Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Berlin notes, or, Achtung, toddler!

[Rose, during our 3-4 hour Frankfurt layover]

Berlin: how different from so many other trips we've taken this year, from Washington D.C. to Boca Raton to Toronto to Glengarry to Sainte-Adele; so much adventuring! (I'm not entirely sure how we do it all either.)

Friday, October 9/Saturday, October 10, 2015: The first day was a blur; what do I remember?

A week in Berlin, for the sake of a work-related conference on conservation (book, paper, etc) Christine is attending. Eighteen hours from Ottawa door to Berlin hotel, including: a stop-over in Frankfurt, and Berlin cab drivers we weren't able to communicate with. Apparently cab drivers can't take wee children without carseats (which we eventually did understand), but didn't bother relaying (either cab driver we spoke to) that one can order a cab with a carseat. They moved on, leaving us standing on the corner with our many bags and sleeping child. Two buses later, a protest blocked us, and we rode two subway trains before a walk finally saw the front doors of our hotel. Two hours from airport to hotel, and we were dead tired. Mid-afternoon, and barely a wink of sleep in twenty-four hours. We crashed. Or at least, we attempted to crash.

I think we arrived on Saturday. Was it Saturday? I suppose, if we left on Friday afternoon.

Rose and I headed out for supplies, given our hotel kitchen-less, leaving Christine to get a bit of rest while we out. A block down, Rose cranked and complained, and then crashed in the grocery cart just as we were to leave.

Saturday made no sense. But it took a few days before anything became clear again. Oh, jetlag.

 And all the time, thinking: what did I know of Berlin? What was I expecting? Very little clue. U2 videos, perhaps (including the one for my favourite U2 song). Falco, perhaps. The first night we were ensconced in hotel, I played a variety of musics, including Marlene Dietrich, what I knew of Kurt Weill (this and this), and multiple other tracks, until I nearly drove Christine mad. There was much laughter (not shared by the group).

Sunday, October 11, 2015: Our first full day in Berlin made a bit more sense. We wandered some, including just south of our hotel, which ended up being a very cool building, the Kammergericht, and adjoining playground. The park was even named after a poet, although one of the German Romantic ones that eventually took his own life (after taking the life of his terminally-ill partner, at her request).

I've heard Berlin a haven for children, and we've seen enough parks and playgrounds to believe it, although numerous ones have been attached to apartment buildings, or even the rare public one that looks really, really sketchy (Rose and I found some people sleeping in an early morning park, one overrun with graffiti as well). The playground structures were impressive, and for children a bit older than Rose, but she and I climbed up to the top of one (some three storeys up, I'm sure) for the sake of the slide (Christine got some good pics she posted to facebook).

Really, our first full-day in the city was simply hazy. We tried to figure out if sleep was even possible, somehow (but the bar downstairs is open 24/7, by the by).
Monday, October 12, 2015: As Christine began her conference, we attempted to find things for the young lady to enjoy, including Kurt-Hiller-Park, another park near our hotel, and park named for writer Kurt Hiller (1885-1972). Are all parks in Berlin named after writers? Marvellous!

Not exactly the best park for the sake of things to entertain the wee lass (this was the highlight, and not exactly a 'ride,' per se: but there was a cool green-coloured concrete snake circling the entire sand patch).

Before we returned to the park from the day prior, Rose climbed and descended the steps of a sculpture erected to honour Hiller as one of the co-founders of the gay civil rights movement.

At the previous day's park, the toddler swing had disappeared, forcing us to utilize the 'big girl' swing, which she enjoyed for the first time.

And, at the end of the day, some Turkish Kababs from a stand down the street, which I enjoyed far more than I would have expected (I had it twice more during our week).
Tuesday, October 13, 2015: Today was the zoo; an hour or so in the morning, where the young lady saw lions, monkey, giraffes and other creatures.

We saw a lion that roared a low, rumbling, incredibly powerful roar, shaking the room and more than a few of the folk standing in the lion's path. Rose, of course, laughed, said 'more?' and then roared in response.

And: you like the wee hat I picked up for the young lady? Colder here than we expected. It came with mittens and a scarf (which I've been using).
During our wanderings, I saw a couple of things on the street that amused me, but otherwise, it was a rather quiet day. It was getting too cold for the park, and the rain was starting to mist. Christine, as part of her conference, went to a reception of some sort, so, post-nap (and post-postcard writing), Rose and I eventually returned to the Turkish stand, where she enjoyed what we call "French Fries" (she repeatedly requested such from them), but they call "pommes" (pronounced "pomme-ez"). She was very happy in our little room.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015: Our first ambitious morning outing, which of course coincided with the first days of cold, wet, rainy (the worst of our trip). Rainy cold, we braved a walk and three buses to make the Berlin Wall Memorial. I find the whole history involving the Wall to be rather confusing, and even troubling (I suppose that is the appropriate response); how does one divide an entire country, culture and city? And how do the divided sides react, and shift? And how might they ever attempt to come together again? They are two halves of a single whole, which might always be separate, despite their reintegration.

