I always became a bit uncomfortable when my friends found out that I stayed in Germany for more than a month last year and became interested in my itinerary. Besides Frankfurt where the plane dropped me off, the next biggest city that I visited was Jena, which was often misunderstood as Vienna. Of course I needn’t mention Oberlemnitz (where I spent majority of my time), a tiny village with 150 inhabitants, including Toni, in the equally obscure Thuringian forest.
Therefore, it sent a thrill down my spine when Toni told me that we would be traveling to a world heritage site during my second visit to Germany. I could finally ignite the sparks in my friends’ eyes instead of dousing them off to a blank stare. However, it was a dangerous assumption because we found ourselves to be almost the only tourists there. The few other tourists spoke with a strong dialect from the same province, so we concluded that they probably only lived a few kilometers away.
The absence of the sound of camera shutters and foreign languages did not make Quedlinburg less interesting. On the contrary, every house seemed to have cuddled together and spoke to us in a quiet voice. They looked not dilapidated, but quaint; not crooked, but animated.
Every minute detail of the town seemed to have been touched by an artist’s hand.
The exquisite shops exhibited extraordinary craftsmanship. At one narrow hallway, we were drawn to cascades of colorful silk paintings that had formed translucent blinds before the entrance. As we lifted up each silk piece and made our way to the shop, we found one lady standing in front of an unfinished work, ruminating. Sometimes she dipped the brush into the pigments and touched the silk lightly, so adroit that we couldn’t make out any difference she had made. Then she would stand back again, the free hand holding her chin, and become lost in her thought. After a while she noticed us, and smiled to me in an unusually friendly way. The silence in the room made us very shy, so we appreciated her works as if we were visiting an art gallery.
As if encouraged by our undue respect, she stopped her work and started a conversation with us. She told us that she was fascinated by Chinese art and had wild imaginations about it. Only imagination, because she had never been there physically. Her proudest work was composed of an old wooden board with a Chinese character “中 (center)” in the middle, shaded by layers of silk. It was definitely not the most enticing piece of art in the room, but we stood there and stared at her unpracticed calligraphy for a long time. She even turned to me for my interpretation, but my unpreparedness made me stammer. Even though I couldn’t remember what I had said, she was impressed by my answer and said passionately that she hoped China would remain untouched and mysterious.
When we walked out of the shop, the rain had stopped. Quedlinburg emanated a lovely scent in the air, which only made us love it more. Let the name of this town stay silent, I pleaded quietly. Let the lady in the silk shop continue to be inspired by the history books. Let us depart with the silentest steps, so that not even a little bird will fly away.