Monthly Archives: November 2013

See for yourself

Joseph Roth house

The Joseph Roth restaurant.

Last week M and I met a German friend for lunch at a café near her office on Potsdamer Strasse. We decided to walk there; it didn’t look far on the map, and it would only have been one subway stop on the train. We stepped out into the cool air and made our way past the edge of what I had seen so far of our neighborhood.

We walked down a street we had never followed before, and what caught my eye were the streetwalkers who had taken up positions in between the parked cars in calculated distances, one every four cars or so. They posed a serious threat to any cyclists on the street, as they stood between the parked cars and the passing cars, well positioned to hop into any passenger side door. Their necklines were plunging, the cleavage dramatic; the makeup thick and mask-like. It was disconcerting to walk their street at noon. Continue reading

The daily commute

 berlin s-bahn“I love mass transportation,” M declared as he came in the front door yesterday morning, returning from his usual hour-and-a-half round trip taking C to school.

“Oh, ha ha,” I replied from the dining room table where I tend to camp out with my laptop. Early in September he had resigned himself to accompanying C all the way to Zehlendorf each morning, and he returns to meet her at the S-Bahn station to bring her back home as well. We know C could take the bus and the train and walk the three blocks on her own, as S reminds us almost daily, but the girl gets lonely. She appreciates the company. This means M typically spends three hours total on these school trips: there and back in the morning, and he does it all again every afternoon. He has made it his mission. After he drops C off at school, he listens to operas on his iPod, obscure ones he downloads weekly from the vast trove at the public library. He has worked his way through all of Verdi’s operas already, and is plowing his way through the dozens of operas written by Verdi’s predecessor, Donizetti. Continue reading

Trying to digest Germany

basketballWhy didn’t I see this coming? The first time rowing in German waters made me queasy; why should I expect anything different on land?

With the rowing season wrapped up for the most part, winter trainings have begun. There’s a group that met Tuesday for the first time this season; there’s another group that meets Thursdays that I haven’t managed to attend yet. With opera season in full swing, I’ll be lucky to make it to any of them. If I want to socialize with rowers, I need to find a way to get to these workouts. Sure, I can do this alone at home, but the variety and the social aspect would do me good.

Like the first time I made the trek to the rowing club, I had to find my way to a new location for the Tuesday training. Thanks to a tip from our neighbor, I knew to take the bus by our house to reach the S-Bahn. On the double-decker bus I found a front-row seat on the top and enjoyed the view as we headed toward the Schöneberg station. As we approached my stop, I made my way down the circular stairs to the rear door of the bus. When the bus stopped, I pressed the button on the pole to open the doors. They wouldn’t open. I pressed again. Nothing. Continue reading

Stumbling blocks

stolperstein stumbling blockThere’s so much I want to tell you. We’ve been in Berlin long enough that our lives are becoming less simple. Events are ricocheting off each other, and I can hardly find the thread in the story. When we first arrived it was easy – a new thought would seize me, and the blogpost would come pouring out. Now the input is coming so fast that I can hardly make sense of it all.

We’re seeing new parts of the city; we’re having friends over for dinner. We’ve gone trick-or-treating and have toured Potsdam and the Sanssouci castle and discovered an incredible Mexican restaurant in Kreuzberg. We’re breaking up small squabbles among our kids and enjoying the moments when they’re best pals to one another. We’ve read the list of concentration camps posted outside Wittenberg Platz, where we go to the drugstore. I’ve learned what Stolperstein are. We’re planning for visits from friends and family over Thanksgiving and Christmas and thinking about recipes. I’m starting new work contracts, I’ve finished reading Zeitoun, and life here is turning out to be quite like life anywhere – complex. I have started five different blogposts in recent days but none of them seem to go anywhere – at best they are just an attempt to capture what’s happening day to day. I can’t make sense of it all yet. Continue reading