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.
Nine years ago we loaded a car, packed a nervous — some would call neurotic– dog in the back, and set off to the frozen Midwest. Texas with its long nights at the pool, terrible mosquitos, and many many Hispanic radio stations faded into my past. Umpapa music, beer and bratwurst, and -20° winters became my life.
The music, the food, even my accent was left behind almost as soon as the trunk to our mini-van snapped shut. I denied my southerness and embraced my new Mid-western life. This was a mistake.
Texas is good for your soul.
7 roundabouts away from the busy touristy town of Sliema lies the quiet town of Mġarr.
Mġarr is, to be honest, a rather nondescript Maltese town. A limestone church towers over the village houses, around it are local bars and clubs — the band club, always practicing for their village’s Festa, the football club and the two political party clubs (kazin) who sit glaring at each from across the square. These are the pillars of every Maltese square. But this town is different.
Walk into one of the lively crowded and poorly lit restaurants of Mġarr, with sounds of satisfaction, as the warm summer wind carries the sounds of laughter and contentment from its open windows onto the quite and inviting village street, and you will know why. If Qormi is the birthplace of Maltese bread, and the best Ħobż biż-żejt is found in la Mosta, then Mġarr is where the best Fenkata (Rabbit), Żiemel (Horse), and Snails can be found.
I have a confession. I tend to romanticize. Especially fishermen and the sea. Once, in passing, my mother, an islander, told me “When you live by the sea, once you leave it, you always miss it.” Ever since then I have been in love with anything nautical. Selkies, sirens, even that Looking Glass song about Brandy leave me dreaming and longing for that hauntingly beautiful, dauntingly vast and tremendously frightening mare.
My mare is not usually the warm and inviting waves of the Mediterranean — that cradle of European civilization that bore Odysseus, the Phoenicians and so many other explorers upon their waves. My mare or “sjøen” or ”havet” is the cold harsh ocean of the North, an ocean that is not to be loved, but feared and fought against. So too the seas inhabitants are different. These are not the warm waters that invite soft tentacled octopi to traverse the shallow ocean shore, but rather the prickly frightening hard-shelled king crab.
Norwegian fisherman wearing the classic sydvest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sou%27wester)