Ich bin ein Berliner

July 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

Random ramblings … and some stuff on Berlin.

Taking bites out of encased stinky cheese, I’m not the only one who liked this spot.
To the right of me are old cigarette butts. The ants are crawling eagerly on my fresh bread rolls and two kinds of new cheeses that I just bought in the supermarket – Knirps wieinkase and St. Mang Romadur. I’m just hoping the nutella (or nudossi) and multivitamin juice jug won’t attract bees.

It took me two hours to find this spot but it’s worth it. Off the Prinzenstrasse Ubahn I am sitting over a canal with my feet dangling over the water, joggers and dogs in the background and old German houses across the canal. It’s so hot and humid that I took off my shirt and am just in a sports bra with my capris rolled as high as I can. I feel completely anonymous and happy and free.

Fresh bread and cheese! Anyone who knows me knows that I am happier right now than a pig in poo.

Freedom. That’s the word that popped into my head today as I stepped out into the streets of Berlin. Ironic yet appropriate is that word as I walk past the old remains of he Berlin wall.

I passed Humboldt University the place where Albert Einstein went to school and I thought – for as brilliant as the Germans are – smart people can do some really dumb things sometimes.

My thoughts seem disconnected but they are revolving. I know I think and therefore write in disjointed sentences or roundabout ways. But I’m not writing a book and don’t have to cross my t’s, I’m just expressing myself.

That’s how I feel today. Free. I am completely alone in Berlin, in a city that is so spread out, that gives off eery vibes from its ghosts of the past but offers a strong quirky underground friendly character. Unlike any city I have ever been in.

Everything is truly socialistic. Museums and Opera cost the same if you are 18 and a bum or if you are 70 and posh, you are accepted as you are. No guestlists, no private parties, come one come all.

The neighborhoods all have bars and cafes. There is not one real place to go for nightlife or for culture. Culture is all around. There is street art, graffiti, legal prostitution, independent coffee shops, stores, bookstores, and so on. Sure they have made checkpoint charlie a huge tourist attraction, but just walking around in Berlin you breathe in the history of the SS, Gestapo, Nazis, as you stumble through the maze of the Holocaust memorial or sit on the steps of the French Cathedral overlooking the square where Berliners drank the ‘Swedish Cocktail’ which halved their population, or Pariser Square where Victoria sits high on Brandenburg Gate glaring victoriously over the French. Right next to that is the hotel where Michael Jackson held his newborn son out the window – some pop culture at a very ironic time in history, just after the death of Michael Jackson.

Today my plan was to go to Einstein Kaffee to go online. But instead I decided to first take some time to enjoy my freedom.

No hostel guests, no being pulled in 20 different directions, no bogey web projects that turn out to be jokes, no dating, no traveling with 5 people, or even 1 other person, and having to please others. I don’t have to please anyone. I am free.

I have learned a lot of things about myself traveling and in general.

I made a long list today and it’s still growing. It’s a great time for me to unwind, reflect on things that have happened, how I reacted. Change happening so quickly is like a bullet – rapidly telling you what you need to / want to change inside yourself.

People say I think too much and to ‘stop thinking’, I say ‘stop just existing’. Traveling has made me realize that we all have a part, there are so so many people on the planet. We need to give balance to the earth, need to be here for a purpose, not just breathe air and use resources. I don’t know what that balance is yet for me, but I think it’s an important realization. Leave your mark on the earth, give back.

I am here in the park, no phone, no camera, a computer that barely runs but is allowing me to type this. Endless frustration with not finding internet, phone, etc but I feel even more free than I ever have in this moment. I had to re-learn how to communicate without a phone and texting at my fingertips. Life is quieter, less complicated, and more interesting as I am forced to look around, forced to figure things out and deal with what is around me and not beeping in my hand. I know I’ll
go back to it soon but I am enjoying the quiet just even for this moment.


Road Trippin Eastern Europe

July 17, 2009 at 11:12 am

I recently got back from a road trip around Eastern Europe for my birthday. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The freedom of driving, stopping at little towns here and there.

Slovenia was a hidden surprise. Places I have always wanted to go like Lake Bled. We rented a row boat and rowed out to the island with the church, had lunch, walked the neverending steps to the top. It was so amazing. Hung out with locals in Ljubljana, slept in parking lots, farm fields, hidden alleys or driveways, or even the middle of town!! The one shower I took that week was in somewhere Croatia. We had been dipping into the lakes, rivers, Adriatic Sea, whatever water was there.

Finally, furry and with slick hair, I busted out the shampoo, razor, and soap. After a dip in the sea, we headed to the showers (the ones where you’re supposed to wash off the salt water) and at 8 am when people were also taking a morning dip or eating breakfast, I had a shower, shampoo, shave and all right on the beach in front of everyone! If you pretend like no one is looking, they really aren’t right?

