I packed up and left my AirBnB this morning. When I said goodbye to my host, I felt like I had forgotten something… and I did. My packed lunch and travel spice set (tiny keychain!) – but I realized this when it was too late to go back.
The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum was my favourite part of Berlin. The interaction between guest and building were profound.
My visit started off with a very impatient line-up of people pushing and butting in front. I then cut my finger on my umbrella – great, I’m entering the Jewish Museum and I’m bleeding all over the place.
I wrapped my finger up with a Kleenex and made it through the security check with all my bags. I bought my ticket (8 EU) and got in another impatient, disorderly lineup for the coat check. Once all my bags were checked, I sought out the information desk for a bandaid. They were happy to oblige.
I had been wanting to visit this place ever since learning about it in Design History class at university. The Memory Void is what had stuck with me all these years, and it did not disappoint.
As I approached the Memory Void, I heard the sound like breaking glass. Part of me wondered if I was approaching the back kitchen of the restaurant by accident – the feverish sound of catering staff packing away glass wear. Instead, I found a room full of loose steel faces on the floor, gapping up at the visitors as we passed over their anguished expressions underfoot.
There was also the Holocaust Tower and the Garden of Exile. The garden consisted of tall slanted blocks of concrete on uneven cobble stones. It was designed to make you feel sick when you walk through it. I’m not sure if it’s because I read that, or if it naturally occurred, but I did feel a little queasy when I walked through.
The Holocaust Tower was a hollow within a angular cement structure with a slit in the top where sunlight and city sounds came in. It was quite interesting to stand there in the near-darkness with the heavy clang of the metal door whoever someone came in or left. Simple yet effective.
When I left, there was a lineup down the street of people with umbrella waiting to go in. Apparently everyone thought this was the perfect activity for a rainy Tuesday afternoon. I’m glad I got here when I did!
I got to the train station early. It was unlike any station is seen before! It was multiple levels of shops and platforms – like a mall with trains going though.
Once I found my gate, I scoped out the food options. I ended up going to a Middle Eastern place where I ordered the cheapest thing I could see on the menu that wasn’t fries (3.50 EU). It was some sort of sandwich in a triangular pocket of bread that was similar to focaccia with salad mix and shaved meat with a red sauce that stung my face whenever I got some on me. It was very satisfying – messy too. Not a date food.
I then tried to find a suitable place to leave my 5-day transit pass for Berlin. It still had a day left on it. It was hard to figure out who was coming, who was going, so I left it on the seat of a pink telephone booth. Hopefully someone could make use of it.
I didn’t know whether the trains had washrooms here so I paid 1 EU to use the public toilet. That in itself was an experience! I lined up to deposit my coin in the turn stile and found myself in a very bright, very clean room with Teletubby-esque music playing!
On my way back to the train platform, I passed a fragrant flower shop. I stopped to see if they had any nice bouquets. Low and behold they had a very sweet bouquet of white roses – perfect for a bride-to-be. So I bought one for my friend Nicole.
The Train to Leipzig
The train to Leipzig was 15, then 25, then 40 minutes late. There were very few seats on the platform, so settled down on the cold pavement, hoping no one has peed recently in my corner.
I was curious to try the dining car as I’d never seen that before, but the waiter was waving people away when I approached, so I went into the regular car instead. The train left quickly and the ride was smooth and silent.
There were no electrical outlets or wi-fi, but I found a table. Next to me was a man with a Donald Duck tote bag. When he unzipped it, a little black head poked out! It was a lovely black terrier, who continued to sit contentedly in his bag. I am continuously impressed by the amount of adorable well behaved dogs in Germany! (It was a habanese/Scottish terrier mix)
The Bride & Family
Once I arrived in Leipzig, I was greeting by an ecstatic Nicole, running down the platform with a McCafe cup in one hand and a stack of tourist pamphlets in the other. We were both a little bit teary eyed as we hugged one another…
Nicole’s husband, Volkmar, was waiting in the parking lot with their twin girls, Isabelle and Anna. As we drove home, I asked Volkmar all sorts of questions about German culture – particularly why the dogs were all so well behaved, alcoholism, and urban planning.
Nicole and Volkmar both had answers about the dogs. Volkmar said, “People in Berlin have a lot of time on their hands, so they train their dogs.” but Nicole pointed out that German society valued discipline and order in everything, so it made sense their dogs were so well behaved. “Like their children!” She chipped in.
As for alcoholism, it was no worse a problem than in Canada. People could drink beer and wine at 16, so it wasn’t seen as a risky endeavour like when Canadian kids leave home and binge to oblivion at university. And as for urban planning, apparently diverse neighbourhoods, mixing the rich and the poor has been the norm since the 1800’s. “And many of the urban areas are new or small, so its easy to re-design a town layout every so often.” Oh I wish I heard those words in Toronto.
We dropped my bags at their cottage, then went to the florist to look at wedding bouquets. Apparently in Germany, it is customary to leave professionals to their own devices when hiring them to do a job – such as designing a bride’s bouquet. To us Canadians, this seemed crazy, but then once I thought about it, it made sense. How many times have I bemoaned a client’s design changes/instruction, knowing it was going to look like crap by the time the final version was due? After looking at flowers, we went back to the cottage to catch up with Nicole’s family and entertain the babies. I had a great time being a human wall for Isabelle and Anna as they clambered around the bed, nose diving into the duvet and standing on their head – and on their feet too! Apparently Isabelle stood unsupported for the longest time she ever had – and for me!
Nicole and I took an evening stroll so that she could show me where everything was. It was a very quaint suburb of Leipzig – more of a tiny rural village than my definition of a suburb. I couldn’t wait to explore it further in the daylight!
Come 11pm, I went into my hostel. Volkmar had checked me in earlier that day. It was right around the corner from their cottage and by the bus stop that would take me into Leipzig. The hostel was a bit noisy and utilitarian, but it was the perfect location!
Tomorrow I explore Leipzig!