' Here, try it '. Frau Tillmann pushes something in my face. Before I can fight back, the spoon with the brown sauce in my mouth has disappeared. The 'Büdchen' at the level crossing in Altenkirchen has been known beyond the borders of the region for 50 years for its kidney shish kebab at a price of 2.10 euros. Regardless, I willingly and firmly reject the meat that is boiling in the brownish sauce. I am a fan of inner qualities, but my preference is for innards of a different type. Such as can be seen at the entrance to the popular fast food restaurant in the city of 10,000. This is where my childhood dream car is parked. It's a 5-series BMW 524 td - and it's mine. His kidneys are my favorite.
It was a queasy feeling in my stomach that made me leave the A3 between Frankfurt and Cologne for a short stopover. Until my appointment in Bochum, there is still enough time to go to eat something in peace. So why not go to the chip shop from your childhood days? Anyway, I haven't been there for a long time, where I've spent more than half my life - in the Westerwald.
A visit to Ms. Tillmann's snack bar
So I leave the route into the Ruhr area, take a descent that is otherwise likely to be avoided or deliberately overlooked. A little later I stand across from the talkative lady from the snack bar, who, as she says, is 'actually a real Cologne cheerful person', and wait for my fries. 'Red White?' she asks me in a smoky voice. 'Red' I answer, whereupon Ms. Tillmann resolutely pours a ladle of kidney shish kebab over the fried potatoes.
'The Westerwald has become my home,' says the woman from the snack bar as she puts the cardboard bowl over the Counter is enough. In contrast to the blonde, short hair and the sleeveless, long black dress, her skin looks pale. But her blue eyes look alert and clever. Alwine Tillmann has been deep-frying, roasting and entertaining in the chip shop at the level crossing for 25 years. I screw up my eyes and try to concentrate on what it looked like in this wooden hut 20 years ago. In any case, the smell of burnt fat and meatballs has not changed. Next to me at the counter sits a well-dressed lady over 65. She orders a kebab skewer: 'But no fries, please, I have to have lunch right away.'Twenty years ago I stood next to my parents at the wooden counter about once or twice a month and watched Alwine, who at that time still wore a long braid, as she tossed the fries with a quick movement of the hand from the dripping frying sieve into a plastic salad bowl . Her eyes smile as they did then, only her movements have become a bit slower. Once I could barely look over the edge of the counter. Today my legs are almost too long to sit comfortably on the wooden stools in front of them. Nevertheless, the atmosphere from the new perspective still looks familiar.
The lady from the regulatory office is already waiting
'You can't stand there', says Alwine and points to my car. The 5 Series is the same red as the rally stripe that adorns Alwine's dress on the side. 'It will be very expensive if they catch you there in front of the St. Andrew's Cross,' she says at the very moment when a lady from the public order office wants to write me down. 'I have to go again anyway,' I reply, give Alwine a quick wave and take a seat in the driver's seat of my 6-cylinder turbo diesel. I start the engine before I have the annoying note on the windshield. The car hums in the tone I'm used to. This noise already calmed me down when the first 524 td rolled off the line. The sporty diesel was launched on the German market in 1983. At that time, my father had to regularly drive me around the block in the car to sleep. My own red 524 was registered for the first time in 1986. He's not much younger than me, that's why we get along so well.
Today, 23 years later, he's standing in front of a level crossing in the Westerwald. The barriers are closing. The lady from the public order office is still looking for eye contact. I ignore them because I'm getting sentimental. A curiosity burns in me. What has become of my old home? Like the taste of these fries, has everything else hardly changed? I make up my mind to call this phenomenon, according to which good things stay good, the 'french fries effect'. This thesis has to be checked.
A trip back home with the BMW 524 td
I still have a good buffer of time and could confidently make another detour. After a short struggle, I finally lower the window pane and instead of taking the motorway, turn onto the B8 from Altenkirchen towards Weyerbusch. On the right and left of the main road lined with forest, the dull feeling that made me leave the autobahn comes back. Not because I wasn't full, but because my 524 td has just reached the top of 120 km /h. My loved one has 115 hp at 4,800 rpm, he has no radio, that's why I sing. When I arrive in Weyerbusch, I stop at the gas station and buy a water ice cream. Suckling, I drive the last few meters to my former elementary school. Thereit's back, the french fries effect: the playground in front of the school is unchanged, the same dreary facade color. I stop in the parking lot in front of the schoolyard. I often waited there for my father's dolphin-gray 528i to turn into the street. So there could be something to the Pommesthesis.
