Wherein DF travels to Mitteleuropa and recounts his merrie adventures to his adoring broad readership.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Berlin daze

Oh the things I do for you, broad readership. It may seem like the traveling life is all meeting celebrity supermodels and dining at the finest rotating restaurants Europe has to offer, but my committment to keeping you all apprised of my various doings is not, as the Frenchies say, le picnic. I have to tussle with grouchy Internet cafe owners who feign total failure to understand my burgeoning German; porno-viewing, chain-smoking youths in neighboring terminals; and--worst of all--dyslexic Teutonic keyboards where nothing is where it should be. You want a semicolon? Well, that button´s an Ö. Interested in a simple, humble en-dash? Well, you´ve got a ß, mister. And most irritating of all, the Z and Y are transposed, apparently for no other reason than to cause me endless deletions and to break out into various multilingual swears. But as the oracularly wise Bryan Adams once sang, everything I do, broad readership, I do it for zou.

But enough self-puffery. You know I´m a stand up guy. "What of Berlin," you´re doubtlessly shouting at the computer screen, red-faced with anticipation, spittle-mouthed with incoherent rage. First, easy! Alles in ordung ist. Second, ah Berlin. What have the poets callèd ye? So many sobriquets. City of Lights. The Venice of the North. The Pride of Austria. The Jewel on the Rhine. All I can offer ye, broad readership, is a series of impressions, all of which, when taken in their totality, may add up to a fraction of the greatness that is . . . . Ah screw it. I´m too tired to force a narrative structure.

==Closest American analog: definitely New York. This is a grey city with some awe-inspiring museums and a few great if ragged public parks, packed with hipsters, very much a modern urban place (not, for example, the quaint throwback to another century that Amsterdam or (I suspect) Salzburg are). And the people are largely black-wearing hipsters and the like. Thus I fit right in and am frequently stopped on the street by German tourists from outside Berlin to ask directions, whereupon I am forced to admit ("Ich verstehe nicht," or roughly, "I got nothin'"), which invariably causes the rural questioners to break out into peals of laughter. Related: I'm not sure why they think it´s amusing that I cannot speak German. Inconvenient, surprising, even offensive I could understand, but funny? No way. On the other hand, this is the country that gave us Lederhosen and Kraftwerk, so perhaps the cultural gap is simply too big for me to get my head around.
==I´m not anything like nostalgic for home, but when I get back to the states I´m going to order the biggest, most refillable coke I can find and drain the mofo over and over again. Cause over here, even the smallest bottle of diet Coke is sold at extortionate prices. It´s as expensive--or more--than beer, and in some cases when you order it the server will draw it with great care and attention like a Guinness, making sure there´s just the right amount of foam and taking several minutes to do it. I appreciate the attention to detail but I´d appreciate it a lot more if it didn´t cost 3.50 euros for a reasonably sized caffeinated American beverage.
==Pedestrians be warned: Berliners love their dogs, but they´re really not such fans of cleaning up their shite. Either that or crapping on the streets is currently the style of the time. Yeah, Berlin is definitely not winning "Europe's cleanest city" anytime soon.
==The food is damned good here as long as you just make sure you don´t eat anything native. So far I´ve had great Thai, Middle Eastern, Italian, and American food (just some hot dogs), but have steered clear of the wiener schnitzel and wursts that call this country home. Don´t worry, I´m working up to it and will update you when appropriate and when I think my damned irritable tum can handle that much fried, breaded meat.
==Finally, what am I doing here in addition to negotiating the language class and avoiding anything like local food? Long story short, I´ve been trying to make some kind of dent in this city´s dizzying array of museums. About which more later. Now, am off to try a fried chicken restaurant recommended by a foodie friend. Auf wiedersehen, B.R.