With the disappointment of resolutions already unfulfilled coupled with the inescapable bathos that sets in around a week into any new year, as you realise that the world is largely the same as it was before, I’ve returned to my small corner of German obscurity. In an attempt to further my so far inauspicious career as a world-famous blogger, I’m planning to write more this year, and with greater focus. To this end, here are some reflections on the city I now call my home.
To recap, after three months’ penance in a flat in the village of Mitlosheim – population 500, with no shops and featuring about as much character as an IKEA car park – I managed to move to the city of Saarbrücken shortly before Christmas. Against my expectations, this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places in the world. Compact, cosy and boasting cafés, bars and graffiti to satiate the most Germanophilic hipster, it suits me extremely well. It’s not the prettiest, it’s not the most cosmopolitan and it’s certainly not the biggest, but something about its riverside, its Frenchy squares and its decidedly lived-in feel makes it an easy place to feel at home. In a word, gemütlich.
And this weekend it has become even more charming for one simple reason – snow. I think pathetic fallacy, unless done well, is the retreat of the lazy author: one of those shortcuts that should be used sparingly by those attempting to create Good Literature. But indulge me; I’m not aiming so high. Yesterday I left my flat in no mood to appreciate Saarbrücken’s charming aspects: unshowered, hungover and blearily aiming for anywhere that would sell me some dairy. The great Teutonic weather gods chose that moment to transform the city into a Christmas postcard and, despite my literary reservations, I couldn’t help but spend an hour wondering around the old quarter, watching the buildings become covered in whiteness.
Snow cleanses, especially a dirty, busy city centre. On a Sunday morning that is especially true, as all shops are shut and the Germans either go to church to say German prayers or stay at home to enjoy long German breakfasts. The streets are almost empty: everything has time to be turned clean and new. New year hopes seem achievable; the sins of the night before are washed away and I felt a certain catharsis. This beauty, and my perception of it, mattered immensely, just there and then. And that might be the most important thing in the world.
I have five more months in Saarbrücken, and I’ve no idea how that time will pass. I’m yet to make definite plans or go to many events in the city. But to start the year thus – happily and inexpressibly calm – can be no bad thing.