After having heard about Astoria for long, I finally came for a visit. The truth is, it was on the way from my high school to the cram school. In other words, I passed by it for three years in my youth without knowing its existence. On the other hand, it was my past ignorance that led to the joy of discovering a new site today!
I was more interested in the facade of the cafe. While waiting for A-mei, I sketched across from coffee shop. A lady, after staring at me, made the remarks: I think your drawing is more beautiful than the actual cafe. I bet she must have taken a course in illustration! Then another Westerner dropped by. He gave me a compliment in very fluent mandarin. Well, the cafe is named "Star" Cafe in Chinese, and standing here, I more or less have that star feel too.
This is such a prestigious tourist spot that soon after I was seated, I ran into a group of my current students, who were here because of a literature camp. Astoria was founded by five Russian emigres and Mr. Archiybold Chien. It is an eatery as well as a bakery featuring Russian cuisine and desserts. Later it turned out to be a very important gathering place for Taiwanese literati.
After tasting Russian soft candy and old-style pastry, I strolled along the streets packed with cram schools in the same area. I was quite impressed by the small yet interesting eateries tucked inside lanes and alleys. Truth be told, I detested this part of the city when I was a teenager. The high-rise buildings and crowds really sucked my soul dry. Strange to say, I paused when passing by the cram school I used to attend. Rows of adverts boasting how much their students had accomplished really amazed me. At this moment, I felt blessed to be childless. I don't have to worry if my child is good enough in studies, nor do I have to guess if my child is happy. I am so small here, but the good news is that I am not part of it.
Twenty years ago I was too eager to swear not to come close to Taipei Train Station after graduating from high school, but today I think differently. A tourist can't miss this part of the city. If I get to draw it, there will be many unique images!