Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ich bin ein Berliner... nicht mehr.

Laziness. There's really no excuse but laziness on my part and the fact that blogging is like keeping a diary or going with a strict routine in training, if you skip a day or a week, then is very hard to get back on track. So that's why this entry, which should had written 3 hours after my "back home" note is actually coming out three day after. Ah, well.

So, where to start, where to start? A day by day account of the last two weeks would be boring and too long, so I will just give a few flashes, helped by a handful of pictures (which, as usual, you can click upon to enlarge) like the one left. What is it, you wonder? Well, Susanne and me celebrated one year together in mid July, while she was in the States and that was the sweet, in every way, surprise I got on my arrival in Berlin, a "1" cake prepared by her :) And I must say, it was very good... so much that at some point her dad got to it (when we already had eaten half of it and the "1" was gone) and the cake disappeared. Speaking of breakfast, I was once again reminded how different breakfasts are in Italy and in the rest of the world, especially the nordic countries (picture right).

While weather didn't really help much, Berlin was the city full of life it always has been when I've been there. After months I finally got back to the cinema to see "The Lake House" (good one) at the Sony Center after a debate about that and the last X-men which I hadn't managed to see last season. The debate was actually moot as on the way we stopped, got two tickets and got back to see that one as well which, in its own way, was pretty good as well.

The center point of my (always too short) vacation was solving Susanne's university problem. Due the extremely chaotic (and so un-german) system they have in applying to University, until the every last moment Freiburg and Mainz could had possibly be possible choices (to be noted, S. was also accepted by nearly every single university she had applied to, a couple of dozens). Eventually, after much reasoning, Mainz got the upper hand (and was a good thing, as we later found out) and so it was that on monday I did rent a car from Hertz and drove the 600 and something kilometers between Berlin and this nice city near Frankfurt.

The first priority was finding a place to live there, and I must say luck assisted us. The first place we saw supposedly should had been a student house, but was actually open also to some dubious characters, and consisted of micro-rooms with a kitchen corner and minuscule bathrooms. Honestly, I was a tad worried, especially by the kind of persons who could had been living there, and started wondering if all places we would had seen over the three days we had planned to stay in Mainz would had been like that one.

But I was pleasantly surprised. at the second attempt, almost by mistake, we found the perfect place in this "suburb" of Mainz, which is actually at a walking distance from the main train station of the city and the university and which looks as time had stopped in late XVIII century (cars apart). There, in a very peculiar "house", which was more like a series of small building laid around a spacious internal courtyard, we saw this small (but still twice the size of the previous one) single room apartment, with an independent entrance (if you exclude the shared courtyard), neatly divided in a "day" zone and a little, very nice, kitchen.

It seemed actually too good to be true, or so it seemed (enlarge and notice the expression of S.' face in the picture at the left) and in fact, as she went to ask the price, it sounded "expensive" to her. Now, "expensive" in this case meant that the whole thing costs less than a bed in a shared room in an apartment in Rome. So, while she kept talking with the people showing the house (an apparently very nice couple with a couple of kids and an immense dog, a schnauzer I think, called Faustus), looking around and taking picture, I took a meter and laid down the measures for the whole house for further reference. Later on, having left the house, we talked of the pro and con (with me, obviously, in favor of the place), a quick call home, and by the evening the whole thing had been settled.

The quick and fortunate solution of the housing problem left us with two days for walking around the city, visiting the university and the law faculty (housed in a somewhat anonymous modern building inside the campus and where I dropped an hello note in the mailbox of the local ELSA board), settling all the documents for S.' enrollment and all in a relaxed way, at least for our standards, which means at the end of it I was tired, but not exhausted. We even met Milka, an ELSA friend of mine who was born, studied law and now is working in Mainz, so that she could give her a bearing. Unfortunately, due a series of circumstances, we arrived almost half a hour late, with my supreme shame, but she was fantastic (and my karma punished me, as a waitress managed to spill a violet juice, cranberry maybe, over my brand new white blouse *sigh*).

