Fahrrad Chaos Uni Freiburg im Breisgau
Photo by Ilona Frey on Unsplash


The weather gave the first hint of a reprieve. Overcast, gray, yes. But warmer. Relatively. I was still bundled in my coat, an extra layer of clothing and gloves. But it was not so cold that I couldn’t walk to lunch.

I was just a block off Karl Marx Allee when I saw a bike wheel hanging above a shop door. There was a man standing outside smoking a cigarette, but I stopped to peer into the window anyway. Used bikes. And the prices looked tempting…

When I turned from the window, the man spoke to me in a fast German. I looked confused so he, of course, repeated what he said. In German.

I work here, he finally said in English.

I nodded and pushed into the shop.

He was happy to continue to speak to me in English, but I stopped him.

Ich muss Deutsch lernen.

And so we were off on a whirlwind of new terms, aided by his patient repetition and the ubiquitous hand-gesturing. Brakes, tires, raise the saddle, lower the saddle, how do those lights work again and, finally,

Credit card?

The bike is just a bit small for me, but it was glorious to be in the saddle. Everyone cycles here. Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but many more do here than in your average U.S. city. In Washington, I often look out of place because there aren’t many black women on bikes. Plenty of black men, but few sisters. (Angelyn, is it the hair?)

Besides, Irene, Jörn and Seán ride. This could make spending time easier.

Yeah, right. Of course, that presumes that I make my dates on time. Not only was I late in meeting Irene, but she had invited along her new office mates, Enno and Ingo.

You know Germans like to be on time.


Enno and Ingo are twins. Ingo formed the company, and his twin joined a few years later. They’ve just relocated four of their six staff people to Berlin for… I don’t know why. But they’re new here and so am I, and I was talking about having a second dinner party…

So we’re on: dinner party number two on Monday night. And this time with games! No Scrabble, unfortunately, but Jörn will bring Set, Irene will bring Around the World in 80 Days, and I…

Well, I’ll just have to go shopping now, won’t I?

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