenspiel (pictured at right. It’s a bit anti-climatic, since (a) I’ve already read in my guide and heard from trip leader Carla what happens and (b) the “chimes” that sound and play during the “show” aren’t even real – they’re pre-recorded, ’cause the real bells don’t even work … or were they removed? I don’t remember).
We move away from the square, past various buildings, while the Aussie guide continues. Less than 10 minutes later, the enormous group separates into three smaller groups, and I’m back in the group with our Texan guide. Between the bursts of rain, he’s quite informative and is kind of funny where it counts, and serious where he needs to be.
I meet two young guys on the tour who are also from my hostel: James, works for a mortgage company in Newmarket; Ben is from Cambridge, and may be either in school or just finished.
The tour ends, after which I tip the tour guide (heavily) and make my way back to Marienplatz (James and Ben in tow) to try and catch Kelly. That plan doesn’t work – I give up the search after about five minutes and return to the hostel with the guys.
I check my e-mail and find out Kelly’s leaving for Innsbruck (Austria) later in the afternoon. I manage to get down to the central train station – Hauptbahnhof – and meet her on the platform of the train she’s boarding. She arrives about two minutes before her train’s scheduled to leave, runs up the platform, dumps the money in my hand and keeps on going. (‘Bye, Kelly.)
After, I wander around. I just walk and walk and walk. Eventually, my stomach in knots from hunger, I find a café where I have a latte (not my first choice, since I don’t drink coffee, but I’m too hungry to change my mind) and a small sandwich, while I write my postcards and play catch-up writing in my travel journal to pass some time.
Then it’s back to walking around and around. I buy a couple more small souvenirs, including yet another plate for my Crazy Plate Collection. (I know you think I’m either crazy or an old woman stuck in the body of a young woman who should know better, but I don’t care – I love my plates of the world, so suck it.) I see the same classical music buskers from two days ago and stop to listen one more time. I even buy one of their CDs (15 Euro, which is crazy expensive, but I don’t care, ’cause it’s my last day), and just keep killing time and snapping pictures until I’m too tired to walk anywhere else.
In my hostel room, I quietly write and write down as many thoughts from the previous several days as I can remember, until I can no longer write without the light of a lamp.
Heading downstairs after in search of something to eat, I run into James, who suggests the place across the street – which turns out to be a beer hall, and part of a huge beer brewery. How apt … And how packed.
I enter the front door of the beer hall, take one look at the people waiting for seats and another at the scores of dozens of people seated, and walk right out, heading straight for the metro going to Hauptbahnhof station.
I know the European foodie experience is about eating ANYTHING BUT than North American-based fast-food. But at this juncture, with so few hours remaining and my stomach grumbling and gurgling, I give an imaginary, misanthropic finger to cultural experience for the third time (I had McDonald’s the night I returned from Füssen – the shame!) in favour of a Burger King.
Back at the hostel, I pull up a seat at one of the empty cafeteria-styled tables, and just mow down on a Whopper and fries with mayo and ketchup and syrupy, non-fizzy Pepsi, while I watch the CNN International reports about the conflict in Georgia and former American presidential candidate John Edwards’ extramarital affair (sad, and also anti-climatic). Ben appears as if out of thin air, and he sits nearby and chats while I eat and watch.
I hit the hay somewhere around midnight, my backpacks – large and small – just about packed with my possessions. The window’s slightly open, allowing whatever breeze might be in the air to waft in.
As I lay there, I can hear the faint strains and bass of Latin music from some nearby club. But I’m too tired – and pre-occupied with my return trip home – to care.