Published by admin on 02 Jan 2012 at 03:57 pm
We exchange gifts, drop Lula off at her kennel and finish packing. We get to the airport really early and hang out in the business class lounge where I lament that I cannot partake in all the free booze. Our flight to Zurich is hot and a little crazy making. The business class steward spoke to me in German the first half of the flight, then, at breakfast said, “Oh! You’re American! You have a German last name!” I guess he thought I was mildly retarded before when I never understood a word he said?
We land in Zurich and are creeped out and fascinated by the bird/cow/horn playing sound effects and the projected slutty Heidi on the wall of the airport train. Get taken by bus out to the tarmac to load what looks like a ramshackle jet from the pre-war era. Our view of the Alps as we ascended is breathtaking. I suddenly want to become a slutty Heidi. We landed in Berlin and immediately exited our gate, which was a grave error. Baggage claim at Tegel is at your gate. We spent a good 20 minutes talking to hilarious “information” people who were very confused that we could have possibly missed our very obvious baggage claim and finally were directed to a tiny little shack outside of the main airport terminal to wait for our bags with a grumpy Swiss (Spanish? accent of unknown origin) woman who made the same mistake we did. Then we went to my husband’s son’s in-laws for Christmas dinner. Lamb and potato gratin. The Christmas tree had real candles for lights. I’ve never seen a more beautiful tree. My hives have returned in full and epic force and will torture me for the rest of the trip. We went back to the hotel and slept for more than 12 hours.
My mom’s birthday. We walked around the city at dusk. We lit a candle for my mother at a Catholic church (may she forgive me for the weird choice of religious remembrance) and had dinner at Milagro - spaetzle and pizza and minestrone. It was eclectic. We headed to the center (ish?) part of town to have drinks at the former Nazi and Stalin headquarters (now the Adlon Hotel) seeing the Brandenburg Gate, the old symphony hall, and embassy row, then to the symphony to hear Beethoven’s 5th, Bach’s Tocata in Fugue (as soon as the Tocata started I began to cry. My mom would have loved it so much), Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, something by Liszt that I didn’t like, and 2 other pieces with a Ravel’s Bolero finale wherein the trombone player totally fucked up his solo. So much so that after he was finished he put down his trombone and lifted his hands up like, “What can you do?” I was starving after the concert (PREGNANCY!) so we got pizza and pasta at a weird restaurant in the Sony Center that required ordering and sitting and using a card and being paged. Then we went and had coffee at the Ritz and went to bed at 2am. Again sleeping more than 12 hours, but waking in the middle of the night because where the fuck are we?
We got up at about 2pm again and headed to the famous mall KaDaWe. It is basically like Europe’s classy (and small) answer to the Mall of America. We ate in the Whole Foods-esque food court and Seth’s son got pissed about something and left for a while to get a handle on himself (he is 30… and this was a sign of things to come). We headed out with Seth’s son’s wife to a beautiful Christmas market where we bought a traditional German Christmas decoration. It’s made of out what looks like Balsa wood, you light candles underneath a fan and the heat makes them and the scene below turn. Then, 1 hour later, I was starving again so we met up with Seth’s son who seemed like he “had a handle on himself” and went to a Vietnamese restaurant where I had a delicious vegetarian Pho. Almost everything is tasting like heaven and pregnancy doesn’t seem so bad except for the insane hives that are making me crazy. After that we went to an awesome German bar where beers take 3 minutes to pull and they serve pretzels with something that looks like a Slim Jim. A man at the table behind us fell asleep in his chair and he friends jovially laughed and chatted as this were a normal thing, which it probably was. As we were about to leave, I went to the bathroom and was trapped in there by a drunken woman, who needed advice about sleeping with her married (and her words “kind of gay”) male friend because she just had sex on a date and didn’t have an orgasm, and that, my friends, did not stand with her! She would not let me leave until I told her what to do and finally I said, “Have sex with whoever you want, but don’t forget ‘he’s married!’ We took the U Bahn back to our hotel’s neighborhood and I was starving again so we had falafel at a little fast food Lebanese place and finally headed to bed.
We meet Seth’s son and his wife for a trip out to the Prenzlerburg neighborhood for breakfast. I’m feeling crappy and pukey and every smell on the subway makes me want to barf. I begin to resent being pregnant as I cannot partake in the spread of deli meats and cheeses but settle for an awesome croissant and fruit that, quite frankly, is better than anything I’ve ever tasted in Los Angeles. Something is clearly up with Seth’s son who says about 10 words then never speaks again, this is a problem and I begin to hate Berlin and Seth’s family, why can’t people just fucking ACT RIGHT. Seth’s son’s wife and I window shop and we wind through the pretty neighborhood, but finally after being giving the silent treatment for 2 hours, we head back to the hotel and eat dinner at the fantastic restaurant there. I end up being hungry again 2.5 hours later, but eat the roll I shoved in my pocket at breakfast.
