Friday, December 10, 2010

from Berlin

With more delays and more apologies, the flight for Berlin takes off. We are a packed plane, holding scatterings of passengers from so many cancelled Berlin flights! After two nights of minimal sleep, my daughter and I alternate between throwing out options on how to rework of our itinerary and drifting through states of half sleep and fuzzy awareness.

And finally we are in Berlin. And perhaps it is to be expected: one suitcase makes it, the other, hers, does not. I am poised for the quick run to the lost and found even as the last bags roll out. Hers is one of many missing and I know there will be a line.

When it is our turn, we face the realities of travel – ours is a chopped up schedule with, at this point, some uncertainty thrown in as to dates. We’re about to add a day to Berlin, but we don’t know if I can make the needed adjustments. I take a wild stab at giving the agents our schedule with addresses and phone numbers, but here’s the thing: the agent, an extremely sweet and empathetic woman, hired perhaps for exuding all these good qualities hundreds of times each day for distressed travelers, tells us that we cannot hope for recovery for a while.

It appears that even as we speak, the Berlin airport is filled with suitcases that need to be reunited with weary travelers. And each flight brings the next set of passengers with misplaced luggage. They are working round the clock, but the airport has been forced to find additional space – it is overwhelmed with people’s possessions.

So we do the best we can in giving them information and they do the best they can in offering some meager reassurance that eventually it will all come together – somewhere, someday.

It is past 11 at night by the time we are in the Hotel Camper. Techy, bold, new, set in the midst of Mitte – the former East Berlin and the hub of where we will want to walk.

Berlin. Even as it is a city that eats and parties like there’s not tomorrow (they say), the desk clerks tell us that by now, the food scene is closing down for the night. No matter. We don’t want a fine meal. We want a Berlin supper of this time, this moment – we want to go to Schlemmerbuffet.

Unlike Warsaw, Berlin is a city of many ethnicities and diverse peoples. The community of Turkish immigrants, for example, is quite substantial. And on this night we are determined to eat what is a uniquely Turkish-German creation – the doner kebab.


It’s bread stuffed with slivers of roasted chicken smothered in garlic sauce, heaped with raw onions, cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes. With a Berlin beer, it has to be the best fast food on the planet.

One of the cooks sits down at our table to eat his supper and we ask him about his work here. He’s a fairly recent immigrant. His uncle, the guy in the fancy duds, owns the place.


The cook's ambitious and friendly and has a smile that is engaging and optimisitic.


This is our introduction to Berlin.

We walk back along the snow covered sidewalks of this very complicated city. The ground feels cold from the bottom up. I have no doubt as to where I am. Berlin. East Berlin – with shops and edgy bars now everywhere, updating, but not changing this hard place with a harsh history.


I wake up and pull back the curtains. Yep, Berlin.