My café au lait came in a big white bowl. Finally things start being worth their money, I thought and happily took it from the waitress. My first serving of coffee in about two months and in such a big portion. It must have been a good day, even though I had to learn that the office hours of the enrollment center of my university were listed wrong on their website, meaning two more spare hours to kill for me.
My tea-spoon cut slowly through the foamy image of a leaf. How do you even drink from such a big bowl?, I thought and helped myself with the spoon, as if I was having soup and not coffee.
Though soup may have been a good idea, too. The café was getting fuller and fuller. The bar table which was empty when I sat down was occupied within minutes. Mostly students because the Free University campus in the district of Dahlem is just a few meters away.
With the gray sky and cold wind outside the cosy room, most people at the tables were having soup and fresh bread. I let myself go, let my thoughts wander, as the scent of pumpkin soup and spices teased my nose and appetite.
I realize how surprised I am about the fact that there is not much that I know about the café culture in Germany. In Kosovo people go out for a coffee on a regular basis. Cafés are always well visited and you can discuss pretty much anything over a cup of makiato. In Germany I never really noticed such a trend. Young people usually prefer bars or they spend time in Berlin’s parks with a six-pack of beer nearby when the weather is good. Everything I know about café visits comes from the vacations I have been on with the German part of my big patchwork family. The people who go to cafés here are usually somewhat middle-aged or older and have coffee and cake as an in between thing. After breakfast and before proper lunch. But then there are always the university students who appear at the one or the other table. When I was a child and visited my (German) grandparents for the first time, it was around noon and we were expected by a table set ready for coffee and cake. Something sweet before lunch? I was definitely taught otherwise when I was little. Maybe that was the one and only culture shock I have experienced during my early years. You actually are allowed something sweet before lunch or dinner? My whole life was a lie, I thought.
The lady in front of me seemed to have ordered soup as well. Her bony fingers coated in wrinkly skin flicked through the pages of one of the magazines on the table. That is also a reason why you go out for coffee here. Because you don’t feel like spending so much money on the newest issue of Der Spiegel magazine when you know that you will read only a few of the articles anyway. So why not just read while having a drink?
Lulled by the sounds of people chatting, spoons hitting against ceramic and the rustle of newspapers I disappeared inside the world of the book I was reading. I would come back to the real world every now and again, take a sip of my gigantic coffee and check the watch on my wrist. Then I would dedicate a moment or two to watching the people around me.
The couple next to me was sharing a pair of headphones while apparently studying something together. The man at the table across the room picked up his phone and a secret smile came across his face. He touched the screen a few times and smiled, put the phone away again, returned to the bowl of soup and fresh bread in front of him. Still a smile on his face. Good news maybe?
To my right the trees were swinging in the wind. The bird nests in the bare branches looked incredibly spherical. They reminded me of dandelions joined with the branches as they were. They looked like dandelion skeletons to be exact. I know that doesn’t make sense biologically speaking but we have an imagination, so why not use it?
Dear stranger who found my lost student ID and brought it to the ‘lost and found office’, I know you will probably never come across this because I don’t know who you are and neither how to contact you otherwise, but nevertheless, thank you very much for sending it back my way. Today the thought crossed my mind that maybe not all people in this world are ignorant and egocentric. Some of them take the time to get an item back to its owner. Thanks for restoring a little bit of my faith in humanity. 🙂