I'd like to tell you of the skies, clear and crisp and blue or of the flames of autumn trees shimmering in the sunshine or of the day awakening us in our room above the thick yellow curtains. But somehow neither the words nor images can capture our two days in Marienbad; the only thing to do was to try and catch the hours as they went by and fix them in my memory. On the train journey, I travelled along the same route as in spring but this time, night was closing in. The same familiar fields and bell towers around me were barely visible in the dusk. Close to the Czech border, I sat almost alone in the carriage and watched as the conductor made his way home into the black velvet darkness underneath the glare of the neon lights. As we passed through Franziskovy Laszne, I thought of our nights there and saw the aquaforum where groups of people bathed happily outside in a small heated pool. In May, the burning images and poetry of Ingeborg Bachmann accompanied me but this time, I took the Thomas Bernhard autobiography with me in its beautiful yellow cloth edition. A friend had warned me how disturbing it was but nothing prepared me for the power and sadness of what I was to read. It opened with his days spent in a boarding school in Salzburg under the bombs and destruction of the Second World War and continued with his short time at the Gymnasium (high school) where he described the pain and rebellion of being an outsider. There was so much that touched on my own experiences that I felt the anger inside of me thinking back to my own school days and the people I knew. Even though at moments, the book seems unbelievably difficult to get through, it's defintely one of most amazing I've ever read. It's also wonderful to have a voyage of self-discovery and memories while travelling deep into the forests of a country I still know so little of.
In Marienbad, we stayed on the fourth floor of a hotel where all the other guests were much older. In the evenings, you could hear Bruckner or other classical symphonies playing across the town. I have always loved being high up above the streets to observe the people around. From our balcony, the colours of the trees seemed to become more and more intense each day and the stunning yellow buildings glowed in the morning sun. We ate breakfast in a vast hall, more suitable perhaps for ballroom dancing and felt lost in its space. In the sleepiness of the afternoons, I closed my eyes and heard the voices and different languages of the tourists walking down below and the gentle song of the fountain in the park opposite.
During the evenings and afternoons, we walked along the different avenues and in the parks where the light had never looked so beautiful. There were the colonnades and grand hotels, the villa Eva with its green neon sign against the white exterior and the empty clay tennis courts which will soon be abandoned for the winter. In the Classic café, we sat on the leather barquettes underneath black and white pictures by Peter Lindbergh and with candles flickering gently on the tables. I had pehaps the best Käse Sahne Torte ever (cheesecake) and returned there the next day only to be disappointed by the orange cheesecake which looked so tempting but was somehow tasteless.
We went out one last time onto the balcony to savour the view over the town and embrace on a Sunday afternoon with dramatic clouds on the horizon. It felt so sad to leave a place so different from my usual life where you can wander through forests and sun drenched streets without ever getting bored. I wondered how everything will look as the days turn colder and the trees lose their leaves, whether things there will seem as timeless as they do now.
J. and I said our goodbyes as I started my long trip home and back in Berlin, I felt as if I had been away for weeks. I tried out a recipe for minestrone soup which was amazingly comforting against the thought of a brutally early Monday morning start and the chilly evenings.
Minestrone soup - serves 4 (from Basic Cooking)
1.5 litres vegetable stock
500g potatoes, peeled and diced
Half a leek
2 large courgettes, thinly cliced
Approx. 1/3 of a head of celery
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Roma tomatoes
1 tin red kidney beans
Salt, pepper and parmasan to serve
1. Bring the vegetable stock to boiling point in a large saucepan. Peel and dice the potatoes and add to the boiling water along with the leek, courgettes, carrots and celery. Cover the saucepan with a lid and leave for 15 - 20 mins.
2. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and remove the skins. Chop roughly and add them to the soup, with the drained kidney beans. Cook for another 15 mins approximately over a medium heat or until everything is cooked but not soft.
3. Season with salt and pepper and grate over some parmasan. Best served with warm, crusty bread and a good film.