It’s Saturday, the main market day in town, and the day before your mother-in-law’s birthday. At 11am the hordes are out and the lines for the public elevators up the hill into the old city are long. A wait is better than 8 flights of stairs, and once at the top you make your way to the end of the hallway and out into the old city. Passing endless cafes, shoppers, university students, and day trippers from area villages, you make your way to the Markt, the heart of the Oberstadt.
Your goal is the flower market, nestled in the heart of the square under the looming façade of the old city hall. You’re looking for just the right flowers for your mother-in-law’s birthday, one of the traditional birthday gifts in Germany, so no pre-made bouquet will do; those are standard hostess gifts. A florist asks your price and then follows your waving hands, plucking blooms from tubs balanced on uneven cobblestones.
Once the parts of the puzzle have been selected, you follow the florist to their work table, the top of which is covered with tools of the trade while the lower shelf features a modest basket carrying a lunch sack and a thermos of coffee. You watch as the florist quickly assembles the bouquet before deftly binding it together with twine. Straggling stems are snipped and the bouquet is wrapped in paper. You pay with cash, thank the florist, and once again blend into the crowds.
By now you’ve run into multiple friends, coworkers, and even some students you teach. You’ve watched café owners begin preparations for tonight’s World Cup game. Germany will play and the cafes will fill to overflowing, especially those who set up big screen televisions both indoors and out (most of them!). You contemplate coming back again in the evening, debating between your comfortable sofa and the camaraderie in the city streets.
Lines for the elevators back down the hill deter you, leading you to take a little-known stairwell further down the hillside. It’s one the monks used in centuries prior, and one cats and drunks frequent today. The stairwell takes you under the wall surrounding Germany’s oldest Protestant university, down the hillside, and to the modern street where you’ve parked your car. The flowers need water, so you make your way home, the venture deemed a success.
What are you up to this weekend?