Tuesday, May 31, 2011
This week i am very proud of myself, i did something that is trés grown-up, i went away on a holiday trip to Berlin, Germany - not Berlin, New Jersey. Well, you may be asking yourself - how is that a grown-up thing? - but, yes, it is, because what could be more grown up than traveling to Europe for four days on your own expenses and responsibilities? To throw yourself into the immensity that is the unknown and open yourself to whatever comes your way and then be back to work on tuesday as if nothing had changed, as if 8 hours - each way - inside an airplane was the same thing as going to the deli to get a new bottle of diet coke and a wrap. I was in awe with myself, almost as in awe as when i rented a house on the beach - literally - for the summer, now that was the epitomy of becoming a true grown up!
But getting there was an even more jaw-dropping experience than i expected; not only Berlin is one of the most exciting and curious cities i have ever been, but NEVER have i seen such politeness and respect to others like i have in Berlin, to me that is what the word civilized was invented for. Someone told me that there were only nine homicides in Berlin last year - yes, nine... NINE! Well, i didn't go as far as believing in that information, but it came from a good source and i am pretty sure that if it wasn't the most acurate, the actual number would probably not be that far anyway. But my point here is: go to Berlin and learn something about proper living. Period.
So, as you get off the airplane, each gate has it's own separate immigration, baggage claim, security check, check in, etc. All is individualized and extremely simple and organized, a true shock, specially after having seen half demolished terminals and the atrocity that is the airport in Newark, New Jersey - where else!? So here is where it starts to get really good and juicy, listen up. The minute the doors of your gate open up to the terminal you are invaded by a smell that is a croos between the best croissants i ever tasted and some delicious pastry that kicks France in the ass big time. Then from the ticket booth from the transportation ticket to the flat it was a jiffy. No joke, with two euros i got all the way home, and that included changing from a bus to a train and not going through a gate or a "ticket person" once! Yes, that was the second shock, that is proof that good and honest people exist in this world, here is a country that has the doors to their trains and buses wide open for anyone to walk in at any time and they trust that everyone will stop by the machine before entering and buy their tickets. And they do.
In Germany everything works, no one crosses the street if the light is red - even if there isn't absolutely anything moving in the road, people don't speak loudly, they mind their own businesses and respect everyone else's space. At the same time there is a sense of community that is remarkable, people congregate and communicate to perfection. Punk rock mixes with art, church, school programs, families, demonstrations,cats and dogs all at once and within the space of a small park, everyone takes note of whats happening around them and if they want to join... why not?
Berlin is bustling with art, energy, music, creativity, Berlin is the German capital of fashion, movies, music and arts in general. It seems like there is a museum in every corner and it seems like all of them are constantly busy, even the ones that are temporarily built by the artists themselves in half-destroyed and abandoned buildings. But while all this energy is flowing all over the city, Berlin finds a way to remain very austere and extremely silent. Berlin is so silent that at times it becomes scary. Aside from a couple of central spots like Alexanderplatz, which would be the equivalent of a downtown area for instance, Berlin is without exagerating one bit, as quiet as being in the middle of the country or in a farm. Walking through the streets on any time of day o night all you hear is steps from other people walking near you and the eventual louder car noises, but the predominant sound in the streets is of the birds hapilly singing from the top of the trees, that are also plenty. At night it becomes so quiet that the mere steps of someone outside will seem loud, especialy since there aren't really that many people roaming around.
The nightlife and the bars are also a thing of their own. People are respectful of the neighbors and enjoy themselves inside if they want to be loud, and if you think that the streets are taken by bars and 24-hour parties, well, they are not. Berlin manages to have one of the best night lifes in Europe without being noisy and annoying to everyone else, which to me is truly bizarre and hard to achieve.
The overall behaviour in this city is of deep respect, you can be walking down the street topless and people will not be staring or making comments, you will see, like i have, men with heir butts showing in one of those fetish leather pants, walking around naturally like everyone else, and not a single person cares, to which its own.
Berlin has grown to become such an important cultural hub and trend-setter for Europe that you even forget the whole wall deal. And it seems like that's what they really want to see hapening. That damned wall is nothing but a sad reminder of bad days gone by, of atrocities and deep disrespect to other human beings, but still, parts of that wall remain there, as a reminder to this new generation of all that has gone wrong, of all injustice and foolishness that has been poduced by none other than human beings just like any of us - well, maybe not me, but i can't b so sure about you - just kidding.
I have thought of many theories to explain what makes Berlin such a riveting and civilized city, but the best one is that it probably was restrind and contained for so long that pople just learned to live under strict rules and respct each others space, people had to learn to live with each other and endure through good, bad o ugly. the sense of community must also definitely come from that same place. it seems to me that the ways of Berlin can be quite deceiving for those who go visit unaware of their costumes. But mostly in a good way, of course.
Berlin, made me shine, through every corner, park, grafitti, museum, river, creek and fountain, Berlin had a magic that was really hard to explain and even harder to put into words, Berlin filled my heart with joy and opened my eyes to much brighter world, where people can rely on each other and trust whoever or whatever. Berlin in its entirety was the most inspiring experience i have had in a long, a very long time!