I need less force to open the heavy front door of the school than I did before, and the stairs up to the classrooms seem shorter to me. In the stairwell, it smells exactly like it did back then after a mixture of wax crayons and cleaning agent containing chlorine. A few hours ago I wasn't even expecting to go up those stairs. The staff room is deserted. Unlike I used to know, there is no hectic bustle there. I notice the new furniture and the blue carpeting when my gaze wanders to the floor. I realize that my attempt to find the important places of my childhood unchanged was naive - silly childish french fries effect!
Reunion with the old teacher
I shake my head, turn around and am about to go back down the stairs when a voice calls out from behind my back: 'Do you have an appointment?' I stop, think for a second, and only then slowly turn around. It's Ms. Etzbach. Even then she was the secretary of the school administration. I step closer and want to check whether she still recognizes me. 'I'm Melanie Khoshmashrab, I was a student here once, in Linette Gallo's class.' Your face brightens. 'You lived in Rettersen, didn't you?' 'Yes,' I answer with a smile. 'Mrs. Gallo is currently supervising the yard, if you want I can take you there.' My heart is pounding as we go down the stairs to the courtyard. Away from the playing students, Ms. Gallo stands near the 524 with a colleague. 'You look like you used to, only bigger' she says and laughs out loud when she recognizes me. As if I were a little girl, I stand in front of her with downcast eyes. In an interview she says that there is now a Cadillac Museum in Hachenburg. I've heard of it myself. When the teacher has to go back to class, I stay a little confused in the school yard.
The business trip becomes a trip to childhood
I sit in the driver's seat of the car and dial the number of my meeting partner. I'm postponing the appointment until tomorrow. Instead of preparing for the meeting, I buy a chocolate banana from the bakery 'Marotzke' in Weyerbusch - as I used to do before the bus ride to high school. From this point on, my service assignment becomes a trip to my childhood, on which I meet familiar faces and numerous bizarre people.
Like Bernd Lueck, whose private car show with lovingly cared for replicas happens to me on the way. Spontaneously I stop and involve the man mowing the lawnConversation. Around the time I left the Westerwald, Bernd Lueck started building up his collection. It was a long cherished dream. Next to the beetle in the exhibition, he grins proudly like a little boy. When I say goodbye, I am surprised that I did not notice this individual side of the Westerwald earlier.
Visit to the Cadillac Museum in Hachenburg
Apparently I never looked closely. In Hachenburg, a tourist highlight of the Westerwald, I take a lot of time to tour the Cadillac Museum. In the showrooms, which couldn't be more different, it becomes clear that I am not the first person whose love for cars was born here. After talking for a long time in the Cadillac Museum, I make the decision to have a coffee in the old town. I take a seat in Irene Kölzer's 'cafeteria' on Friedrichsstrasse. She and her husband, who had previously been Marketing Director at the Hachenburger Brewery for a long time, have converted their parents' house into an alternative location with all sorts of interior decorations. Sitting in the sun, I make an appointment by phone with my brother, who lives in Altenkirchen.
So it happens that, after I have tested the temperature of the Dreifelder Weiher, I and my brother in 524 td see the highlights of ours Rediscover childhood. Later we sit exhausted in front of the 'Wied-Skala' in Neitersen, eat chips and ice pralines and drink cola. The Wied-Skala is an art house cinema that is over 50 years old. The lettering above the entrance to the cinema is glowing green. The first film, which was shown in 1956, was called 'Weg ohne Reversal'. It's good that that's not my program, I think when my brother jumps out of the car in Altenkirchen. When I leave the Westerwald, I draw a conclusion: Sometimes a queasy feeling in your stomach can change your life. A cinema screening in the Westerwald costs 4.50 euros, a currywurst with french fries 3.40 euros - coming home is priceless.