And that's right folks, you guessed it: I was in Berlin.
It was incredible. I think I was making up for lost karma. My plane had been late, but not too late, out of Paris. It was about 11:30 when I walked out of the airport weilding just my carry-on and headed for the TXL bus to downtown Berlin. I had 7 hours to be in Berlin and I was going to make the most of it.
My bus driver was great. He was a sort of Santa Claus(e) Figure (building on our right, I gave him the chocolate St. Nick I had stuffed in my jacket pocket after being handed it by the friendly-but-heavily-accented Air Berlin flight crew (a crew that consisted of three very gay, gracious men two of whom seemed very pissy at each other...wonder what that was about).
My bus stop stops something like 300 meters from the Brandenburg Gate, and as I'm walking I am realizing just how cold it is in Berlin. My feet are starting to frost. And then I see it: Starbucks. And I think to myself: "It has been too long, dear friend, too long" (to clarify my antecedents, the "dear friend" is Starbucks) SO -- I waltz up to the friendly building and look inside: Cozy would be the word to describe this place. Lots of tourists sipping Tall Hot Apple Cider With Cinnammon and Whipped Cream and Vente Chai Tea Lattes wtih Soy Milk and Extra Foam in 30% (or howevermuch) recycled cups, while American Christmas music seranades us all. The line was so long however, that I was almost detered. I actualyl picked up my bag to leave, but then turned back around after the door opened and I felt a gush of Berlin on my face. I had a Grande (!) Non-Fat Gingerbread Latte to honor the spirit of not-being-in-a-Muslim-country (read: The Holiday) and slowly began to venture outside when I was down to about 1/3 of my Holiday Special...
And then I heard it - or rather, I did a sort of double take with my ears as I thought I hadn't heard right he first time. "Free Walking Tour of Berlin, English, Spanish, German!" No way. Turns out I had stumbled upon the meeting point of a tour that was to begin in a quarter of an hour and last 3 1/2 hours. Pay what you want. So I did -- and I had a great time. I made friends, saw Berlin, and though my socks were soaked through by the end, and my toes were more or less ice blocks, I had a fantastic day. I got to see (in no particular order): the old W. Berlin Opera House, and the Book Burning Memorial across from the University, both East and West Berliner arcitecture, as well as the remenents of the wall, an open air market (quite clean...the contrast to Morocco was, well, absurd), multiple "Einstein Kaffe"s - a seemingly popular chain of Cafes in Berlin - Checkpoint Charlie, some Bansky graffiti, Headquarters of the Luttwaffe, Hitler's Bunker and the controversial 27-million dollar holocast memorial in the middle of E. Berlin across the way from the Reichstag (Parliament) building which, incidentally, has a dome on top of it so that "the Volk" who are allowed entry to watch the proceedings will remind the autocratically-tending German ranksters who is actually in charge. Oh and I almost forgot: there's also a place called "Museum The Kennedys" next to the Starbucks from which we departed. I found the name tickling.
That's all for now - I went to Ein Prat today, the place where I (and yes, I have absolutely decided) that I will be spending my next semester. I slept over last night. More later - running out now