Zak Ferguson ✍ Our first venture beyond Bad Griesbach and the stores in and around the locality was Passau, which is at the border of Austria.
And it was fucking hot. Not a nice foreign hot.
We ate our lunch in a vast car park complex on the top storey, left marvelling at what awaited us. Sandwiches and our puddings gobbled up and lip-smacked over we set off.
Outside that car and its aircon bubble we were almost nuclear blasted from out of our shoes. It was a sticky, then dry, then a breathless type of hot took over.
The type of hot that melts faces, boils bones, and targets only British fairies like me and Laura. Our wings were clipped, but we took up our heavy backpacks (alternating between us. . . I know an independent woman when I see one) and we marched.
We strode, we dragged, we crawled our way hither and thither. We slathered ourselves in greasy sun-block, which never makes the travels and all sensations related to tourist-ing any better. You feel like you’ve been dunked into thick oily paint and left out to dry, occasionally dabbed by the painter to make sure you’re okay; in reality it was me trying to scrape off any insect that kamikazed itself into my mush. As all insects are attracted to my type one diabetic blood – its smell – noxious, enticing, sweet, sweet Fergie blood, my pores oozing out its sweet perfume…my sweat, that is, when dried out, always leaving me smelling like a stale sweet factory only Willy Wonka would find satiating, that or his crotch- – always sweet…and never savoury.
Passau is the city on three rivers. There is a beautiful area where you can see all three rivers coming into one; that was our destination, not that we knew it, that or I for one didn’t. I just followed the directions and finger points given from Laura/or the option to follow my own nose - which was never following my own nose, as it was just Laura being sweet and guiding me in the right direction, giving over a sense I knew where and what the fuck we are doing. Which I never did nor do.
The walk was long, only because the temperature exacerbated everything. I alternated with photographing and filming, setting my phone onto its Timelapse/Hyperlapse function for a video I would later create. Laura was doing the same. We came across German children, grinning ear to ear, speaking about us in German, knowing we knew they were, but we didn’t care, as kids are kids, and wherever you go, they are little shitbags.
The mockery we faced was a pantomime, and something I actually found endearing.
How do I know they were talking about us? - well, they started applying the universal language of body/and gestural hand motions. Pointing and laughing.
I mean, I’d laugh at me – me being a big fat boy I am always streaked in sweat, huffing and puffing, unable to keep my shirt tail down, my protuberance always pushing its way out to greet the German population.
The heat was unbearable. Heightening senses we didn’t know we had, when in relation with coping/not coping with intense heats. When a draught hit us, it was divine. Though as short-lived as it was, and even though we were so close to the fast moving flow of the river’s water the heat ate up all moisture. No bloody wonder the wasps were out on the “attack” - landing on us like aeroplanes performing IFR What they gain from us I have no idea. Moisture was at this point not merely opaque . . . it didn’t seem to exist.
The coming together of the rivers (as displayed below) was a sight I had never seen myself.
It was almost emblematic of a time in Germany’s history were borders, distinctions, divides were kept to, pushed, evolved to such devastating degrees. Factions. Side by side. United, yet never truly allowed to be.
Seeing this river come together still instils a sense of disparity and divide for me. Notice the colour, the smogginess of one, billowing dark clouds, as if bombs had been set off beneath the river’s surface - the pigment, the colours so distinct, and variable.The Danube (the second largest river in Germany) meets the Inn, and the Ilz rivers at Passau. Each of these rivers appear to be in different colours – the Danube being blue, the Inn green, and the Ilz black-ish. Though united, though sharing the same space, though one and the same, they are different. They are distinctive. Unique. Or, if the previous ponderance can be entertained, and kept to, it is a strange physical reminder that incurs unconscious musings and information that was wiggled to the surface, as if a seagull has danced its - pitter-patter faux-rain trap-tap-dance - for us to peck at and nibble.
Though as sweet, simplistic, and beautiful as Passau is, every great spot has some hidden stain defiling it. History is everywhere. And, it is amazing the stories that are untold. Unburied. Yet to be discovered and written/pontificated upon. I wish we could place our palms over a certain brick or paving/cobblestone and the history, the lives of those that had been connected to that spot - rushes into us. The agony, the love, the mundane, rushing into us and affording us a deeper sense of the other’s life.
