Tag Archives: Wannsee

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

Good times on the high seas

cloudsIt was a stormy day in early April, and as I walked down the hill to the boathouse I wondered what on earth I’d been thinking, attempting a row on such a forbidding day. The clouds were full and the wind was high and a drenching rain greeted me halfway down the hill.

“I’m here to erg,” I reminded myself, and trudged onward through the rain.

I ran into Dietmar along the way. Like me he had the hood of his raincoat pulled tight around his face.

“There’s no way we’re going out on the water, right?” I asked.

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Sea monsters


Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz

It has happened to me on the Mississippi in a single, when a movement in the water catches my eye—a black swirl spinning away from me—and in that moment my heart seems to leap to my throat, as if some water creature might climb out of the depths to the surface. But soon I see it has a mate on the other side spinning away from my boat, and I recognize the pair as the puddles from my own stroke.

I had that feeling again yesterday, though it wasn’t my swirls that jarred me. I was in a men’s quad for this late afternoon row, and the pace was unrelenting and solid. There was a good chop on the water, most likely from the new ferryboat unveiled by the BVG this spring, and it runs on the half hour and ruins your good water for quite a spell. Irregular waves splashed up the side of the boat, ricocheting off the riggers, and the water that struck my back, arms and legs was cold, though nothing like the cold of a Minnesota snowmelt.

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Holding the finish

ImageYesterday I may have received the highest rowing compliment of my life. Trouble is, it was in German, so I’ll never be quite sure what the old man said. But I believe I caught the gist of it.

It came from a man who had been rowing in a gig boat near my quad on the Wannsee. I’d never talked to this person before in my life; he had no idea I’m an American who doesn’t understand much German. After our row I was standing on the dock, holding the quad with my foot in a rigger so it wouldn’t float away, waiting while the other women I’d just rowed with put away our oars. Continue reading

On the right track

wannsee stationI’ve discovered an alternate route to the boathouse from my neighborhood. It starts out by heading due north on the bus instead of south, leading me away from the boathouse instead of towards it, yet it gets me there almost 10 minutes faster than the other way.

Does that make any sense? Of course not. But we’re talking about navigating Berlin, after all, so somehow it does.

The bus takes me to Zoo Station, where I pick up the S7 instead of my old familiar S1. There’s little difference really, considering they both drop me at the Nikolassee station.

The best feature of the S7 route is that it takes you through the wooded western edge of the city. The stretch between Grunewald and Nikolassee is the longest distance I’ve encountered between two stops in my trips in and around Berlin. Not that I mind stops, but it does give you the sensation that you’ve traveled a great distance when you are whisked through the woods without slowing down, as if you’re being transported to another place entirely.

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Dignity in the details

kaffee zum hier trinken

Image courtesy of Cafe Arkona in Berlin

Last night as I fell asleep the image of a coffee cup came to mind. In this moment the coffee itself was beside the point; it was the feel of the smooth white ceramic in my hands, the matching saucer that would surely come with it, a cookie or two on the side. It could come from any café in Berlin at all. It’s just the way things are done here; coffee is served with dignity.

In one of our first weeks here I learned the phrase zum mitnehmen, which felt like a personal triumph because it’s such a drawn-out way to ask for your order “to go,” but over the months I’ve come to appreciate zum hier trinken. I’d like the cup-and-saucer treatment, please.   Continue reading


golden pothosThe last time I changed jobs, it was about this time of year—bitter late January, with temperatures hovering around zero. On my first day of work, I drove in and double-parked in front of my downtown office building so I could carry my things into the front hall. I brought my planning books and family photos and light-rail posters and my one glorious plant. It was a typical office plant, Golden Pothos variety. Under the fluorescent lights at the U of M it had flourished and the vines hung thick with leaves and cascaded down my shelves. I wanted this in my new office from day one.

To this day I can’t explain why I didn’t wait until more moderate temperatures arrived. As I carried the plant in, I could see the leaves freezing before my eyes. They turned a deep shade of green, crystallizing before me. I ran up the stairs into the front lobby, but that short journey from my car to the front door was too much for my poor plant. I inspected it in the narrow elevator and set it on my desk; I had no choice but to cut away the limp parts. I tried to keep as much as I could, but as the warmth of the office kicked in the leaves turned to watery mush. I trimmed and trimmed it back until it was nothing but a network of dense stems and one large, surviving, untouched leaf. Continue reading