Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2001
From: Lee Lady
Subject: ZEGG (Part Two)
To: Many friends
Berlin is much simpler than I had expected. Much simpler than Paris, for sure. Paris, for all that it is geographically small, and despite being sold to tourists as the "City of Love," is a big busy commercial city and also very confusing. Even though I've been there twice now, I would still not like going back cold with no one to help me. (When I was there with Sylviane, she had no idea where the streets we were looking for were.)
But Berlin.... From the little I saw of it, it's much more laid back. There are not hordes of people (at least from what I saw) madly rushing from here to there to complete their next business deal. People take time to talk to you and they are helpful. Most of them speak at least a little English, and they don't mind if your German is not too great.
And the airport, Tegel, is nothing. It's the sort of airport you might expect to find in Laramie, Wyoming. Not that I've ever been to Laramie. But I think it's smaller and simpler than the airport in Phoenix.
In fact, when I was flying out, the airline people would look at my ticket and say, "TXL? What is TXL? Berlin? Oh. I don't think I've ever booked anybody to Berlin before."
Apparently all that's going to change soon. They're in the process, I've been told, of building a new airport at Tegel, and then Berlin will start to become a major tourist destination.
Well, I'm glad I got there first.
Charlottenburg, where Brune lives, is apparently more or less the yuppie part of Berlin. I didn't really see enough of it to confirm that, and the restaurant and café we went to didn't seem especially fancy or expensive. But the café (an outdoor café, as I guess almost all cafés are) reminded me of Berkeley, especially north Berkeley. There was a very diverse assortment of people there. Some of them could easily have been professors, some seemed to be businessmen (and women), and then there were lots of young people who could have been students or, well, most any sort of young people. I guess the main thing is that there didn't seem to be any real working class people in the crowd.
But the amazing thing to me was how American everyone looked. Not because they were wearing trendy American clothes. In fact, nobody really seemed dressed up in order to impress. Some of the men were wearing suits and some women were dressed correspondingly, but then a lot of people, especially the young ones, were fairly sloppy. The sort of clothes you put on when you're going down to the bar on the corner for a few drinks, or going to the grocery store. But it wasn't just the clothes that seemed very American to me, it was the people's bodies and their facial expressions and everything. In particular, there were a couple of women I kept looking at and their facial expressions while they were talking and their gestures seemed to me so typically American that I just couldn't believe they were German. Occasionally I would overhear a bit of one of the conversations and think with amazement, ``Where did these people learn to speak German?''
I didn't see anyone that fit my image of Germans. Neither the handsome strong Nordic type nor the fat German burgher.
This was very different from last year in France. Somehow there's something about the French that one quickly recognizes as being French. Perhaps not at first glance, but as soon as a Frenchman (or woman) begins talking, even without hearing him you quickly recognize him as French.