These thoughts do not last long but I urge you to seek out the history of these places. Not always in relation to WW2, but to Passau’s history, its notoriety in the 1600s for its sword making.
The heat had gotten to us, that when we walked back we seemed to come across more places that we wanted to visit, but didn’t have the energy to. We would jot down (Laura, being the taskmaster/jotter-downer, the list making lunatic she is) these places, like the Museum Moderner Kunst Wörlen, which Laura recalled we got a percentage off, in thanks to two sweet looking cards Rosie had made for us; some deal with local businesses that gave us reductions others mere lures, like a spa.
We had enough spots and places in mind, that we knew we’d be coming back to Passau, very soon. Also, it was only a mere twenty-five minute drive away from where we were staying.
Linz, in Austria was our second official trip in Germany outside of Bad Griesbach. Instead of packing ourselves a lunch like we did in Passau the day before, we opted to eat out.
On the way there we struggled at a Toll Station. Laura struggling with the various different options, and prices, trying to figure out, with a phone with no internet signal, if we were going to incur charges, that if we didn't pay extra for using certain motorways.
Whilst I stood by, rocking on the heels of my shoes. By the time Laura had figured it out, a tall, lean, muscled bald gentleman, a good seven foot tall came over to us, towering, casting an appreciated cooling shadow, and asked us, in English, "Can I help you?" which generated a jump out of your skin response from Laura - something I have noticed has become rather frequent each time an English speaking German, or Dutch, or Italian, etc. jumps in to try help us out. Shocked that other English speakers are around.
They're just lying in wait to spring this surprise on us. A gesture like this, from the Czech gentleman put a smile on our faces, and also when he drove ahead of us and gave us a farewell wave it makes you want to ask for their details, and secretly employ them as your translator. Much like each time a fellow UK holiday-er drives past you on the autobahn, you want to follow them and exchange numbers and experiences. Jokingly each time this happens I want to unwind the car window and scream after them, "We're British too, where are you from?" – if they’d replied back, “Brighton!” I would have wept; seeing other British residents always makes you pine for home and then feel reassured that you're both not the only foreigners travelling this beautiful, magical, otherworldly country.
Passau was a trip whose high points for me weren't the scenery we drove through or the Passau aura, and history, or the Danube river, but a small, and hilariously tender moment between Laura and a Passau gift store owner, which I forgot to mention above.
The store owner, wait for it… spoke no English; but she could see that the extreme heat was getting to Laura, so guided her into a seat, in front of an industrial strength and sized fan, and kept enquiring whether Laura wanted water, coming back and forth, checking on her and Laura, who was left giggling to herself, and saying "nein" over and over, really touched but also awkward, not knowing how to express gratitude for this elder ladies gestures. I wouldn't have been surprised if the lady started wiping Laura's brow with a cooled damp cloth and began to break up her freshly baked pretzel – one of which was laid on a bakery bag on the table, the one Laura was sat beside – to then feed Laura, as if she were some lost wanderer in the desert, finally salivated and given rest bite. Or break it up, and chew it for her before bird-feeding her.
Laura did finally manage to express her appreciation, all thanks to the life-saving Google Translate/Lens app (when it wants to work) and the lady spoke at Laura, referring to heat with a wide theatrical brow swipe, across her wrinkled forehead, in broken German, or broken English, or both, I didn’t know which, when she said, “Saw-Nu-ah!” and Laura piped up, “Yes, sauna!” and the old lady was close to giving her a thumbs up, shocked and happy the language barrier wasn’t a mountain between us - but she didn’t, as the German folk don’ like thumbs up - an observation given credence and validity by myself, having done it one too many times to various Germans we came into contact with.
She had supplied gestures, whilst German words ran riot from her mouth, that came together, and made it easier to understand and process this exchange. We felt it was necessary to buy a few things from her store. Which we did, in the form of a lovingly crafted fridge magnet which has a young country fräulein swinging on a swing.
