Bryant, how do you know Italian?
Berlin… i’ve been emailing like a fiend for what feels like forever, but i will do my best adesso:
I arrived in Berlin Wednesday, got off the train, jumped into Katie’s arms, and then prepared for what promised to be a happenin’ party. The Berlin Film Festival was going on, and that was the night of Madonna’s film’s premiere, and Katie’s friend Adam is a un fanatico di Madonna (no joke). He waited by the red carpet with Tara (another friend of Katie’s) for something like three hours, in the cold, standing. And according to him it was TOTALLY worth it, because they did in fact see Madonna at a very close distance. At this point, I think that I was eating a sandwich with Katie on some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. Here’s some news: Italian bread is far inferior to German bread, and this is a humbling realization given the post I already wrote about Italian bread (you know, it doesn’t come sliced…). This bread was covered in seeds of some sort, and it was made with really hearty wheat, and then it had whole hazelnuts throughout! Seriously incredible. I wish we had real wheat bread here. I wish that I could use footnotes here. I wish I didn’t love to digress so much.
So ANYWAY. Katie skips out on red-carpet-Madonna-stalking to meet me, but that’s no big deal because we’re all going to go Madonna-stalking at this swank club that’s throwing a Madonna party. Ridiculous? Maybe. Later I learned that Paris Hilton partied at this same club. Was I impressed in spite of myself? Definitely. The club was pretty absurd: it had an all-white interior, a flat screen projector thing playing only Madonna music videos, and exorbitantly expensive drinks. What was really cool, though, was the upstairs lounge that we found that I think was supposed to be reserved for special clients. It was all huge white couches with curtains that you could draw around them, and there were these couples just being obscene all over the place, and then there was us (the five youngish, clearly less-rich Americans just hanging out). That was pretty cool. Madonna never came, though, and after a while we realized that really it was kind of a wierd group of people to try to mingle with. It was kind of hard to tell, what with the club being dimly lit and everyone being German, but I think it was probably 90% men, 95% of which were gay. Regardless, the dancing was dangerous, so we left. We got a kebab, and a night bus, then we walked home and went to bed.
The next day was Valentine’s Day. We celebrated by making dinner with heart-shaped ingredients. I cut red peppers into hearts, and Laura van Gerpen (another friend of Katie’s from Macalester) cut potatoes into hearts we combined that and some other stuff into a soup. We also had an ice cream called “Erste Liebe,” which means first love. It had heart-shaped chocolate chips in it (niccccce touch).
FRIDAY we did a huge tour of ALL the sights (more or less). We started at the Marx and Engels statues, made funny faces, then walked all the way to the Brandenburger Tor. There were museums, churches, monuments, etc. along the way. The most impressive thing was probably the Neue Wache, which was for the innocent victims of war. It was large stone room-building — not quite a building, but definitely larger than a room — and completely empty except for this kind of blob-like statue of a woman in the middle. I’m describing it poorly, but it was quiet and empty and sad. There was also a memorial in the square where they burned books pre-WWII which was interesting. It’s underground, and you stand over a window that looks into it and all you see is a room lined with empty bookshelves. There’s also a plaque with a quotation by a famous German thinker whose name I can’t remember (and I’m sure I should, so if you know it please help me out) which says something along the lines of “Where they burn books, they will next burn people.” I know I’m off in the exact words, but that’s the gist of it. We also saw this CRAZY sculpture by an American inside a bank. I know it’s bad that I can’t remember the name of the sculpture, the artist, or the bank, but I was there (really), and it was cool.
I also drank a delicious milchkaffe (milk-coffee). It is have coffee and half milk (maybe cream) and lots of sugar. And unlike Italian coffee (strong but small), it came in a BIG mug. Oh, it was nice to sit and drink it slowly.
That night we met up with a friend of Renee’s from Wesleyan who is also studying/working abroad in Berlin this semester! It was a crazy chain of friends. Katie’s apartment is over the Shark Bar (the Haifischbar?), so we met there. We battled with some crazy German yuppies who were angry at us for taking their extra chair, then decided we were too tired to go out. Instead, we booked it over to the local grocery store and frolicked in the dairy section. I’m not kidding. My obsession with European yogurt is not a laughing matter anymore. Oh! And they had really strange but good kinds in Germany. One company rotates their yogurt flavor of the month, and February’s was almond-flower-vanilla-something. It was good. There was also this really sweet yogurt with puffed rice in it, which was good… You can also buy yogurt that you put little chocolate things in, but that seemed a little much to me, but Katie claims it’s good.
SATURDAY we went to a soccer game in the Olympic Stadium! The Berlin team is not very good, but the fans were still there and the atmosphere was intense. I can’t imagine what it would be like for an actually important game. Berlin ended up winning by a goal in overtime, so everyone was happy. I also learned there that German pretzels are not pretzels. They are bread-tzels. They taste like really good, crusty bread covered in salt. Then we walked around for forever, looked for food, ended up eating Chinese (not a good idea, I don’t know what it is but starting this fall I’ve been getting really bad headaches every time I eat it), went to a party, and then it started getting late and it became apparent that maybe we weren’t going to make it out to this monster-disco-club place and then Tara and I slowly but surely fell asleep in the corner while everyone else was hanging out. I woke up to Katie pointing and laughing. Then we decided to go home. It was un po embarassing.
I’m going to have embellish this last story later, but let it stand that Katie and I probably had the most hilarious conversation of all time with David/Dad/God on Sunday night. We spent the day walking around, seeing things that I had not yet seen, and ended up at this really cool building/place. It’s an abandoned factory in the middle of this neighborhood that’s kind of hip and they’ve let artists kind of move in and claim it for a huge, connected, colony-like series of studios. There were sculptors, painters, textile-type people, people making collages, and I think also a theater somewhere. Eve
rything was open for you to walk through and see them working and look at their art, the walls were covered with grafitti, and it smelled pretty strongly of pot in some places. It was really cool, but kind of eerie. Then we went to an Indian restaurant across the street. We stayed there for sooo long, talking and eating, etc. and we think that the waiter is coming to kick us out, but he tells us that someone in the restaurant has ordered us drinks. Yes! We’re all excited because we’re like “yeah, we’ve got it going on,” and then we find out who sent them. It’s an old, haggard, gross-looking American who says he’s traveling through on business, doesn’t speak German, and would appreciate speaking English for a while.
Ok, so we go talk with David for a while and pretty quickly it becomes totally obvious that he is crazy as can be (we’re talking seriously crazy). He tells us his life story, about his time in the army, his three wives, his four children, his thoughts on God, his personal philosophy… everything. He has a hamster named Domino who he loves (according to him) even more than his latest wife, Zaynib. He named her Domino because his favorite Kiss song is Domino and he wanted to name his daughter Domino, but his wife suggested that he name the hamster Domino instead which wasn’t a bad idea after all because he loves the hamster so much. He and Domino eat cheese together when he returns from his business trips. He puts a cube of cheese in his mouth and has her approach and nibble at it. This guy was WEIRD. Also, he was in business in Germany to meet his boss’ lawyer because his boss was in jail in Poland and they had to arrange a wire transfer of half a million euros to make bail? We were creeped out at first and were totally ready to book it, and then we ended up staying and talking to him for probably more than an hour because he was hilarious. We finally left because I had to fly back early early early and it was already late. He gave us his email, though, so we can go visit him in Turkey if we like. That’s when he told us to call him Dad. Then he said that God is Dad, and if we wanted to call him God it was alright with him, too. It was about then that we realized that maybe it’d be better if we ran away rather than walking. We then took a bus to the U-Bahn, which stopped running literally in the time it took for us to find a bathroom at the station. Then we trekked out in the Berlin night to find a night bus which never came. Then we took a cab home.
We got back around 2:30, I went to bed at 3, woke up at 4, took a shower, and was out of there by 5. Took the U-bahn to a bus stop, got a bus to the airport, took a plane to Rome, waited three hours for the bus to Perugia, and finally got back around 4:30. It was a long day.
There is more to tell, but I can’t do it now because I’ve been typing for forever! Germany is funky and cool, and I really like all the neighborhoods and the way they seem to have grown up independent of one another. They have really strange “antiquarian” (vintage/re-sale) stores, and even stranger open-air markets where they sell Soviet Kitsch and old shoes. I never knew that I liked sausage, but I do. Streusel is amazing. There’s always more to say…
with love from kate