Another Friday and another edition of the bicycle diaries! Hopping across from Italy, we grab a bretzel and don our lederhosen, before boarding a DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik – a state of East Germany during the cold war) original ladies bicycle and crossing the border to the country of Germ(an)s. Our Design Wingwoman, Ailie, spent 2 years living and cycling in the land of Deutsch. Naturally it makes sense to include a stolen exerpt from the diary of 16 year old Ailie. While her hilarious (for everyone but Ailie) lost in translation stories were a good read, we’ve settled for a not so heartwarming recount of Ailie’s first day of school.
Prepare to be taken into a time warp and remember how horrible is to be not so sweet and 16, we give you Ailie’s first day of school.
Although I tell people when I first meet them how much I love bike riding… more often than not, I don’t mean it. Riding a bike in Emden, is example a. of the type of bike riding I love to hate. Emden is a small city in the cold, wet, most northern part of Germany, I moved there 4 days ago and today was my first day of school at Gymnasium am Treckfahrtstief. It was also the worst day of my life (how naive Ailie, worst day of your life *so far*).
Setting out from my host parents’ house this morning, I was as ready as one could possibly be to start at a new school where no one speaks your language and to bike ride through the frozen German winter. Logically this meant I was entirely unprepared for the escapades that were yet to come.
10 minutes in, the drizzle started, then beautiful snowflakes starting to fall from the sky …well I can only assume they were beautiful, as at this point I was entirely consumed by trying to figure out what I was doing and where I was going in this frozen winter wonderland! I stopped my bike, utterly lost and parked it against a tree. I was completely disoriented, frozen and befuddled. I reached into my pocket for the map (oh in the days before smart phones), only for it to be blown into a frozen river a few meters away.
I won’t go into the gory details of being chased by wild squirrels, of ending up in some kind of forbidden forest or of desperately asking a non English speaking passersby for directions. I won’t tell you of how I was considering personally amputating my frozen toes and fingers or of lying in the snow finally accepting defeat. Eventually (2 hours later), clothes soaked through, and a mere shadow of my previous self, I made it to school.
A similar series of unfortunate events happened on my way home, except I’ve written enough terrible things for one day and the waffles and mulled wine my host mutter, has made me are getting eyed off by the dog, Aiko. I needed to get that out, if it snows tomorrow I’m not getting out of bed.
Things changed for Ailie eventually. Emden came to be her second home, with her second family and second group of friends. Bike riding became a love/hate thing. While it did suck at times, it also offered the same freedom that an Australian will only get after turning 18 and getting a driver’s license, to have that at 16 was a beautiful thing. To be able to ride without a helmet, to ride knowing that every driver on the road respected you, as a normalized part of everyday life is such a brilliant thing.
If you currently hate cycling, try being hateful and bitter about it in Germany; it is simply not possible. The edges of your angry mouth will curl upwards and the shear pleasure of riding a bicycle will become immensely obvious across your face. You’ll feel the wind through your hair and the sun on your face. You’ll dismount your trusty steed, you’ll stand back and admire it glistening in the afternoon light. You will be highly embarssed to admit you were once so negative toward this two wheeled creature. For you my friend, will fall in love with the bicycle.
photo credit to Elias (Scorpidilion)