We made it! We are in Berlin and have been for a little over a month. Do I need to change the name of my blog? I really don’t want to…someone suggested Fraulein Venus or something along those lines- HA!!
It’s amazing. I’m loving it. I think maybe I’m in the honeymoon state, but I don’t see it wearing off any time soon although one of my friends told me the other day how intense the winters are. I told him I went to school in Upstate New York and this wasn’t my first time at the rodeo. He put his hand on my shoulder, leaned in, locked eyes with me, and told me in hushed tones, “You don’t understand.” I felt like I was in “Game of Thrones”.
For now, the sun is out, it’s getting warmer and there is so much to do and see! My first impressions of the city are as follows.
Beer. It is everywhere. The moment we got to our friend’s apartment in Berlin, they handed me a beer.
It’s too easy. To the point where I went with a friend to her friend’s house who was away to check on her cat and ended up drinking a beer. It’s so cheap and accessible.
People walk down the street with it. Something that would be considered red neck in the states is so normal here. Everyday, all day, people on the U-Bahn (subway) have a beer bottle in their hands. No matter what day of the week or time of the day, beer is a flowin’.
The history. There are moments of extreme wonder and joy at all of the modern architecture and futuristic aspects. And then there are extremely sobering moments remembering the history here. The Stumbling Stones (http://www.npr.org/2012/05/31/153943491/stumbling-upon-miniature-memorials-to-nazi-victims) placed at the feet of homes where once upon a time not so long ago families were rounded up and taken to Auschwitz.
There are memorials to the people who died trying to jump over the Berlin Wall and monuments all around the city marking where it was. It is a lot at once. I’ll go from nearly skipping down the street to weeping within a span of minutes. Trying to not only imagine the Holocaust which is something truly beyond my realm of reality, but then seeing pieces of where the Wall was and being able to casually stroll through it back and forth makes me feel almost ungrateful in a strange way. I can walk from one side to the other. I’m a foreigner in this country that endured not only the horrors of World War II, but also the oppression of the Wall. And I choose to be here and can walk to and fro…
The way the culture is here, however, is balanced in respect to what happened. People are kind, helpful, joyful, intelligent….they enjoy their lives and have a functioning society while still having beautiful tributes to their dark history. It’s not abrasive and intrusive, but it’s also not hidden. I think it is something that is so heartbreaking for them. Even people who weren’t around during World War II carry a sort of residual guilt from it all. But you see people out in the many beautifully kept parks on the weekends with their children, playing sports, reading, spending time with their dogs…it’s a sort of utopia that sprang out of disastrous tragedy of the past.
Things work now. The public transport is out of this world. Clean, on time, zero tolerance for violence. There are always a few drunkies roaming the trains asking for money, but it’s not an affront. There was a really amazing moment I was touched by- we went to Mauer Park on Easter Sunday to walk around and see the famous flea market. There was this Roman theatre like stage and a street performer who was simultaneously doing stand up comedy in German, using a diavolo string thing, and dancing. People were going insane. There were well over 200 people watching and OF COURSE drinking beer. And there were a couple of homeless guys walking through the stands collecting empty bottles. For them, they can take them to a bottle return and make some money and the park isn’t littered with bottles people leave behind.. It was really nice and fascinating to watch. They weren’t asking for money, just happily taking everyone’s bottles and laughing at the performer and people were more than happy to pass the bottles off.
Communicating is horrifying. You learn one phrase and then the response is rapid German. No no!! Stop! Also unlike in Italy when you don’t know how to say an exact word or phrase you can describe it or get close and they will level with you and help you out. Here, if you do not say it perfectly they don’t help you out. They look really confused and stand there silently. I tried to order three pieces of bread and literally pointed to them, said the German, and held up 3 fingers and for some reason it was out of the question.
The food. I won’t lie…this I miss Italy for. Now, it is so much better to have every food
nationality to chose from in one square mile, but…but the produce and the pasta…I can’t. Poor Valerio, every time he makes a pasta here whether it be with zucchini or tomatoes and pancetta, he will take a bite, drop his fork
in a much dramatic manner and exclaim, “But this tastes like nothing!” Unfortunately he’s right. The pasta is not good quality and a lot of the produce is not either. They don’t take vegetables and fruits out if they aren’t in season so they are being imported or grown in bulk. So that’s a little sad. But my god is the pork good. Berliners know what they are doing when they make sausage.
The music. Finally. FIN-ALLY. It is so overwhelmingly joyful to be working with talented musicians I respect and admire. I am singing so much that there is not time for much else. Except beer. Where I had to try and drag people out to play concerts or rehearse in Lucca, here I go from one rehearsal to the other with people who are so excited to be singing, learning languages and technique, and putting on concerts whenever they ca. I feel alive again in singing. I have a phenomenal voice teacher who is super intense and wonderful and has a voice that could knock a house down. I feel like I am in school again and I am more than happy to be a student of music.
I think Berlin is going to be a great new home. Did I mention how cheap the beer is?