Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve fallen in love.
Four days ago, I sat on a bench in the inner city of Weimar, thinking to myself. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I, unlike the other people on the trip, seemed to be incapable of having a good time. Sure, I’d been able to go out anywhere in the city whenever I wanted to, or surf the internet (when I’m actually able to connect), or even go out and play music in the street and make some money. But it seemed like time after time, I was just passing the time until my next session of sitting alone on my bed, trying to figure out why I’d come to Germany to study in the first place. And let me tell you, those sessions started happening far too often.
Last Thursday, I found myself sitting on a train to Berlin, with two harmonicas in my pocket and Otis Taylor playing bluegrass from my iPod. To be honest, I was not looking forward to spending the next four days in Germany’s capital, taking an average of 4 tours per day and getting along in a city I’d heard was full of much meaner people than Weimar. After all, if I may quote my last post: “In my first seven seconds in Berlin, I managed to get yelled at for talking about polka music
stand in the way of a train full of commuters…” Naturally, after that first day, I was not expecting to have a very good time.
The next day, I made plans to visit my friend from elementary school through high school, Kylie Gregory, who was also staying in Berlin for the summer. But I sort of had my reservations at first. In the past, when I’ve been with Kylie, I’ve sometimes felt that I had to be different from my usual self in order to keep up with her. You know how some people are fun enough that you sometimes feel the need to be more exciting than usual in order to stay appealing? Well, my more-down-than-usual emotional situation over the past few months combined with the fact that I hadn’t seen Kylie in perhaps an entire year made me a little apprehensive.
Be aware that this is the same Kylie with whom I explored the cities of Nürnberg and Munich two years ago, as part of my high school’s exchange program.
Pictured: Kylie and me in Munich, 2008
I called Kylie on Friday evening. As soon as she answered the phone and said “hello Rob” in a voice I didn’t realize I missed nearly as much as I did, I knew my expectations would be wrong. We met in a café- let me interject here and say that the text editor I’m using automatically put the accent over the e; I didn’t go out of my way to put it there, Hana- near my hostel. I got her a rose from a woman selling flowers in the Prinzlauerberg area (which pretty much died by the next day, sadly) and we met the girl selling coffee behind the counter. She was a blonde girl with a German mom and a French dad, and she managed to make the best drinks ever for us. The next stop was a Thai restaurant in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, where our waiter became an extremely good friend for the weekend. His name is Ali. He’s a Pakistani student who speaks German with barely any accent, but English with a much more noticeable one. We ate samosas and drank two Mojitos and a Mai Tai total.
But the thing that Kylie did after that was what kept making the difference all weekend. She never made any plans. As soon as we left the Thai place, I was sort of surprised by her question of “where do you want to go next?” Honestly, I’m not much of a party person at home. But I would have loved to embrace any new way of life for the weekend, so I did.
We went to a Korean restaurant next.
It was here that I decided to take out my notebook and start documenting things so I could write about it later. As the night went on, for some reason, my handwriting tended to get more and more illegible…
“Things to Remember (in Berlin) 6/18/10-6/21/10
-Thing that starts with S
-Sat in the red section
-like a bordello
Bordello = bad place
-Kylie wrote that ^
-Kimchi with cabbage, bean sprouts, cucambers, I’m a little
-Kylie: “Honest people come from good roots
-didn’t mean it abot momya”
And from later in the night, when the notebook was used to both document and make sure I didn’t get lost somewhere in Berlin late at night:
“Orianienstrasse @ Adelbertstrasse
Berlin Ubahn is like MARTA but more crowdeder. People are a bit nicer. Even at 2 AM still a lot of people.
U2 bis zum Pankow Station”
The next night, I went to Kylie’s apartment in Schoeneberg. We sat on her balcony and drank wine and played harmonica for hours. Then we walked to a Chinese takeout place on her corner (awesomely called Ding Dong) and got the smallest order of spring rolls. Then later to a Mexican restaurant, where we shared an appetizer and met a pair of Germans sitting next to us.
Pictured: Kylie and me in Berlin, 2010
And last night, Kylie and I started at a cheap sushi place (sake is awful), then returned to the Thai restaurant and visited Ali again, then to various bars, and finished by singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in two-part harmony on some street corner and getting joined by a group of Tajikistani people for an impromptu street party before the sun started coming up.
I’ve come to re-realize that in life, the most wonderful things happen when they’re least expected. Would anyone ever have guessed that in the middle of a bit of a hard time in my life, out of nowhere, I would have one of the best weekends of my life with one of my oldest and best friends on Earth, in the middle of a foreign city 5000 miles from my home, without making any plans at all? That’s the part that leaves the biggest impression on me. All through the weekend, Kylie Gregory and I had absolutely no plans; something I’m not extremely accustomed to. We would let things happen as they came, and I could never want it to have turned out any better. To again quote my notebook, in one of the less legible sections: “I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this happy. You managed to take me out of this ditch I’ve been in, and for the last few days, lift me up to the top of the world.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve fallen in love.
In love with Berlin, and thanks to one of my best friends, if things keep going this way, in love with life again.