Later that day, the last in Mainz, a jazz concert in the square behind the Cathedral of Mainz (a very interesting one, and catholic too, as the archbishop of Mainz was one of the elector princes of the Holy Roman Empire and some sort of plenipotentiary for the Pope on that side of the Alps) and a dinner in this very fashionable restaurant (another think I have to thank Milka for) in what was, in the middle age, the city's Lazaret. Here, the argumentative sides of Susanne and me, helped by a generous dose of wine and a couple of cocktails, got the better of us and we had a mighty discussion which was probably the worst we ever had and that was solved with the nicest walk I ever had in my life and that I will call from now on "the 10 steps walk". And no, I'm not going to give details on here.

The ride back to Berlin took almost a day, as I wasn't so much fit for driving another 600 kms and so we opted for a bus, which was leaving from Frankfurt very early in the morning, which means we had to wake up at dawn to take a regional train, deal with the most incompetent and confused concierge I ever faced at check out and the worst breakfast I ever had in a hotel.

The last couple of days were spent walking around Berlin and revisiting some of the places we had been the very first time I was in Berlin, almost exactly a year before, and redoing some of the things we had done that time, like lying in the grass along the Spree river. I also had the chance of doing some new things, like walking in the Holocaust memorial near the Brandenburg's door, and do something I had meant to do for a while, like visiting the Egyptian Museum (while the Pergamon was one of the very first things I did in Berlin the year before), which unfortunately turned out to be sort of disappointing, with the exception of the world famous Nefertiti's bust and a couple other things.

Given this was probably the last time in Berlin, at least for a long while, on saturday I carried out another of the things I always had meant to do when in Berlin and, for a reason or another, had never been able to, which was visiting Postdam and the prussian version of Versailles: Sains Souci. Now, I must say, I was unlucky, as the whole place that day was scheduled to close at 2 pm rather than the usual 6 due a series of events planned for the night in what is called "the night of the Castles" (when we asked how to take part of it, the guard smiled and said tickets had been sold out already last December...). Even like that, I at least managed to visit the whole main residence and found it... well, no offense, but the "we would had like to have Versailles, but money was what it was...). The incredible things was the tomb of Frederick the Great which I would had expected as a triumph of marbles and gold commemorating the extraordinary life of this king and that instead consist in the most simple marble tombstone, with just "Friedrich der Große" written on it, laid on the front side of Sans Souci, next to the burial places of his beloved greyhounds.

Quite surprisingly, is not the main residence to be the nicest building, at least for my taste. In the afternoon, in fact, not knowing what to do, we did walk around and found out that some areas of the park were still open. So It happened that i got to see the Orangerie , which I found, at least externally, much superior to the main "schloss" and the immensely picturesque path to the nice "Belvedere" (the one on the bottom-right). On the way from one to the other, we stopped at the very nice cafe' house inside the "Dragon House", a small pagoda-like building built in that period of the XVIII century when everything chinese was fancy.

And with that, the visit to Sans Souci was over and we got back to Berlin and prepared for the last evening that saw us walking around the Hackescher Markt and the courtyards full of restaurants and pubs of that area and eating first at this very nice place in one of those courtyards and then again in a restaurant doing its best to look like an american restaurants of the 50s/60s. Sunday was the day I had to come back and also the day of my first long talk with Susanne's father which was interesting, indeed. And so, after one of the worst flights I ever had, I was back in Rome where a taxi ride, which should had been of 17 euros and ended up costing 19 as "I've only one euro of change, I'm sorry" (yeah, right), took me home. What has all of this to do with the last picture? nothing, but isn't she cute? And mind you, she is gonna hate me for having published that, like any other picture with her inside... ah, women.


Anonymous said...

Yes you are right!! I want to see YOU in the pictures! ;)

Trixi said...

Yes, that last picture is absolutely cute, but your face is missing... :)

JG said...

suzanne looks beautiful in all the pictures. Looks like you're growing back your goatee? (hallelujia!)