A story of an imitated world

Fall in the mountains is like a painting of nature. From green to orange and yellow to deep red – the full color palette can be observed. Colors of fall – from strong to muted grey – are telling a story of sunlight and shadow, of dry and moist, of cold and warm. Impermanence – knowing that it will not be final, sparkling and yet morbid, a feast for the eyes. A fall leaf, moved by the wind, becomes a mouse, which scurries over the path.

The rushing of the fir trees, birds singing and twittering. I am walking on the mossy soil, my steps are softly veiled in cotton wool. Does nature set the standard for sound absorption? A cracking sound in the branches, followed by complete silence. Then again busy rustling – maybe a squirrel in the fall leaves. Fairy tales of early childhood are popping up in my mind. The wolf – was he present in Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and the Seven Little Goats or Hansel and Gretel? Back then when I was listening to these stories, I was also hearing all the sounds of the forest.

In our mountain village the potatoes are still dug up by hand. Once pulled out of the soil, they are laid out on the meadow adjacent to the field for drying. The potato plants, which have turned grey, limp and withered, are burned on site. The smell of these burning and smoking plants in the cold of a late November day reminds me of my childhood.

A toddler is anxious to feel everything, taking it all in his hands and mouth. What does a worm feel like? What is the experience of touching a tree’s bark? We played Blind Man’s Bluff, a game in which one child was standing in the circle blindfolded, trying to guess the other children.

Chewing gum was not widespread during my childhood. I remember my father scraping hardened, crusty secretion off the trees’ bark. As children, we used to chew on this substance. At the beginning it was very brittle and did not coalesce well. Chewing gum of that time required some patience. Yet little by little the texture improved, leaving the flavor of the entire forest in one’s mouth.

It might have been these childhood memories, these experiences of the senses, which have whetted my interest in coffee shops. Immersing oneself in a world of odors, the display of treats behind the vitrine, the smell of freshly baked bread, chocolate and cinnamon. The “aura” of the coffee, the different roastings. The various coffee beans developing their aroma and flavor during grinding. The smell of freshly foamed milk spilling over, the noise of the big piston coffee machine when it releases the dark-brown, aromatic drink into the thick-walled cup. Human voices, the clatter of dishes, the smell of newspapers containing the latest stories – I feel myself at ease. What was the name of the French movie? Chocolat with Juliette Binoche.

Recently, I could not withstand the temptation of going to a new coffee shop. A newly constructed building – promising and inviting. I enter. In the front part of the coffee shop, I find the vitrine and a coffee vending machine, which also includes a hot water dispenser for tea and a hot milk dispenser for chocolate drinks. The vitrine is illuminated in neon lights. The floor consists of ceramic tiles that mimic natural stone. I order my coffee and take a seat at one of the tables. The ceramic floor transitions into a wood parquet, which, upon closer examination, turns out to be laminate. The modernly designed armchairs are not covered with leather. Neither the nose nor hands establish a connection to the appearance of the material – plastic with a leather look. The room is rounded off with a feature wall giving the impression of solid masonry. In reality, however, the wall consists of scrap pieces of stone, cut into thin strips and glued onto plywood panels. Probably assembled with the hard work of inexpensive labor far away.

The variety of odors is missing in this coffee shop. I am being confronted with a synthetic world. Should smells not have an origin? This room scent is “small talk”.

The cappuccino seems to have a stale taste. Is there milk powder involved? The sandwich is excessively cooled down and does not taste like bread, cheese and ham. I would like to stand up and read out aloud a manifesto in favor of the real and true. I would like to warn that bread should smell like bread and ham like ham. Plastic can never become leather and artificial materials can never turn into wood or stone.

Instead, I go into the forest, into the mountains, into the quarry…