Tag Archives: U-Bahn

Lost in the Weihnachtsmarkt

gluhwein stand

At the Alexanderplatz Weihnachtsmarkt

My sister spent the past two weeks with us in Berlin. She works in Melbourne, halfway around the world. To think that she would come all this way to spend time with us was a marvel. With her I finally allowed myself to be a tourist in this town. We went on a chilly Fat City bike tour of the city; we went to the Bauhaus Archiv. We visited the Topography of Terror exhibit about the Nazi era; we went to the DDR Museum exploring the trials and tedium of life behind the Wall.

Getting to that last site was a journey in itself, involving Christmas Markets and a little midday Glühwein. Continue reading


horseThere’s a moment when a train starts moving when common sense dictates you should hold on to something bolted down. It’s a really bad time to try to go for that open seat you just noticed a little ways down the car.

There are plenty of clues a train is about to pull away: the words “Zurupt bleiben bitte” or whatever it is they say at every station before the doors close, the red light flashing above the closing doors. If you’re not holding onto something, you will soon find yourself moving too. I know this, but open seats still tempt me.

Sometimes, even though I realize that the train is about to move, it hasn’t quite left yet, and I am sure that I can make it to that next pole, away from the tight knot of people around me, if only I can… Continue reading

A night at the opera

La Traviata Ruth WalzMy turn came up; I would be accompanying M to the opera. He has been to a number of operas already, of course, but now he has companion tickets, and he’s looking for company. For the first time since we came to Berlin, M and I would be going out in the evening without the kids. A date.

This was a last-minute switch with S. She was the one who was supposed to see La Traviata with her dad. But for a number of reasons, including a biology test slated for the next day, I would go in her place. And I was not prepared.

“You haven’t even read the synopsis,” M said.

“I can find it!” said E, jumping up from her puzzle on the floor. She sat down at M’s laptop and proceeded to log in to the Metropolitan Opera website, and in a moment she had brought up the synopsis of La Traviata, the exact page he’d suggested. Eying her like she’d grown wings, I sat down beside her and started to read. Continue reading

Schwarz rider

u-bahn berlin

A subway rider without a valid ticket is affectionately called a “schwarz rider.”

It happened to me, or I should say, to my friend, on a visit to Germany a full 20 years ago. My friend was in school in Heidelberg to work on her already-good language skills and figure out what came next for her.

I’d come with my boyfriend to visit her and tour the lovely old city. She met us at the train station and took us around town for the afternoon. We rode the quaint local trolleys through the city, and I recall her handing us small paper tickets that we were supposed to punch in some ancient contraption in the rear of the car.

To make the tickets last longer, she said, we don’t have to punch them; it’s an honor system here, and they rarely check.

Continue reading