Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Three days in Berlin

Berlin has me back, for a few days at least. I arrived here late on Monday afternoon, and now it's already Wednesday evening again, and in another 24 hours I will be in Bavaria. But I thought I should pen a quick update as I've been having such a good time over the past 48 hours.
The iconic walking man of the Berlin traffic lights
After a great American flight—front of the bus, as has become almost norm now—I arrived in Tegel. Ah, Tegel, or TXL. More than a year ago the new Berlin airport, BER, was supposed to have opened, with much fanfare. Alas, at almost the last minute it was determined that there were significant problems with the billion-dollar airport, and there is no new opening date in sight, at least not a realistic one.  The debacle is a source of much Schadenfreude among Berliners, who love to dwell on stuff like that as it shows the incompetence of the politicians and leaders they elected. Go figure.
No beach access ....
... no problem!
Berliners are an interesting bunch. Well, Germans are, too, but Berliners are a bit different. This is a big city with an interesting history, often steeped in adversity. The people are resilient, quick thinking, but also fatalist and given to commiserating about their own fate. None of that can be easily expressed in pictures as one has to listen into conversations on the U-Bahn (the local metro) or two denizens talking over a beer in an Eckkneipe, one of the many corner pubs that still exist. I got a bit of an earful today from the elderly son of a former bike racer who checked out my bike while I was having a Maibock in Germany’s smallest brewery in Köpenick.
Maibock is a strong, seasonal beer that is smooth and kicks

While yesterday’s weather was cool and wet at times (I got caught in rain during my ride through the city center with all the must-see sights, and there are no pics), today was a gorgeous pre-summer day. Central Europeans love the sun; I remember a photo I took of Parisians lined up in chairs against a wall in the Jardin du Luxembourg. In the morning, I walked around my dad’s neighborhood in Neukölln, a melting pot of Turks, a few young Germans, more Turks, Africans, the occasional foreign student, lots more Turks, and a generous helping of old German folks like, well, my dad. You can tell who the Europeans are because they will sit in street cafes, shed layers of clothes, and sun themselves in private or not so private places. Turks, by that definition, are not Europeans.
Obviously not a Turkish citizen.... Yes, Harriett, that's a Full Monty.
OK, some of them are a bit more extreme than others, but then, WTF, right? To each his own. It makes for an interesting day, though. (Almost) Equally interesting is the amazing infrastructure for cycling that exists in the German capital. If you read my glowing report of Albuquerque’s bike paths, well, start thinking a few sizes bigger. In two days I rode about 70 miles on bike paths and bike lanes that were well maintained, featured bike-specific traffic lights, and were marked with meaningful directional signs. But that’s not all: I witnessed exactly one car disregard the right of way of a bike—one in 70 miles of urban traffic! The drivers SEE bikes! They COOPERATE with bikes! Most likely, they RIDE bikes themselves!
Not exactly Copenhagen Cycle Chic material, but they sure beat the naked guy above

Still Life with Flowers and Shopping Cart
His sign reads "Piss on Disco,and both sported amazing tattoos, none of them tribal.

To wrap things up: Even if visiting my dad was the main reason for stopping over in Berlin I have to admit that I feel much more alive when I am out-and-about, be it on foot on or the single-speed Ritchey that I keep here. Berlin is a dynamic city, and I really enjoy coming here and wouldn’t mind spending a few weeks exploring the city on my own schedule and terms. But for the time being, I’m damn glad that dad is still living here in Neukölln and is keeping the Ritchey.
The older of the two Ritchey siblings, steel and single speed
But then, there’s always an encore, and this blog post needs one too because Germans don’t go to a concert without clamoring for at least two “Zu-ga-bes.” So here they are: # 1 is a billboard for the Superfreak Show featuring the Super Tall Texans (whoever they may be, but I’m glad they will appear here after my departure), and #2 advertises a Paleolithic restaurant. So you don’t know what that is? Well, I didn’t either, but by carefully studying the menu I learned that all food is planned and prepared by taking into consideration the caloric and vitamin and nutrient demands that our Paleolithic ancestors encountered. Wow.

Freakshow III—yeah!
Feel the mammoth in you, can you?
After all this I hope you will sleep well. I intend to do so to flee Berlin and run off to the safe harbor of Freising, in Bavaria, where folks don’t strip down nekkid—unless they go to the local Baggersee for an after-work swim or strut around in the buff while visiting the Therme Erding. Holy Moses, why did I even bring that up? I suppose I forgot, because it is part of genetic material. G'night.


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