Theresia picked us up at the airport – a grueling night had finally ended. We missed our original flight to Frankfurt, confusing 06:30 AM with PM (24 hour clocks don’t list PM or AM). We had to spend the night in Oslo’s Gardemoen airport and took Air Berlin to Frankfurt with a stopover, in (surprise), Berlin. The flight was uneventful, thankfully.
Needless to say I was exhausted. However, I gathered up the energy to walk around and enjoy the city that I once called home. And I meant it. This place had really grown on me. I could speak the language, I knew the city, the people, the food. I genuinely loved it. And then one day I abruptly left.
Three years later, there I was. I was struck immediately by how untouched the city was. Just the way I had left it. The noises, smells , sounds and sights: completely identical to my memories. I, however, was not the same as when I left. I had graduated, got a job, got a better job, got married, and was starting law school. Changed in most every way.
The city was also somewhat empty in that most of my friends had already left the school or had graduated. I was staying with my good friend Theresia, of course, but apart from her I didn’t know anyone. It was kind of a sad feeling in a city where I regularly ran around with about 10 good friends. They’ve either graduated, left on vacation, or were only there for a brief semester anyway. It struck me as I toured my old hangouts that without those persons, Mannheim had become just another city.
Despite the familiar vistas, gelato on Die Planken, the familiar bell chime of the Strassenbahn (street tram), Eichbaum at a pub where I had spent many cherished moments, the romantic notions still held in my mind about that city were linked inextricably to the city in that period of time, and perhaps that time in my own life as well. I was on the cusp of so many decisions about to be made, sending me in life altering pathways – yet there was this last moment of freedom and new experiences.
I am very thankful for all of the subsequent experiences that took place immediately after my return: my jobs, meeting my wife, law school. However, I can’t help but look back with a bit of fondness of what may have been the highwater mark of my youth. I discovered upon my return that that’s all over. And I’m OK with being older. I love where I am in my life, and that life in Mannheim was inherently temporal. It just began and ended dramatically and abruptly and left an notion in my mind of just being able to return to Mannheim as a way of returning to that youthful, and admittedly perhaps immature, period in my life.
Sydney and I walked and toured the city. It was interesting, being with her I saw a new part of the city – through her eyes. The food there received much greater scrutiny than I gave it on my meager student budget back then. Thankfully, it fully met her standards. She agreed that one day we could live in Germany. I don’t know if that could ever be possible to find a practical way to do that, but I’m certainly interested in trying.