Thursday, December 6, 2007

The last stand.

Pergamon Altar. The shrine is surrounded by a frieze of the Gods battling giants.

For the sake of my readership, I was a little more active today. Though I felt a veil of malaise over me.

Even Philipp noted this evening, 'I can see that you are here, but you have one foot already in New York.' I cannot deny it. The last few nights, I have been unable to fall asleep, visions of the city, a new apartment, a new job, a new life than that of a wandering traveler keep running through my head.

Taking this trip was the best thing I have ever done in my life. No matter what happens I will never regret it. And something I learned on this trip is that it all works out in the end. Sure, you can get lost, you cannot understand what anyone is saying, there can be train strikes, you can spend all day looking for contact solution, you can lose an adapter, but despite these obstacles, there is no need to worry. You will get there all right. And that is how I am trying to think about my return home. Sometimes I start to panic, but then I remember that and it makes me calm down.

The malaise is of sadness that it is all coming to an end. And while I am excited to come home, there is an apprehension. Through this trip I have learned so much about myself and feel stronger and more confident than ever. I have a new perspective on life that I never had before. Will this feeling continue when I go back to the real world, or will I get sucked back into my old New York lifestyle of all work and no play? This trip made me remember how much I enjoy the company of family and friends, eating good food, seeing art that inspires me, learning new things, writing for writing's sake and also a new passion: taking photographs. Will I remember about them when I come home? Will I have this same sense of self-worth and determination to do what I want? I cannot answer that question. I do not know what will happen. But that is what I think about at night.

But I am trying to live in the moment. I only have a few more days left, and so I went to see the Berlin once more. First starting at the Pergamon Museum, which was filled with one of a kind classical Greek, Roman, Islamic and Middle Eastern art and architecture. While these types of things are not my passion, both my hosts and the Lonely Planet guide said it was a must see, and I can appreciate why. The artifacts were pretty amazing. Then I moved on to something that was more capitivating to me: The KaDeWe department store, which is 8 floors of shopping. It reminded me a little of Bloomingdale's, but it also had a spectacular gourmet food floor, filled with chefs cooking up all sorts of things that smelled heavenly and food products from all over the world. The most spectacular section for me was the seafood aisle, where they had so many fishes, big and small, all different colors and varieties. I am unsure who buys all this fish, but they were certainly a feast for the eyes!

I passed by a display of American products like Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate and Smucker's Jam and wondered why these products were doing in a fancy place like this. Then it occurred to me: they probably do not sell these products here in Germany so it is special over here.

Eat me!

American specialties.

The rest of the day was 'typical Berlin,' first starting in a coffee shop, a place where it seems like everyone in this city spends half the day. (Besides Vienna, I have never seen so many coffeeshops!) Then I met up with Philipp when he came home from work, and he took me a pub where we stood at the bar and had dinner and beer. The beer is served in small, thin glasses and the bartender keeps refilling them without you asking until you put a coaster on top of your glass. We both ate a plate of meatballs, fried potatoes, a pickle and sourkraut.

The place was filled with people young and old, including lots of government types, and it had a nice rowdy atmosphere. The man standing next to us talked to Philipp some, (Philipp says that is quite common to have friendly conversation with your neighbors in a place like this) and then we listened to a friendly but heated argument between two old men. (Philipp explained to me it was about some famous German polar bear who turned one today).

'I think he is the owner of the bar,' Philipp said about the white haired man who started the argument. 'He looks familiar.' He did seem to know everyone. But then when Philipp went to the bathroom, he came back and said, 'He is actually the owner of the toliets. That is where I know him from.' (In Europe, you often have someone working the bathrooms collecting tips). Oops!

We then wandered to a jazz club for some music, which would have been okay but we were forced to stand some more. Standing at the pub was part of the experience, but now I was getting tired of standing. Luckily, Philipp had to go to bed. (Someone has to work tomorrow). It was a great night and a great finish to the city of Berlin and the country of Germany.

And to make the night complete, we took a cab home, German style, in a brand-new Mercedes-Benz. Not bad!

The standing pub. (you can sit there, too. Standing is just more fun).

Philipp and me.