Saturday 2 January 2010


It was quite warm in southern Germany where I spent this New Year's Eve.

Waking up late on the first day of the new decade, we decided to drive to the fortress of the city and to walk up the mountain on which the castle had been built centuries ago, strong and massively protected by several walls, a monument of the medieval Europe and probably a symbol of the modern Europe, too.

We had almost finished our walk around, when we saw a young child of probably 2-3 years, crying and walking quickly behind his family that had gained some 150 metres of advance. They had probably left the child behind as a disciplinary tactic that you apply sometimes to make little children learn how to behave.

Yet, I still felt sorry for the little infant.

Reaching the child, I asked whether it wanted to take my hand and come with me. I didn't expect a positive reaction, but it immediately took my fingers with its own little fingers and continued walking straight forward. More surprisingly, the little human being stopped crying the moment it was walking by my side.

Together we approached the other family members who were now waiting in the distance, curiously watching the unexpected couple.

I tried to have a little chat with the child, but I received no answer on my questions, and so we continued, silently moving along the high walls of the stronghold with all its political and cultural implications the child would only understand after many years of education.

When we reached the family, the mother (I suppose she was the mother) told me with positive astonishment: "It is quite strange: He doesn't want to walk on our hands, but he immediately takes the hand of a stranger and even stops crying."

She said this in German with a slight but audible Slavic - maybe Czech - accent.

We smiled, I handed over the smallest family member, and wished a Happy New Year to the rest of the family. Leaving them behind, I heard the mother talk to the child in their mother tongue that I couldn't identify since we had departed for some metres already. In any way, it didn't matter to me, as long as the child and the family seemed happy.

And neither the child nor I had thought of the other as a stranger.


Andreas said...

I just spent a couple of days in Franken with several friends and families with, altogether, five kids. Being a dogmatic believer in multilingualism, I spoke English with the gang of five most of the time. And amazingly enough, where others failed to communicate, raise interest, dry tears - the English would do it, even though none of the kids understood anything I actually said.

I love it when language cuts across boundaries—borders it allegedly establishes—with such easy grace.