- If you are at a crosswalk in Berlin and the light for pedestrians is red, you wait. You wait until it is green. You might even do this if it is 1:30 a.m. (0130 hours) and there are no cars, trams, or other people passing by.
- Berlin is awash in, or littered by, or trashed by, or enlivened by graffiti. Take your pick as to how you describe it. The kindly and intelligent man who drove me in a taxi to Tegel airport attributed such wall writings to "the Americans." I doubt it. I'll take the blame for my countrymen for some of it, but there must be lots of copycats galore. Plus, I believe the Berlin Wall had graffiti on it almost from the start.
- I have a balancing act going on in my brain. Berlin the orderly versus Berlin the anarchic. And maybe both elements need each other.
- In Berlin there is no east or west. Isn't there an Easter hymn that goes something like that? (The link gives you a sample of the tune.)
- At rush hour people do not rush nearly as madly as they do in New York; they barely rush at all. In fact, during my taxi from the airport to Friedrichschain I wanted to scream, "Step on it, mach shnell, fraulein!"
- Smoking cigarettes is in, nearly everywhere. It didn't bother me nearly as much as I felt it might. I wanted to smoke a Cuban cigar. Never got around to it.
- It was hard for me to measure the weight of history or how it was viewed by those around me. For example, when I related to the taxi driver how I remembered when the Wall when up, and how I was afraid, and thought it was World War III, he glibly said something like, "That's what the Russians said." Hmmm. He might've been my age. He said he had lived in Berlin since 1960, I recall; born maybe 100 meters north of Berlin. I do not know how to read these verbal tea leaves. I liked him and shook his hand with both my hands when I departed. Yes, I tipped him.
- The unemployment rate there, he said, is 18%; my research supports him. It did not strike me as a depressed city economically but rather as a vibrant and creative hub.
- The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is compelling: blocky, harsh, somber, engaging, textural. At first, I was alarmed and rather horrified to see young people (ostensibly tourists in their teens or twenties) playing what resembled a casual game of "hide and seek" among its gravestone-like pillars. Were they being disrespectful? My gut feeling was, yes. I was tempted to lecture them, but how, and exactly why? Besides, maybe they would've declared that their response demonstrated a triumph of life. (Most likely, they hadn't thought that far.) To be honest, I don't know what they thought or felt. It was not a place of total silence or solemnity, but it was an eerie refuge amidst an urban din. You were drawn to it. A dark sense of place is evoked.
- Passing through the Brandenburg Gate was like passing through a time warp, though a Times Square atmosphere prevailed. It was cool.
- On the plane, in the toilet, a sign said "Toilet Paper Only." Man, I had to keep my legs crossed for nine hours! That was rough. I guess I took that "following the rules" bit a bit too literally for my own good.
p.s. As the day ends, my search of a fellow blogger's site summons me to find the luminous amidst the gore on this feast day of John the Baptist.