As much as I enjoy life in Huế City – my hometown, I once made a decision to move somewhere, thousands of miles away. I’m now living in Würzburg, Germany and I call this city – another Huế. In so many ways, one reminds me of the other.
Typing my memories about Huế is teleporting my mind there. It’s a Saturday morning, and I wake up as late as I could. My mom would be nagging, how I have slept that long. Slowly, I pull myself out of bed, get dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and a pair of black flip-flops and drive my red scooter to a Café in the city center to catch up with friends. Sitting on a low, tiny, plastic chair on the pavement, sipping ice-coffee and watching traffic are my favorite weekend vibes.
After coffee time, we are going to get late lunch on the north side of the city. When it’s a midsummer’s day in Hue, the streets are rather empty because Huế folk hate to get tanned and they love a siesta. It’s about 36°C and 90% humidity which makes you prefer driving a scooter than walking or cycling, even it’s just ten minutes from one place to another. Driving on the Truong Tien Bridge to cross the Huong Giang River makes me feel like I’m just a tourist in my home city.
On the north side of the city, also called the “Citadel side”, houses are not allowed to be built higher than the Citadel. The Citadel looks like the Forbidden City in Beijing, but much smaller. It’s joyful, pleasant and fresh while driving along its narrow roads, between two rows of old trees and under leaves weaving together. The empty streets don’t offer quietness though as hundreds of cicadas are ceaselessly “singing”. We arrive at a vegan restaurant on Xuan 68 Street, just as their busiest lunchtime ends. A few people are paying their bill and are about to leave. We’re delighted by Huế cuisines at a table next to a pond and surrounded by Bonsais.
We continue our day journey by driving to Gia Long Tomb located in Huong Tra district and in peaceful greenery. Parking our scooter outside of the tomb complex, we take pleasure in walking around, sitting on short, soft and green grass, facing a completely still lake and admiring the sunset.
In a blink, I’m back at our flat in Würzburg and sitting right next to the window. April is here. Early April days present all seasons within a few hours. All of a sudden it snows, and five minutes later, it’s sunny; and then ten minutes later, it’s hail, and it snows again. In the sky above the vineyards, the charming red-orange sunset is bit by bit appearing. Würzburg is a little city in the north of the German State of Bavaria, surrounded by vineyard-covered hills. Like Huế, it attracts tourists with historical sightseeing, traditional and regional events such as wine and music festivals, winery and wine tasting tours.
As I’m keen on hosting friends, I do the same things as I did in Hue. Showing them around the city where I just arrived six months ago is excitingly fun for me, and I learn more about it myself. It’s walkable to have a quick tour to visit the Residence palace when all the red roses bloom in the garden it adds more vivid colors to the 18th-century Baroque palace. From there, we keep wandering to an open marketplace, and arrive at the old Bridge where people are having a glass of wine and taking selfies with the fortress on the hilltop above the Main River – this whole activity is called “bridging” by locals. The bridge is usually crowded, except during dark winter days and the pandemic period. As we have enough tourist things for a day, it’s time for Latte Macchiato and chitter-chatter at a back-alley vintage Café nearby.
In the two cities, it’s hard to get lost and easy to run into someone you know on the road. I walk or cycle to get to most places in Würzburg. Even though everything is close together; I miss driving a scooter on a daily basis as I do in Hue. Additionally, people speak Frankish, a dialect which is only understood by locals, but not all Germans. They are proud and having fun with their dialect and so do Huế people with their dialect.
The similarities explain why I’m fond of the life here longer than in the other bigger city in Germany in which I lived the first half-year. I genuinely appreciate the likeness in different shapes as it makes me feel what I want to feel: home.