Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Berlin notes, or, Achtung, toddler!
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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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").
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.