Curious, too: have there been studies done at all around those who left East Berlin once the wall fell, against a percentage of return? Certainly, the reasons for leaving might have fallen once the wall did, but the itch couldn't be helped; the desperation, one might imagine, too strong to consider any option other than escape. But after more than two decades, have any returned? Ten percent? Less? More? Any at all? The city still stands, with a population and people. Are they but the ones who remained? I'd be curious to know.

We got a couple of pics in front of the wall, including ones where Rose would rather be stomping in puddles (the one with her tongue out is when I asked her to "smile").

From the observation deck, another view of the wall, and environs. It startled me to see just how bare and large the space between East and West were, and yet, how thin the wall itself. Less the Berlin Wall than the kill-zone, the no-man's land that kept anyone from crossing.

By later afternoon, we braved the cold again to meet up with Christine at her conference (XIII IADA Congress: the International Association of Book and Paper Conservators), and Rose drew pictures as we waited.

Heading over to Potsdamer Platz, we discovered the Mall of Berlin (really?) where we dined on German fare in their food court.

Thursday, October 15, 2015: Christine didn't have any conference until 11am or so, which allowed us to wander a bit towards downtown as a unit, heading north towards Potsdamer Platz to see what was what. Once our breakfast mess was cleaned, we headed toward the Brandenburg Gate (we got lost, slightly). It was raining, cold, but neither as bad as when Rose and I attempted the Berlin Wall; and the wee lass passed out asleep in the stroller, cold.
Somehow, I feel as though I look like a character from a James Bond film; a Bond Villain, perhaps?

And the obligatory selfie (I usually ask passers-by to take photos; I never get the aim right in a "selfie").

And did we mention we're expecting in April? I mean, Christine did announce a few days ago on Facebook... (I swear, the last one).

And then the Holocaust Memorial, which was incredibly powerful. Beyond even words.

By then, we exhausted, and Christine headed off to her conference, and Rose and I returned to our hotel, for her nap (and a bit of mine).
Post-nap, given Christine gave us a handful of money, Rose and I headed off to the Mall of Berlin for a repeat of the previous night's dinner, and frozen yoghurt, which made her clap and clap and clap. Ice cream! she yelled.

She ignored the sausage, and we both ignored the McDonalds (ugh) behind us. And then, the main purpose to our outing: LEGOLAND DISCOVERY!

I was very impressed with this place, even though Rose was a bit small for parts of it; she didn't care, and it was well worth the sixteen Euros we (I) paid to get in (she was free). I was amazed at all the new colours of Lego bricks: Orange! Purple! Pink! I had some when a kid, but never as much as I wanted; and certainly never as much as the kid down the road, who had a bedroom completely filled. Oh, to have that much (x2, for the sake of Rose etc to have their own, obviously).

She built things and then climbed on other things and then ran around and then ran around some more and then ran around even more climbing on things. After more than an hour (realizing how late it was getting), I quite literally had to drag her out of there.

[post-drinks, in the train station nearing midnight, a selfie with Donna Stoneciper] Later in the evening, I was able to meet up with the utterly charming American poet and expat Donna Stonecipher, who has lived in Europe for much of the past two decades, in Berlin for much of the past decade. We met up on the former East Berlin side of the scar-once-wall, and she showed me some of the differences, still, between. There was the former squat, various Jewish graveyards, and the remnants of other remnants. Some buildings were new, but others hadn't really been kept up in years, and the bar where we had drinks was dark, smoke-filled, and covered with a post-wall graffiti that remained, deliberately, as a reminder of what was. She showed me plaques on the cobblestone, each with the name of the Jewish dead who had lived in the adjoining apartments, and the dates and locations where they had been killed. A powerful and remarkable acknowledgement of an incredibly painful history.

Donna and I traded books, and stories; we know far too many of the same people. Taking four trains to meet her, she showed me how to take only two home, and I made it in half the time.

Friday, October 16, 2015: Am I writing? Oh, don't even ask. I've been working on about a half-dozen interviews for various purposes (mostly Touch the Donkey), but that's about it. Perhaps when we're home.

Christine didn't have to be at her conference until noon, so we headed towards Museum Island (or somesuch) for the sake of looking. She immediately directed us to the Pergamon Museum, which houses the infamous Ishtar Gate, which was breathtaking. It immediately made me think of the late Ottawa poet Diana Brebner, given it was the name of her posthumous selected poems; I miss her, sometimes.

Rose was very much running low on patience, so we couldn't get through much of the museum (the palace under glass immediately made me think of that first Indiana Jones movie), but for the Ishtar Gate; I showed her some of the animals in carvings and figurings, and we made a variety of animal noises, but it was merely attempting borrowed time. We made for muffins, and then found an aquarium, where we ended our outing, before hotel and naps and a very quiet evening in.

Saturday, October 17, 2015: Today we fly to Amsterdam for a few days, where Christine is doing a talk. Auf Wiedersehen, Berlin. I have enjoyed you.

No comments: