Hello, goodbye, Berlin

Just had an absolutely fabulous (short) weekend in Berlin.

For Christmas last year, Oliver’s sister Carolin and her husband gave us tickets to see the Blue Man Group and invited us to stay with them for the weekend. We made it just in time, they’re moving to Munich in three weeks and we got in just ahead of the moving van. Because of flights and timing we crammed the entire visit into one lovely Saturday.

Since our last visit over a year and a half ago – another gifted weekend including tickets to see Pomp Duck and Circumstance– Carolin and Jan have moved to a two-storey apartment with a balcony and roof deck. At the last apartment I’d joked that a small russian family was living in their bathroom (which had two rooms and its own hallway), I would say now those russians could easily move to the balcony during warm weather.

The last time we visited Caro & Jan, Oliver had tried to include a little cultural site-seeing but our festive activities from the night before had sucked the will out of everyone else to participate. He’s never forgiven us for that. The first thing we did Saturday was to go to the new Jewish holocaust memorial. It was an incredible visual, walking in you don’t realize how deep the stones can go, then all of a sudden you’re in and the stones tower above you. One has to experience it for themselves to really understand, but you walk down from sun, street traffic noise and wind, into shadowy, cool quiet. Great for contemplation and we soon discovered that the stones made great hide-seek-material. We spent a good 20 minutes dodging behind stones, running around and scaring each other. I saw several annoyed parents seeking children who had obviously figured out the same game and taken off.

One can only be sober and impressed for so long on one of the last nice weekends of the year, on a nice Indian Summer’s day in October.

Caro and Jan then took us shopping in a funky part of the city, which included a big old building filled with old theatre props for sale. Among old costumes, hats, fake suits of armor, there were paintings, ornate mirrors and furniture, a pack rat’s dream. I walked in thinking I would buy something small, but the price tags indicated that the props may be old but they’re not junk. I came close to paying too much for a fake piece of cake, but I had to accept that second-hand props are out of my price range.

The evening took place in three parts:

Dinner: Was at a restaurant called Modellhut, which doesn’t really make sense if you try to translate it – Model Hat – doesn’t really mean anything. The host wore a rather jaunty hat, but…anyway. It was so far in my life the best overall dining experience I’ve ever had. Especially for a country that doesn’t put much value on service, Modellhut was a wonder. The staff were all friendly, patient, polite and incredibly attentive. Before I knew my glass was empty they’d fill it, and so skillfully I wouldn’t notice. New utensils were placed on the table by gloved hands to keep the smudges off.

The food was the fusion of french and asian. Oliver had a great appetizer I had lacked the courage for: glass noodle salad with cilantro, mango and baked sauerkraut. Hard to believe but it was an amazing conbination and I was terribly jealous after he gave me a bite. After three hours Olli and I left in a cab to see the show, while Jan and Caro lingered over espresso and digestifs.

Show: The Blue Man Group was great. Funny, great music, even a bit of audience participation, you don’t have to love music to love this show. If you get a chance, see it. I’ll do a terrible job if I try to describe it more.

Drinks: After the show it was another cab to a bar called Newton where we met back up with jan and Caro. When we drove up I was thinking: Fig Newton, Newton’s apple… but walking in the huge wall-sized image of naked women on the wall made it clear that this was Helmut Newton we were talking about. Gorgeous bar that extends out onto the sidewalk and glass walls that roll back opening the bar to the street. All along the outside, big heavy couches and chairs were arranged in little livingroom formations under umbrellas and heat lamps.

The weather was perfect and when we left sometime between 2 and 3am you had the impression that the evening at Newton Bar was just beginning.

Sunday morning we got up, showered, had a brief breakfast and coffee at the airport and flew home.

Absolutely f a b u l o u s time.

After experiencing what Berlin has to offer in the way of housing, food, drinks and entertainment, I have to wonder a little how much trouble Jan and Caro will have adjusting to Munich. If only there were jobs there, maybe we’d be there too…


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