Wait! I thought we were chasing the summer around the planet! Did we really sign up for this? We definitely hadn’t packed for it. But there it was on the itinerary… bloody cold Berlin!
Most of my friends know I’m a tropical baby, and generally I like to keep it that way. Humidity, sweat, bit of breeze- I love it. Sunless days with icy winds hovering around 5 degrees- not so much. Still, we couldn’t let ALL of our North European buddies down.
We’d had a good stint basking on the beaches in Mallorca and although we couldn’t catch up with all of our friends spread across various parts of Europe, there was a fair swathe of them living it large in Berlin. We layered up in our cotton threads, found a jacket to shunt out the cold, and fully equipped with a new bag of op-shop woolies for Finn, we mustered up the courage to beat it up to Berlin. And let’s face it: rain or shine, Berlin can deliver some bedazzling times!
About ten years ago, Witty had rented his Gold Coast home to a bunch of German backpackers. A decade later they were all still in touch with one another, and impressively, with Witty too. You see, when they’d rented from Witty he had been more than just a landlord. He was passionate about life on the coast, and he wanted to show them how good life was. He would pop around on a Friday arvo, pack the German crew into the back of his van, and take them to places like Byron Bay for a weekend of backpackin’ bliss. The Germans, who were still learning English, fondly (and slightly awkwardly) called Witty ‘their owner’. This sounded a bit odd to strangers at the pub, but it made for a good giggle. Often bridging the linguistic divide with free-flowing Fourex (beer), their ‘owner’ would take them to the beach, take them clubbing, ‘make barbeques’ with them, and by the sounds of it, often end up passed out on the couch that he was allegedly renting to them! Suffice to say, they all became great mates on the Gold Coast, and you could feel the friendship firing up again when they finally reunited in Berlin.
This reunion was really special. I didn’t know any of these guys but I got to see them all come together again, hear them reminisce, laugh and revel in the many memories they still had together. We got to meet the families they’d since created, learn how life had changed, and clink glasses many times in a few short days. Of course, because they knew us Aussies so well, we even ‘made a barbeque’.
During our time there, we made it out of Berlin to visit the icy but hauntingly beautiful Ost See, which is known by most Anglos as the Baltic Sea. Autumn is a great time to get out into the wilderness here. The forest fires up with in vivid shades of yellow and red, wakening the senses
We hung out at a friend’s fabulous hotel on one of the many lakes in the North. As we sipped schnapps and waxed long evenings away, I learned a helluva lot about what life was like for these East Germans before and after the Wall came down. Known as Ossies (from Ost-Deutschland) it really was amazing to hear these personal accounts of a thoroughly unimaginable but very real and recent history that each of these friends experienced.
Berlin was also that bubbling pot of culture and history that we wanted to sink our teeth into. Museums were full of frightening and humbling truths. Street art could strike you through the heart and of course, the East Side Gallery created a collage of emotion as you wandered along kilometers of muraled wall.
Lucky for me Berlin was also harbouring a few of my friends. I was able to catch up with a dear gal from my Darwin childhood who is now making magic in the screen scene, and another German friend who I last saw 17 years ago! On top of that, a very dear man (who I met when I was 6 years old in Alaska) took a bus all the way from Nurnberg to see me in Berlin and meet my two Witty boys. Now that’s dedication to friendship!
I’ll love Berlin for the taste I got. I hung out in an Anarchist cafe and wandered through a bustling Turkish market. I played with my kid in strangely stark but refreshingly unembellished playgrounds. I clubbed with my Darwin girlfriend in an underground club: it was Berlin beats shaking shanty town infrastructure, complete with a crystal ball and just the right mix of crazy dancers. I dined on a canal boat with swans ‘swanning around’ to my son’s delight. And I took it all in, as best I could.