I have spoken to you about the romance of both gray and deep blue seas, of fishermen that walk through my grandmother’s door. These are the tastes and sights that permeated my childhood and are easy to conjure up.
But there are some things I’ve left out.
I have never spoken to you of tropical flavors. Of the avocado and lime smoothies we drank every morning in Ethiopia. Of the many gifted guavas in my village in Namibia. Of the strange fruits and flowers that hang low and densely in utterly foreign lands.
I have never spoken to you about the colors.The green mangoes. Big bright red buckets. The street hawkers.
And the perfect chaos. Combis, taxis, cows, women with their colorful cloths as aprons and all that loud local music.
Behind every Berlin building there seems to lie a hidden story.
I have lived in Berlin twice. At 21, I lived in Moabit, a former industrial area to which immigrants flocked during the industrial revolution and today in Schöneberg which, as one New York Times reporter called it, is the Bürgerlich side of Berlin (in other words Bourgeois, not Eastern hip.)
And although many of my bike trips lead me to adventures in the East. I am a girl who has always lived in West Berlin. There is extreme appeal in East Berlin, the historic center, the artists and their house squats, and of course that endearingly soviet-vintage tower that soars above us no matter where we live in Berlin.
No time do I miss Boston more than in the Fall. As the Berlin leaves change, it all floods back to me: Apple cider donuts, carved pumpkins, the beauty of the Boston Commons and how tightly I clung to that cup of piping hot coffee from the Thinking Cup just to keep myself warm. And all I can do is prevent myself from hopping on the first plane that will transport me to that world of dark red and golden leaves and those crisp walks and nights at the Goethe Institut.
All-in-all though, this is being unfair. Berlin Fall has incredible charms. So before the light runs away from me and the Christmas markets appear, here are seven things I will do in order to not miss American Fall.
There is beer, so cold, so refreshing, and so easy to drink — especially on long summer nights along the Spree. And then there is wine. White in the summer. Red in the Fall and Winter, but mostly there is only red wine for me.
Red wine. At 24, off of a street corner in Les Halles in a restaurant where we ordered plate after plate of food from the Basque country, a Frenchman once told me that red wine was always preferred. White wine was for fish. No other time, he emphasized.
And with these brief words, my transition from white to red was complete, especially during the colder months.
Nowhere does time crystalize as it does at airport terminals. This empty space that is neither here nor there. This no man’s land that belongs to no country and to all countries serves only as a point of passage. A step in one direction or another.
Suspended in time, acutely aware of the minutes that pass us by, we wait. Mostly these vacant hours are spent trying to read, sleep or finally organize that pesky desktop folder that grows more convoluted with every new document saved, but sometimes these four walls of interminable waiting are filled by something else.
The boxcar doors were opened, and the doorways framed the loveliest city that most of the Americans had ever seen. The skyline was intricate and voluptuous and enchanted and absurd. It looked like a Sunday school picture of Heaven to Billy Pilgrim.
Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, “Oz.” That was I. That was me. The only other city I’d ever seen was Indianapolis, Indiana.