Leaving the Croatia coast was tough, I said goodbye to the sea a few times. Cliff jumping was unforgettable. We were told to go to the touristy spot and not the ‘dangerous, local, spot’ where there were pathways off the backside of St Peter’s church. But somehow as luck would have it we ended up there. 2 hours to warm up, plus another half hour each standing at the cliff edge looking over 20 meters down, not knowing what would happen if we jumped (we were the only ones lucky enough to be there), we finally did.

I wanted to scare the crap out of myself, and I did. I definitely did. Sweating, shaking, swearing, praying, chanting, throwing things – mix of emotions.

Just as I was warming up, a ship came by playing the song ‘Life is Life’ and then part of the song said ‘jump jump jump jump’. I figured it was a sign. After that passed some fisherman came by to throw nets. It was now or never.

I finally jumped. The birthday jump. I don’t even know how I did it, it just happened. Jessie did it. So could I. ‘FEET FIRST’ I said right before I plunged. Why didn’t I follow my own advice? I know – probably because falling from that high up is so unnatural and my body was scrambling to find ground or something to hold onto. I landed, hard. I had no idea that water could do that much damage. Jessie was ok, so should I be. But, I landed wrong. Bleeding and bruised, not able to sit
for still a couple weeks now comfortably and not being able to turn my neck, but, I did it!

The birthday jump.

Driving was tough but we met up with the others and we road tripped to Sarajevo, playing the game ‘Encore’ and losing track of time. It was all about the word ‘love’!

I left the group in Sarajevo. An interesting city, wish I had more time to go on the history tour, but just walking around and talking to locals in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia gave me a touch of the REAL history, what people really remember and not just from the tours. I also remembered some of the news from ‘91. The streets were crowded and crazy with cars, people, cafes, trams, cars parked on sidewalks, one ways – glad I made it out of there!

I had to pinch myself a couple of times. Here I was, driving in my littled rented Peuguot ‘Pooh’ through Bosnia… BOSNIA!

On the backroads. I had enough gas, but no cell phone. I knew how to change a tire – at least in the States. I didn’t speak slavic. My butt was cushioned with towels and sweatshirts as I was still recovering from the jump, and I stopped about once every hour or two to adjust. Bosnia is beautiful with large mountains and the road curves along the river. River one side, huge tree-covered rocks on the other.

I learned quickly one word, ‘obilaza’… construction. I tried to avoid it but it was construction season. I ended up taking several backroads, hitting some stop and go construction on gravel roads. But when there was no construction, I was cruising through now-flat countryside and windy roads through small cities. I felt like I was driving the backroads to my sister’s house in Wisconsin, only a different language and centuries of different history, different people.

What were they like? They had families too, they played in the yard, worked on the farm, had jobs, went to church, to the pub, to the dentist. What are they like? And here I am, an American in Pooh passing cars, farmers, tractors, not knowing where I am or much about the people or land. Again I had to pinch myself.

I popped in the Slumdog Millionaire sountrack as I cruised with Pooh through the backroads, feeling happy and peaceful, eating my cheese and crackers and my warm water, just doing my thing. In Bosnia!

After I played the soundtrack at least twice, I turned back to the radio. I loved listening to the radio stations that played the local music, it made me feel closer to the culture somehow. Then finally a great hip hop song came on, and I was jamming away.

Then, like the twilight zone or Brigadoon, I crossed a bridge and everything changed. The music station suddenly switched. The signs no longer had any slavic looking words. Everything was in Russian!

Where was I? What happened? These words aren’t on the map? What’s going on??

Finally I pulled over at a gas station. No English – all they spoke was German! Twilight zone. I could understand most of it and was back on track, but it made me really want to go back to German and Russian classes!

Again, pinching myself, here I was in former Yugoslavia, driving, the signs were in Russian, the people spoke German.

Times like these however make me happy to be alive. When does this stuff happen? I loved every second of it. It’s overcoming challenges or doing different things in life that give me energy and peace.

I was a little bummed but also relieved to be back in Hungary, where the roads are really nice and easy to drive on, a little hard to navigate around Budapest but it worked out just fine. It was somewhat surprisingly comforting hear some Hungarian words. Pooh was returned and all was well. Back on foot. Goodbye Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, thanks for the memories!

I’ll post pictures as soon as I can get them developed – from my disposable cameras!


July 17, 2009 at 10:41 am


So far I have seen three marketing campaigns.

Antwerp – ‘Belgaufra (belgian wafels). Probably the best since 1950’
Sarajevo – ‘Carlsberg. Probably the best beer in the world’
Berlin – ‘Ben and Jerry’s. Probably the best ice cream in the world’

What’s with the ‘probably’??

I get that it ‘probably’ has something to do with legalities, but to me it sounds funny, either it is or it isn’t. Or, it ‘probably’ is!