Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Oh come on, you knew I was going to use that as a title at some point, didn't you? Might as well be now.

(Speaking of which, can I just tell you that there is a museum in Berlin dedicated ENTIRELY TO THE KENNEDYS, because people in Germany seem to love JFK possibly even more than people in America do. It was on my list of things to go and see, actually, but since there are 175 museums in Berlin---no, really, there are actually 175---and I was there for six days, the math didn't quite work out. I have shelved it for next time---because oh yes, there will be a next time---along with the sampling of a Currywurst and watching the sun set from atop the Reichstag. These are two things, by the way, that people say you must do in Berlin, and how they evaded me, I'm not quite sure, except to say that I did possibly everything else there is to do in Berlin, and so there simply wasn't time.) (If you, however, have some time right now, then you should watch this Eddie Izzard video; trust me, it will make sense.)

So I arrived back from Berlin late last night, and let me just say that I would like to kiss that city on the mouth. And I probably would, in fact, were it not for the fact that it seems like the kind of gritty, seen-it-all city that might have, uh, been around the block a few times, and I'm not just saying that because of the troupe of dolled-up Barbie doll hookers we passed on the street on the way home from the theatre one evening, and yes, they were definitely hookers, trust me, you do not wear boots like that if you're not getting paid for it. Well, not with a skirt like that, you don't. 

(Is this going to get me in trouble again, like the crack whore thing? I really hope not. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on innocent members of my own sex, but dudes, these were definitely ladies of the night. In fact, some may actually have been men of the night come to think of it; they were all unusually tall. And stubbly. No, not really. They were tall, though.)

But Berlin! I loved Berlin, loved it so much, in fact, that I quite seriously entertained the idea of moving there---I could be convinced by the bread alone---but something tells me that Sean won't be budged from his California Dream anytime soon, despite the fact that it costs at least eighty billion dollars to buy even a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. (That's not an exaggeration. Go look on Craigslist.) I loved the food, I loved the people, I loved the history, and I loved the U-Bahn, though I got lost on it an average of four times a day. I loved that all the taxis were Mercedes, and that the taxi drivers didn't mind when I tried to practice my German on them late at night when the Riesling meant I didn't care so much about making mistakes. I love that I got to meet someone who lives in Berlin and reads my blog (hi, Marguerite!) and that she took me to an art gallery opening and then to a pub where she didn't get embarrassed when I asked her if it would be totally touristy for me to take a picture of our beers. (Which it was. And I did.)

There was simply nothing about Berlin I didn't like: even falling off my bike was charming there, because do you know why I fell off? I fell off because the wheel of my bike got stuck in the groove of a tram line on one of streets, and if getting stuck in a tram line isn't just the most romantic reason to have a bloody gash and half a ton of asphalt in one's left elbow, then I don't know what is. Even the band-aid they gave me---red, with some sort of German cartoon characters dancing across it---was the best band-aid I've ever been given in my life. Come on: how many other cities do you know that make cycling accidents positively poetic? It would have hurt a lot more if I'd been in Des Moines, I'm sure.

(Oh man, please don't tell me you live in Des Moines. That would be so awkward. Hey, we can use another city, if you like. There's one called Toad Suck, Arkansas, you know. I bet it would have hurt like a bitch there.)

The best part of my Berlin trip, however, was the evening we spent at Clärchen's Ballhaus, one of Berlin's legendary dance halls, and if my German was a little better and I wasn't in a permanent state of jetlag, I could understand that page I just linked to and tell you when it was built; I know it was before the Second World War, though, because they used to have wartime dances there, the officers and important people upstairs in the ornate ballroom, the commoners downstairs where we were.

None of us could dance particularly well, but it didn't matter because it was past midnight and we were full of wine, and I took my shoes off because it was easier to dance like that, and we all span around and around on the slick wooden floorboards, and when we left, we were drenched in sweat, but we were smiling. I would probably move to Berlin just for Clärchen's Ballhaus, if we're being honest, though I'd likely have to learn to dance a little better first.

(In case you have any doubt, I'm the blur in white, jumping around like a frog with an espresso habit. And by the way, can anyone identify that song? It's not a trick question, I just don't know what it is. And I really think it would be awesome to download and dance around the house to, particularly in the middle of vacuuming.)

Jun 17, 2008

What fun! Sounds like you had a great trip, even with the things you missed.

That Eddie Izzard clip is one of the best. I AM A DOUGHNUT!
House of Jules

Jun 17, 2008

I know that song! L'Accordeoniste, sung by Edith Piaf.

Jun 17, 2008

Cool! I recently heard that the "I am a jelly filled doughnut" thing was an urban legend, and was disappointed, because apart from JFK, is there anything more universally liked than jelly doughnuts?

A currywurst, though I have never had one, sounds awesome. There is a little German village in Huntington Beach where they hold a rip-snortin' Oktoberfest every fall -- shit, Ben and I got married in the tiny German church there -- and now I'm going to have to go over there and try to get a currywurst, ideally BEFORE I've been at the Jagermeister with beer chasers.

Brother Tom
Jun 17, 2008

I use to pull a rickshaw when I was a student in Dublin. It was probably the hardest work I had ever done - people shouting at you, freezing cold, straight up tough work (we ran from 10pm to 5am). Anyway, when I finished I use to hook my giant cart to the back of my bike and cycle it back to the garage. There was nothing nicer than cycling up O'Connell street with 500 euros in your pocket knowing that you had done some honest work, some honest exercise and knowing I was heading to bed.

