Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guten nacht, Berlin

Did you know that if you leave Salt Lake City at 4:40 p.m. and fly direct to Paris, you never truly lose the sunlight? You go from sunset to twilight to dawn instantly, and a few short hours later, the sun has risen again. There is never darkness.

I left my comfortable home 24 hours ago: kissed my children goodbye, cried and turned away. I boarded a plane to Paris, spent 10 hours and 45 minutes wishing I could sleep well on planes, got off the plane and into a bus, out of the bus and into the Paris airport, walked all the way across the airport, bought a croissant (just so I could say I did--it wasn't really that good), boarded another bus that took me all the way back across the airport to another waiting plane, flew 90 minutes to Berlin, settled into a top floor apartment of a hostel (!), walked for hours around Berlin, caught the underground back, ate dinner in a small mexican restaurant and cheered in disbelief as the US scored two goals agains Brazil in the Confederations Cup. (Too tired to watch the whole thing.... I'll have to get the final result tomorrow...)

I realized in the Paris airport that I could hardly remember enough French to say "One croissant, please" or "thank you." I recovered my wits enough on the plane to Berlin to say, "Eau, sil vous plait." I was delighted when the flight attendant promptly turned and poured me a cup of water. I actually communicated something in French! I was equally excited when I asked a German man for help and he understood what I was asking. What a crazy, exciting thing to realize that these people, however foreign they may seem to me, are not completely out of reach.

I listened in amazement to my Dad and our taxi driver discuss American politics, German debt, Barack Obama, finance, the philosophy of war-making, etc. I was amazed at how much I understood and wondered at why such a well-educated, clearly intelligent man was driving a taxi for a living. The taxi was a Mercedes. Perhaps that is a hint of something I don't understand.

I started--and finished--Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and was moved by the powerful messages. So true that we distill our lives into convenience and entertainment and "happiness" instead of depth, meaning and triumph over challenges. What a book. What an author.

I wrote three nonsensical, sleep-deprived pages about the way the clouds looked. I know you're dying to read that, but I'm sorry. I'm too tired to do data entry. You may have stream of consciousness tonight until I completely lose consciousness. That is all.

My feet finally started hurting, I finally started feeling drowsy and I discovered that I am very allergic to Linden trees while I was walking Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate. I tried not to cry as my Dad reminded me of the simple ease with which we can walk from the former West German Berlin, through the gate and into the former no-man's land. He said that when he was younger, he visited Communist Berlin and saw people gather at sunset to wave good night to their families on the other side of the gate. A symbolic, powerful gesture of love despite separation. Now we walk through, peacefully rubbing our hands against the stone pillars and snapping photos of the architecture.

I never knew that vacationing could be this exhausting. I miss my children and my comfortable routine and my small, quiet suburb. The hint of communism has left a subtle, bitter aftertaste on this town that I cannot wash away. Buildings are blackened and covered with soot. Some buildings that used to be landmarks are now green fields. This city almost chokes one with its' bitter history and struggles. Tomorrow we start to discover some of the beauty that has not been bombed away or dismantled by human folly.

Guten nacht, Berlin. Schlaf gut.


  1. Juliana, What are you in Berlin for? I was in Berlin at this time last year, and I really loved it! The Brandenburg Gate is awesome, and that vision of what used to be only twenty years ago is crazy too.

  2. Sounds fascinating. I am glad you posted. Maybe a picture or so soon?

    Enjoy and use all of the German you can!

  3. Hope you post pics soon. Your twins fell asleep again in primary today, so cute! Enjoy your exhausting journey :-)