I’ll close up this miniature series on Germany’s capital with observations on getting around, the people who live there, and going out to eat.
As I mentioned before, I’m not sure I’ll ever really warm up to the way Berlin looks; which is purely a matter of taste.
It’s a big city, pretty flat, and there are trains to take you everywhere. Makes me think of one of the big Aussie cities, like Melbourne.
The most important thing about any city is the people who live there. Lauren tells me she likes Berliners because they’re direct and thick-skinned. To a less direct and thinner-skinned Canadian, this can come across as appalling rudeness. Example: Someone on a crowded bus rudely dumps his knapsack on a valuable empty seat, then someone else comes along and snarls rudely at him to take it off. Closer to home: we were pushing the baby along in the stroller on a warmish day, and she managed to pull one of her socks off, waving it like a banner with glee. It wasn’t cold and we didn’t want to stop to re-assemble her, so we dropped it in the stroller carrier and went along. Within the first couple of minutes, a couple of total strangers had intervened to point out that our baby had a bare foot and maybe this wasn’t a good thing.
At one level, I think I could learn to appreciate this; I care a lot about living in a community with more involvement rather than less, and I value transparency and honesty among all other things in communication. It’d just take some getting used to.
Eating Out · There was one thing, maybe minor but significant, that I liked a whole lot; I don’t know if it’s a German thing or a Berlin thing. Check out these two eating establishments; one further west and a bit fancier. Anything catch your eye about them?
In both of them, there are lots of children about. Which is one aspect of the way restaurants are more human and more pleasant places. A beer garden with a playground attached is a very fine thing on a sunny July day. In puritan North America, proposing such a thing would get you arrested, most places.
Another symptom is that the waiters and staff are real people with real jobs, not minimum-wage students punching menus on the computer system. For example, we were having lunch the day of the wedding and Lauren had to run off to get her hair done and was getting short of time. So she talked to the waitress and the kitchen and it developed that her salmon-and-potatoes was waiting for the potatoes, but they could dish it up right then if she didn’t mind skipping them. Another story: at that East Berlin place where we had beers with geeks, when we finally all headed out, the waiter came around, sat down at the table, and laboriously worked out with all of us what each of us had had, and made change individually.
Try to do do either of those at the chain restaurant in your local strip mall. Something’s broken and you don’t even notice until you go somewhere that it’s not.