Except for one time, I was day dreaming on the way home and my front tyre got caught in the tram track and both me and my cart went flying over my handlebars. Probably could have killed me. Made 100 times worse by the fact that people were just coming out of the nightclubs and instead of helping me, stood there and laughed....

Jun 17, 2008

Aww yay! I love donuts!

I still remember in German class when we learned what a "berliner" actually was, my german teacher Frau Schiele laughed and laughed.

Also: Yay Eddie! I love him too!

Mrs. Higrens
Jun 17, 2008

But did you have any rota grootza (total phonetic spelling)? It's a red berry and cream dish that gained me 10 pounds in the 2 week trip I took with the German club at my High School to Berlin Jr. year. Well, the bread and meats may have had something to do with that as well.

I loved Berlin too. Perhaps it's time to convince my husband that we need to stop there on our way to skiing somewhere in Europe...

Vicki in Nice
Jun 17, 2008

Yep, that's L'accordeoniste by Edith Piaf, and if you want to relive your dancing fun, you can listen to it here:

Next time come to France and visit Nice, we have a local busker who is a tiny Chinese man, and he dresses in a hat with flowers and sings this in the street for money.
He sounds surprisingly like Edith Piaf too, for a 4 foot Chinese man!

Jun 17, 2008

This Kennedy thing, it happens in Holland too! In The Hague alone there are two different streets called Presidentkennedylaan. But why?
And oy, the tram tracks. I'm so glad you find it romantic because I mostly just find it terrifying, despite cycling nearly every day for the past six years. (In fact, I think the fear grows with each passing day.)

Operation Pink Herring
Jun 17, 2008

I've never been so proud to be German!

Jun 17, 2008

I am already suffering from the worst homesickness ever, and this post might have pushed me over the edge. So glad you loved Berlin and I'm so glad I got to see it through the eyes of a first-time visitor.

jennifer in sf
Jun 17, 2008

Man, this post and your pictures seriously made me immediately go to Air Berlin and see how much it would be to fly to Berlin. Then I remembered I don't have any vacation time, or really any money for a Berlin trip. Damn.

Camels & Chocolate
Jun 17, 2008

I always toyed with the idea of moving to Munchen...now, you've about talked me into Berlin instead. And we can be neighbors! And maybe actually see each other there!

Jun 17, 2008

You know what's weird? Somehow, "ich bin ein Berliner" made an appearance in a dream I had last night. I'm sketchy on the details, but, anyway ... weird.
Also, the bread in Europe is absolutely enough of a reason to move there! Oy! During my European vacations, I would often fall asleep saying, "I can't wait for breakfast!"

Anne & May
Jun 17, 2008

Yay! Somebody else who has a thing for gritty, crumbling cities. Give me Atlanta over Charlotte any day. I'll take Austin over Dallas, and Brooklyn over Manhattan.

Jun 17, 2008

Love the Eddie clip!!! (Normally I wouldn't use that many exclamation points, but we're going to go see him tomorrow night and I clearly can't contain my excitement. Squee!!!)

Jun 17, 2008

Silly Kennedy and his improper grammar...my German teacher also laughed and laughed at that.

Yes! Edith Piaf!

And now I miss Germany more than anything.

Jun 17, 2008

hey, i'm from Toad Suck :(

Well not really, but i have heard of it. You are the only other person I "know" has have heard of it.

Oh yeah, Berlin sounds incredible. I have a problem that I pretty much want to move Anywhere I go on vacation.

Jun 18, 2008

Welcome back Holly! I loved Berlin too - it is just such a cool city to be in. The Reichstag is on my list for a return visit as are more of those 175 museums.

When do you fly away again?

Jun 18, 2008

Um...I don't live in Des Moines, but it's kind of kicking Iowa when it's down.


Jun 18, 2008

Aw man, you're right, poor Iowa. Let's definitely go with Toad Suck, Arkansas then.

Jun 20, 2008

I LURV Berlin! I lived there for two years, and although I live in London now - which has its own positive aspects - it doesn't hold a candle to Berlin. I just discovered Claerchen's Ballhaus on a visit last year to see friends. Can't believe I had missed that one! My favorite - especially this time of year is Cafe am Neuensee - or as we called it - the Biergarten in the Tiergarten. Biergartens rock and are especially great this time of year.

Reading your blog entry makes me miss Berlin even more! *flips over to Easyjet website to book tickets to Berlin in August*

Jun 21, 2008

Actually, even in Nouakchott, Mauritania, there is a Kennedy Avenue. (complete with Pharmacy Kennedy, Epicerie Kennedy, and several other stores) He really made a big impact, in the most unlikely places.
Also, in the middle of a tiny village in the middle of the Sahara, in the middle of a group of males named Mohamed, I once met a child named Clinton. No kidding. It was surreal.
I don't speak German--please tell me what's funny about being a berliner.

Nothing But Bonfires
Jun 21, 2008

EDJ -- When JFK came to West Berlin in 1963, he made a very grand speech during which he said "...and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner.'" Which would have all been very well if "ein Berliner" wasn't a kind of donut -- so basically, after this very eloquent speech, he finished it up by saying "I am a donut." What he should have said is "Ich bin Berliner." You should watch the Eddie Izzard video -- it's hilarious!

Jun 24, 2008

the nytimes travel section had a fantastic article on berlin this past sunday. makes me want to head to berlin asap.

Alex B
Jun 26, 2008

Holly, I completely agree that Berlin is AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING. Perhaps we could get a group together to buy some kind of time-share apartment. xx