Blog: Listening to Echoes

Listening to Echoes
Listening to Echoes
Date: 2019-Apr-12 21:40:33 EST

Another day's adventures in Berlin. I slept in until noon today, and then set out for the local museum of Technology, stopping at a greek restaurant along the way for something like a large spanikopita (wasn't so much a conscious pick as being hungry and stopping at the first place that looked okay). Leaving there, I passed by Checkpoint Charlie that felt like a tourist trap (it was nice to see some stern words to Russia on a flag outside about their occupation of Crimea). Further on the walk I saw a fascinating building structure - two concentric rings surrounding a park, with one ring being small stores and the other being residential dwellings. The homes were not large, but the design felt very social and I imagine it would be nice to live in a community like that. Wikipedia now tells me it's called Mehringplatz. Walking west on the south side of the river, I ran into two Irish gentlemen and had a very pleasant conversation in English - my first real conversation outside of work for quite some time. I liked them - I think they were hoping to ask me for directions but after it was clear I knew little more than they did but I was from the States, there was some instant camraderie. I have a certain positive prejudice towards people from Ireland that this fed into. We walked the same way for a bit until they reached their hostel, at which point we parted ways and I continued to the MoT. It was pretty great. I stayed for a few hours (was clear this was the kind of museum you can't reasonably get all of in one visit), seeing exhibitions on:

  • Computers
  • Communications technologies
  • Fabric
  • Boats
  • Airplanes
  • Production of Sugar
On my way out, I initially was unsure where I wanted to go next, so I sat for a bit - realised I'd be hungry in a bit so I decided to head over to a Fondue place that caught my eye during my gmaps-scout of the area - this was fairly far east of the city and would also get me entirely out of the tourist area. And so I started an hour-long walk to the east. The buildings started to feel artsy-funky as I reached and passed Prinzenstrasse, and I saw building and street layouts I've never seen before. I was happy that the timing seemed to be working out well as I was set to arrive at the restaurant not long after it opened. Saw some political demos, lots of graffitti and store signage that seemed to be about radical-left politics, and signs that this was a working-class neighbourhood with a fair amount of immigration. I don't think I mentioned that the weather was cold - it was. This whole trip has been more chilly than I thought it would be, and the jacket I brought has been not quite adequate. When I reached the restaurant, I saw that it was actually to open an hour later than I thought, so I had an hour to burn (without getting too cold). So I first got a Fanta from a nearby convenience store (at which I realised I probably was being a bit rude to everyone around me by local standards in that people expect hellos and goodbyes before other interactions here) and sat at a bench near a fountain for most of the remaining time to let my feet rest. It was good to rest, but this left me even colder, so with about 20m left to burn I walked around the neighbourhood some more, taking a few more photos and seeing a lot more interesting architecture. Finally I returned to the store slightly after it opened, and made an unfortunate discovery - that they only serve Fondue to two or more people. So I left and started to walk back to my hotel, stopping at a pizza place along the way for some pizza and a coffee. The Pizza was decent - somewhat higher-notch than NYC dollar pizza. The people were friendly, although I think some fellow customers may have been surprised I ate the pizza with my hands rather than silverware. I had forgotten that detail. Although I suppose in general on this trip I haven't been high on remembering local social graces. Not sure how different I'd be if I had remembered - I have a lot of thoughts along the lines of "It's okay to be from somewhere", although I think saying hello and goodbye to people before chatting is something I'd change if I remembered (and as the trip still has another free day tied to it I will try to do better tomorrow). Rest of the walk was uneventful.

A few more impressions - lots of people ride bikes here and the city is well organised for it. Seems that almost everybody smokes. I wonder if part of it is the cold. It's unsurprising that I only felt I was seeing the real city once I ventured far enough east - comparing the highly-public areas was still interesting but less so than the places people actually live. And I'm also glad I visited during the political campaigning - I can understand most of the campaign posters at least reasonably well. One of them talked about someone having worked a very long career and how that earns respect, another about how Europe was the best idea Europe ever had.

All this walking has given me some pretty bad blisters. Good to have my feet up. Have had plenty of time to think about plenty of things - thoguht a bit about the cslounge events and am still deeply angry and hurt over that. But also about work, and shape-of-life kinds of things. And language - the more I relax the more that German words are coming back to me. I'm using translation apps to make sure they're coming back correctly, but they often are. I'm not sure this is a place I could live long-term, but if for some reason it came up, perhaps it could be. Had some fanciful daydreams of needing to flee the United States for some reason and just endlessly walk around Berlin in exile, somehow given funds for food and nightly shelter and nothing else, as part of a larger community of people doing so, each mostly keeping to themselves. Lots of other daydreams too.

Tomorrow's the last day that I have entirely to myself - on Sunday I check out, travel down to the conference centre, check in, and the conference starts. I haven't yet figured out what's on the agenda for tomorrow - may go to the park or another museum. Will likely rule out the day-trip to the south because I'm not warmly enough dressed and don't want to stray too far from stores. Today was colder than I'd like and that trip sounds like it'd be another cold day.