Our hotel’s breakfast is over right as we arrive and my hunger MUST be fed, so we go to another hotel and have THEIR breakfast. We return to the hotel where I begin to feel a grump coming on that I assume will pass if I take a nap. After my nap, I have a mental breakdown and cannot leave the hotel to do anything, jet lag, the family situation, the fact that I’ve given up Christmas and my mom’s birthday to be in Berlin with Seth’s family who is clearly having severe issues has started to wear on me. Finally we venture out to Osteria No. 1, and have an amazing Italian meal. Then we go window shopping, and have a grocery store adventure. I love foreign grocery stores.
After breakfast in our room, (this discovery changes our LIVES), I head out shopping on my own, while Seth tries to figure out if his kid actually needs to be committed or if he’s just being his usually charming self. I buy a teddy bear for the creature I assume is still growing inside of me (paranoia, will I ever feel like this baby is going to just STAY ALIVE), a pair of boots and a handbag. Then Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, aborted attempt at Hamburger Banhoff, Brandenburg gate, I refuse to have dinner with Seth’s son and we take a cab ride that took us the LONG way back to Kreuzburg then ate at Milagro again, cried into my supper. Revelers in the street to rival Mardi Gras.
New Year’s Eve (Silvester!)
The fireworks begin at dawn and do not stop for more than 24 hours. We have breakfast in the room and head out to Potsdam to see Frederick’s “castle” that I refuse to call a castle because it’s a palace. The Sanssouci Park is gorgeous and we walk and walk. His new “castle” (ALSO A PALACE) was never lived in by him, which is a damned shame because it is an impressively large piece of real estate. We catch a bus into the Dutch district in town (Frederick brought in the Dutch to dike the city, the Dutch know how to dike!) and had a fantastic German meal that I will dream about forever. We catch the S Bahn back to Berlin and I take a nap while Seth and his son go to Victoria Park to warm up their bottle rocket arms. At around 8:30PM we all reconvene in Kreuzberg and try to find a restaurant that will seat us. We end up in the bar of a tiny Austrian restaurant with a crazy Spanish waiter and eat another meal that I will dream about for the rest of this pregnancy. (I had this beef soup with “pancake” in it, and I’m telling you, my stomach is growling for that masterpiece.) Before we can leave the waiter has everyone do a shot of “schnapps” and I abstain. We head back to Victoria Park to join the madness. Fireworks are going off all around us, and we set off a few of our own. The controlled chaos sets my adrenaline so high I’m positive I have killed the baby and do not sleep all night.
New Year’s Day
I finally nod off for a couple of hours, and we get breakfast in the room again before meeting up with Seth’s son to head out for a major day of walking. We start with the East Side Gallery - a remaining piece of wall painted by artists. Then to Treptower Park to the Russian soldiers’ memorial, which actually is called The Soviet War Memorial. I find that a little odd seeing as it commemorates the soldiers that died in WWII during the taking of Berlin, but you know the Soviets! It’s all about them. Then we head to Gorlitzer Park to see where Seth’s son performed (and adapted) a huge Shakespeare play. We eat at another German restaurant and my bratwurst and sauerkraut dreams are dashed and I eat lentil soup and French fries instead (Pregnancy!). Then we head to the high end “red light district” but all the prostitutes aren’t on duty yet. Then we walk for what I contend was 300 miles and finally have a mini breakdown and force everyone to get in a cab, which promptly gets a flat tire and FINALLY we get back to the hotel where I fall asleep for a good 2 hours ensuring I won’t be able to sleep for the rest of the night. At 4am my hives have gotten so bad that I start sobbing and telling Seth that I need to go home right now. I finally fall asleep and don’t wake up until 2pm.
Our final day in Berlin and we head to Seth’s son’s apartment and eat cake and drink espresso and talk. Then we walk to a restaurant and have a fantastic French? German? Fusion? dinner. Then we walk to a cafe for hot cocoa and more conversation. We walk back to their apartment and say goodbye. I got more sad than I expected, probably because of the underlying sadness we witnessed transforming a couple into something else. Tomorrow we leave and I am so glad to be going home, but I will say Berlin did finally grow on me. I will not miss the cigarette smoking, God, they smoke a lot here, and the split bed and the terrible sheets, but there is a lot to love here.
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