Posted by: Shanna Germain | 07/18/2009

Pg. 109: New Places, New Faces


Some sort of official state building in Cologne. I couldn’t read the sign, but I liked the red of the flowers and the heart-shaped balloons.


Today I got lost. On purpose. The goal was to wander about Cologne until I was in a part of the city I’d never seen before and then just keep going. Which I did. I discovered a great little area that I didn’t even know about, which was much quieter than the central shopping/sight-seeing and had some great little tree-lined avenues to walk down.

I took off without the camera, and focused on seeing, really seeing. Here are the things I saw:

  • A young, beautiful woman playing the cello on a street corner. She was so pale and etheral, and her music was gorgeous. I could have stared at her all day. Instead, I gave her a euro and kept going.
  • A pair of gorgeous, knee-high leather boots on a dark-haired woman in a skirt. I was torn between stopping her and asking her where she got them (except, I was afraid of how that would sound in my garbled German) and just tackling her and stealing them (but her boyfriend was like nine feet tall and had his wallet on a chain big enough to strangle me in one move, so I just followed her for about six blocks, glaring at her feet in lust and anger, and tipping over some kid who got in my way.)
  • A very creepy puppet man who played an instrument with his hands and moved a bunch of puppets on a string with his feet. There must have been twenty kids sitting around him, clapping their hands in a beat that had nothing at all to do with music and drooling on the guy’s pants. Which, I suppose, is better than the alternative.
  • The pouring rain while I was lost in a new part of town. Did I bring my brand spanking new umbrella with the German Oscar Wilde quote that I can’t read, but that everyone else probably knows says, “A stupid American bought this over-priced piece of wood and nylon and she’s just getting WETTER so go ahead and laugh.” (WETTER is the only word on the umbrella in English, by the way, which is why it’s in caps). But no, I did not bring said umbrella. I left it at the apartment to converse with the other umbrellas, as well as with my long skinny bottle of Pflegespülung, which it seems to have a crush on.
  • A hen party, everyone wearing tiaras, including the bride, who was also wearing what looked like yards and yards of white lace. Which is really a bad idea when it’s pouring. I know it sounds like a good idea, and I can just imagine that conversation, “Come on, Bella, let me wrap you up in nothing but tulle and walk you around downtown Cologne in the pouring rain while we all get drunk at your expense and make you throw up.” See, I’d be tempted too. But, really, no. Don’t do it.
  • A sushi restaurant that actually made me want to eat there, except it was called the Blue Marlin, and I have this odd memory that a Blue Marlin is some kind of nasty sex thing, but I can’t remember which one, so then I really didn’t want to eat there.
  • A huge German bookstore, which I browsed in for hours, even though I couldn’t read any of the titles. I just started making them up ala Mystery Science Theater 2000. Thus Das bin doch ich became “This bin does itch” and Darf’s ein Kusschen mehr sein became “Dwarfs are kissing my sister.” See? It’s not that hard! Now you try. How about: Smørrebrød in Napoli: Ein vergnüglicher Streifzug durch Europa.
  • The rock stars. The woman was about 6″7 and the guy was two inches taller. Both were dressed in black, both had gorgeous long hair; his black, hers blonde. He carried her Prada (Gucci? Something worth more than my entire bank account) purse over his shoulder as though her hardly noticed. .. Or maybe they just should have been rock stars.
  • An adorable blonde in a wrap around blue and white checkered dress, with long flowing blonde hair and blue flats. She was like the world’s cutest farm wife planted in the streets of Cologne. And she had perfectly matching blue bandaids across the back of both heels. Turns out she was handing out some kind of pamphlets from her little blue shopping bag. Wow, what a venus flytrap! Seriously! Buzz… Snap!
  • Me, in the window reflection of Starbucks, looking like a rat that had fallen into the Rhine and couldn’t get up. My hair was plasted to my head, my long coat was soaked, my leather shoes were mud-caked on the outside and squeaky-wet on the inside, and my look as I turned toward the window was one of a child who just found a puppy store. Inside, all these glorious, glamorous, dry European people sipped their coffees and nibbled on their muffins, listening to the soft soothing sounds of American folk-a-la-Starbucks. I wanted in! I decided that I too would partake of the psuedo-home experience that was Starbucks in the middle of the afternoon. I made my way around the building six times before I finally found the door. I opened it and was greeted to the warm-muffin, overly-roasted smell that is Starbucks incarnate. Already I felt warmer, steadier, prettier. I would have a mocha, and some kind of sweet, iced American treat, and I would be human again. But then this giant red-headed woman barged at me, wearing a green apron and wielding an instrument that looked not unlike my forgotten umbrella (traitor! First my conditioner, now this woman!) and saying something in German as she pushed me toward the door. They were closed?! How…  I looked at the sign on my way by, calculated the twenty-four hour clock in my head and realized they didn’t close for another four hours. “What?” I cried, having forgotten all my German in a moment of crisis. “Your shoes,” she hissed in English. “Your shoes. Dey muss be wiped.”

Chain-man be damned. I knew I should have stolen those boots…

Far and fast, s.

“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.



  1. Oh no that’s terrible. See it’s women like her who give German service such a bad name.

    There are lots of very friendly sales personnel in Germany, at least here down south. The more north you go though, the breezier they get.

    I remember when I first got here (in 1993) I tested a perfume in a little place in Stuttgart and the saleslady took it out of my hand and put it back, saying “To buy, not to taste”. I was like, “Don’t think I wanna taste it, lady.” As good as it smelled. Geez.

    What can I say. The Germans have come far in this respect but maybe still have a little ways to go I guess.

    Next time she says “Wipe your boots” just stick out your caboose and say “Wipe my hiney.” : )
    Or beat her up with your umbrella.

    • Oh! Ha! I don’t think she was really being mean. I think we just flustered each other 🙂

      And ew to tasting perfume. Yucky!

      -wields her umbrella-

  2. Oh, wow, this post made me laugh so many times I’m going to have to reread it just to count them!

    “Smørrebrød in Napoli: Ein vergnüglicher Streifzug durch Europa”

    I’m going to go with _S’mores in Naples: A Nudnik Strikes Out in Europe._

    • LOL, Jeremy! Only you could have come up with s’mores and nudnik (I read that as nundick the first time. Oops).

      MMM…. Now I want s’mores… 😦

  3. wetter!!!!!

    • -just dies-


      I’m a dork!

  4. What a pretty picture you paint…as your words often do…felt like I was there…thank for the vacation…:-)

    • Thanks so so much Crystal! And since I know you could use a vacation, I’m honored to have been able to give you a virtual one!

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