In Search of Dinner

Since we have returned late from our afternoon of hiking, we return to the hotel to quickly clean up and then hunt up a place to eat dinner. For some reason, I decide to put a little make up on and try to make myself presentable. I suppose I am thinking of the three men we encountered at dinner the night before when we sat at the bar of a crowded restaurant and Pat said they were making comments like we didn’t belong there. I don’t know what wearing make-up has to do with improving this situation, but I take a couple extra minutes to put it on anyway.

Now that I am wearing the fanciest outfit I brought with me–skinny black pants, a red sweater, and ballet flats–we wander around on the cobblestone streets looking for food. As it turns out, my feet are bruised from our long descent on a rocky trail–one of the two disadvantages of hiking in fivefinger shoes (not counting the odd looks). Each step reminds me how many stones I stepped on with nearly bare feet.

As we wander around on tired legs, we pass large clumps of bicycles. It seems there is a parking shortage for bicycles in Freiburg; some bikes are parked with a lock only through their own wheels, having no stationary object left to lock them to. There are virtually no cars in the old part of town. When one does venture through, they drive slowly, allowing the pedestrians walking down the middle of the road time to clear the way. It seems that car parking is limited to the outskirts of town and hotel garages.

We wander around past crowded restaurants, many full of university students eating mounds of fried food from baskets; it’s a university town. We pass those restaurants up as well as the “Wein” restaurants with their more sophisticated clientele–the wine is tempting, but it feels wrong to drink wine in Germany when the beer is so good. We wander past a restaurant that advertises its daily special as “fresh killed rabbit” and keep on going again. Finally, we end up back in the main plaza around the cathedral and choose a table outdoors at a restaurant across from where we had lunch the day before.

There are three restaurants here, their outdoor tables distinguished by the furniture style and the color of the umbrellas. We sit at the third, close to the restaurant entrance, hoping to be noticed since it is late to be sitting down for dinner in this small town. As we sit, we overhear an inebriated American one restaurant over and several tables down. He speaks so loudly, he might as well be shouting. Every person in the area can hear every word he says. He complains about the tables having numbers on them. I find it interesting what annoys people. There have been many times when I have been highly annoyed by something that seems petty and not worth the energy to others. But usually it comes down to something that ultimately makes me feel stupid. Like door handles that look like they should be pulled when they really must be pushed. It doesn’t take too many times smashing your face into a glass door that didn’t open when you’re not paying attention before you get annoyed by misleading door handles. Although, I have to admit that even now, imagining my face pressed against the glass from the view of a person on the other side makes me laugh out loud. But that is beside the point. Most of the time, what I find annoying depends on whether it makes me look foolish in some way and how cranky I am at the time. I try to remind myself of this when I want to dismiss someone as a nasty person–I have been that nasty person more times than I care to admit. But in this case, I am at a loss to explain why the noisy American is so perturbed by table numbers or why he feels compelled to shout his irritation to the world. I find myself wishing he would shut up, feeling like he reflects badly in all Americans. After all, those of us who are quiet go unnoticed while the rambunctious make a lasting impression.

The food comes. Pat has ordered cordon bleu for me. The German version is made with pork instead of chicken and I actually like it better than the French version. The pork is tender and juicy and the salty ham and creamy cheese set it off just right. It’s a huge amount of food, but this doesn’t prevent me from snagging a few spaetzle noodles from Pat’s plate when he’s not looking. I have a weakness for spaetzle. We enjoy our dinner, cleaning our plates, but we are too full for dessert.

We return to the hotel slowly, bikes with headlights passing us on the walkways as we go. The night is cool and the moon is rising, about half full. I try to remember if it’s waxing or waning–the top portion is lit, so the old trick of a “D” for “dying” won’t work tonight. I decide it must be waning and I realize that I did not buy a new tripod before the full moon, as I had promised a photographer friend I would after shooting horribly blurred shots of the full moon in August. I make a metal mote as we continue our stroll. The cathedral bells start ringing and are then echoed by another church’s bells in the distance–it’s 10PM and I have stayed awake all day. By the time we return to the hotel and get ready for bed, I fall quickly into a deep sleep.

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