Tag Archives: Berlin

Prepare for takeoff

takeoffI don’t know when it was that I started having morbid thoughts each time I fly. They happened again last Friday morning, when in the moments before takeoff from Minneapolis I’d been having perfectly rational thoughts like which armrest was rightfully mine and whether I ought to claim it now, and whether the baby one row back was likely to cry for the whole ride or just for takeoff. But these thoughts scattered as the plane rounded the last curve and the runway yawned into view, when we straightened out and paused like a gymnast anticipating her mount and the engines roared to life and we started barreling down the runway and the only thought left was, Well, Jill, this is it.

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Twilight zone shopping trip

20070516_kowalski_market_2What is happening to me? I just went to the grocery store I’ve gone to for years, and I left bewildered. I wonder if this is how visiting Germans feel.

It started when I was biking down my street towards Kowalski’s, and I passed a young girl, maybe 10 years old, jogging on the sidewalk towards me. I glanced at her but didn’t recognize her, so I looked away, but she lifted her hand and waved to me and gave me a big smile. “Whose kid is that?” I thought to myself, but realized I did not know her at all; she was just being friendly. I think I returned the wave from my bike but resisted it; didn’t your mother teach you not to engage strangers?, I wondered. She was overly friendly, perhaps, but then I’ve come to expect that based on my recent dog walks in the neighborhood—my god, we’re a smiley people! Smiling at perfect strangers, exchanging “Good morning!” greetings as if we’d been friends for years, or making offhand comments as we pass, often to the effect of “What a beautiful dog!” or “Gorgeous day, isn’t it?” Continue reading

Both sides now


The red line is the border between Berlin and Brandenberg; it also marks the location of the former Berlin Wall and borders in the water as well. Due to West Berlin being in the middle of East Germany, former West Berlin is the east side of this map; to the west of it is former East Germany.

Having talked with Anne about making a visit to Glienicke Brücke since before the Unity Day race last October, we finally managed to do so last Thursday. We made a tour of it together, sprinkling in a few other sites from that portion of the Wannsee along the way. I discovered, not surprisingly, that I’ve already been enjoying the best view of the duo-toned bridge for months from the optimal vantage point: the water. Continue reading

Tempelhof – From abandoned airport to urban park


Lately my bike rides around town have included a loop around the runways at Tempelhof in Berlin. I can’t get enough of this former airport turned urban park. Like so many places in Berlin, it is the site of incredible history that in recent years has found new uses in today’s world. Continue reading

Mercedes moon

ImageOne late September evening when the family was all in their bedtime routines and the sky had been dark for a few hours, I sat down at my computer to close things up for the day, and when I looked up out the window I saw the most beautiful sight: the bright slip of the moon hanging just above the line of apartment buildings to the north of us, shimmering through the leaves on the treetops. I ran into the girls’ room to urge them to come see it in its half state, just peeking above the buildings, and they hurried to the balcony door to see the moon.

“Look!” I said, “It’s about to set,” as the moon narrowed, as if about to dip under the roofline, out of sight—but no, wait, it was getting brighter again. That didn’t make sense. If the moon goes down, it goes down; it doesn’t come back up again. And rather more typical for the moon to rise than set, isn’t it? The kids shrugged their shoulders and wandered back down the hall in their pajamas, ready for books and bed. I lingered at the window watching the moon glow bright with intensity, then disappear, then return again. I chalked it up to the leaves shuddering in the wind, distorting my view, and turned and left the moon behind. Continue reading

A game of ping pong

IMG_4304“Where are you going?” our young neighbor Annika asked me as I walked alone down the block toward the playground. “To play ping pong,” I replied. She looked puzzled, so I swatted an imaginary ball with an invisible paddle, and she said “Ah! Tisch tennis! Oh, can we go too, Mummy?” she asked, looking up at her mother. Having just returned from an evening walk, her mother said, “No dear, we’re going in now,” and so my neighbors went in and I continued on to join my family at the communal ping pong table in the spielplatz at the end of our street.

There are two tables and they are quite popular, but on this Friday night they were both open, and M and C were already playing. E put on the rollerblades I brought her from the flat, and she rolled around a bit before disappearing into the playground; I sat on the metal gate and waited my turn. Continue reading

The strong man under the big tent

ImageI’ve told you about the closest neighbors to our flat, the brothel and the naked men’s club, but I haven’t yet told you about our other nearest neighbor: The circus.

There’s a big top across the street, hidden under the trees in a long and narrow patch of land between us and our youngest daughter’s school. The circus, I’ve learned of late, is led by the strong man himself, looking as if he stepped off the pages of a children’s book, a caricature come to life. That’s him on the left. He’s surely related to the strong man in the drawing on the right; he was made from the same mold, that much I know.

Every Friday around noon our neighborhood is treated to the sounds of music, clapping, and cheers from under the big top. I can see the tent from where I sit and work, and on warm days when I open the balcony door, I can even hear the strong man’s booming voice, “Hoop-a! Hoop-a!” as the kids in his charge take flying leaps across the stage. Continue reading