Now placed on said fridge with pride. Looking at that magnet, it will forever bring us back to this moment in time. This specific, sweet, gorgeous memory.
The heat wasn't as humid and uncomfortable as it was Passau, which came after torrential rain, and the most Wonderous wide-spread storm I have ever witnessed, and been caught in, in my life - spreading itself magnificently around our accommodation in Bad Griesbach. Talking of spreading, we are spreading our idiot selves across the land of the German folk, who in these more rural areas are so sweet, and friendly, and sympathetic to our non-German-speaking selves.
Even though the majority we had come into contact with, who seemed to have a modicum of English understanding, though they can't speak our language, they seem to lean in, and attune to our English pitter-patter – they are exposed enough to English language via media to know, but not how to communicate or write - they can listen and break it down, enough to mildly get the gist, which can't be said for myself and Laura.
Oh, and, wait for it, these kind folk seem to relish body language, the folksy types – or just those outside of Mainz. Expressing through gestures, smiles and nods, which was something I didn't feel was used or conveyed by those we came into contact when we pulled into Mainz, which seems to be a tourist hive, and a hive that the Mainz people don't appreciate, especially if British.
Which was displayed in the Germans of Mainz attitude to anyone other than themselves, who didn't give off kindly impressions, as written in a previous segment.
Whereas from Mainz onwards, everyone seems either shocked to see a right hand driving seat/car - often slowing down or losing their train of thought, where all of a sudden attentions are tractor-beamed unto us, staring gormlessly as they pass us, most often whilst driving. Dangerous drivers as they are already, this only worsened the reality of their skills. Oddly young German woman would seem to be entranced by me - to flutter their eyelashes at me, licking their lips at me, as if my presence or the signifier of the UK sticker on the car that is verifying my heritage, gives them a moment of fantasy - which forces them to hypothesise and envision the English man as lover. Which personally was both flattering, and sadly only ever going to disappoint them… especially if they believe that a foreign affair with me would be anything but, dull.
These countryside based German people are welcoming, and beyond friendly. Though there is a language barrier, they seem so full of energy and a need and want to communicate. Though the Germans talk at you, hoping we can decipher what they are saying. It is done to help us, and not to alienate us.
The country folk, or those outside of the damned zone, which was Mainz, which as I have written had me worried, angry, and out of sorts, has completely made me feel foolish, and again left wincing and feeling slightly biased and prejudiced having judged the German folk in such a reactionary knee jerk negative manner, and based only upon those small negative engagements.
So far, the cherry was being popped, and though like most virgin’s once they have it popped they are left shrugging and going, meh, it wasn’t that special, leaving us feeling worse for wear; thinking, what did I do wrong?
Why was it so…well, anticlimactic and shrill? – the highlight of having experienced those sensations, themselves, was enough to factor in that the act, the divine act was more than we had never thought it would/could be. Yes, there is only regret, disappointment, where those facets of losing one’s virginity is just standard cherry-popping, isolated, simple, the act done with.
Then you realise, it isn’t about the popping, it is about the later in life immersion, the transcending of the deed, the perfecting of the act – this was what my Holiday cherry pop resembled.
An initial disappointment, full of woe, self-criticism, and questioning every facet so far of the experience, and the usual line of though being, what was I doing wrong? What was the other side and participant of this popping doing wrong?- later this all disappears. It is all part and parcel of that cherry-popping. It isn’t perfect, and many other acts might be the same thereafter, until you find the right partner, but there is a sense of “Well, at least that part is out of the way,” so there might be an option later down the line of something that fits/matches to your initial expectation of losing one’s virginity.
I was popping said cherry, and though certain things didn’t match up in my mind, what was offered was enough for me to get a sense that, I was now a Holidayer.
My cherry was being rubbed, squeezed, made sensitive, susceptible to holiday sensations and pleasures. I was slowly leaking out. That, or my cherry had been popped and now I was just having this decimated cherry rubbed into messy obscurity.
🕮 Zak Ferguson is a co-founder of Sweat Drenched Press and the author of books like Soft Tissues, Dimension Whores and One Of These Days.