Friday, July 27, 2007

Berlin=Land of Popel?

So, on Sunday I'm leaving for Berlin. Hurrah! The last time I was there was pre-Wende--1985 to be exact, when I was but a mere lass. I remember only four things vividly: going through the East German border crossing at Marienborn (vaguely scary, with very stern border guards), the KaDeWe department store (overwhelming capitalist consumption mart), an old man yelling at a passing bicyclist and then grabbing her with the curved end of his cane, and, most memorably, a seemingly normal businessman wiping a gi-normous booger on the side of the passing U-Bahn. (That one impressed me not only because of the size of the mega-boog, but because it was still stuck to the side of the train when I got off a couple of stops later, which seemed to defy all laws of physics.)

Photos taken by my childish hand indicate that I went to other places too--Schloss Charlottenburg, Checkpoint Charlie, and various segments of the still-standing Berlin Wall. Still, I was a kid, and didn't have much control over my itinerary. Plus I was only there for a couple of days.

This time, though, I am going for a month. And, due to a somewhat uncharacteristic spurt of industriousness on my part, I am going for free, after having applied for a "language and culture" fellowship from the very magnanimous German government. The deal is, I go to class for four hours a day, then get escorted around to soak up German culture. That'll leave me lots of time to engage in other pursuits, like:

1) Avoiding Tom Cruise, who is apparently puffily marching about throughout the city, pretending to be Claus von Steuffenberg:

2) Avoiding all references to dirndls and lederhosen:

3) And instead gravitating toward German past-times like drinking beer in outdoor beer gardens:

and visiting Marx and Engels:

I guess most Germans don't really visit them--but it seems irresistible to sit on Marx's lap, don't you think?

Anyway, other than these somewhat rudimentary plans, I have no other agenda, which is making me vaguely nervous. What if I get homesick? What if I forget every word of German that I know? What if I suddenly have the urge to wipe a booger on the train?

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