The sage and debonair John F. Kennedy once spoke to the people of Berlin to offer his comfort and support, and somewhere in the midst of his speech, he said: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” His intent was to connect to the citizens in saying that he was a person from Berlin. However, the laws of semantics were not on his side that day, and what he really said there was, “I am a donut.” Just to clarify, jelly and cream donuts in Berlin are called Berliners. If you want to say you’re a citizen of Berlin, you gotta switch up the syntax a little bit. So, he literally said he was a donut. I know that most people would hear this story, maybe laugh once, and then forget about it for the rest of their lives, but for some reason this really tickles me to think about. I have so many questions. Did his press secretary raise his eyebrows, and just start shaking his head? Did the crowd laugh, or sympathize with him? Did his translator get fired that day? I like to picture what his own experience was like. I wonder if he was twiddling his thumbs beforehand and thinking don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up, and then proceeded to say, “Hello, everyone. I… am… a donut.” Guys, tell me this doesn’t make you smile. It got to me for a solid 48 hours.
Regarding my actual trip to Berlin this weekend, I’ll start at the very beginning. Three of my roommates (Stephanie, Juliann, and Amanda), and I got on our bus at 6am, and it was extremely empty except for a few single travelers who were already seated in the back. Because of this, we were able to snag both of the 4-person tables, and kick back for the ride. Within half an hour, Juliann had fallen asleep, and Amanda was head-banging to her music and deliriously laughing at memes with me as I caught up on my Twitter feed. By the second half of the ride, we’d switched places, and Steph and Juliann were laughing hysterically while Amanda and I were knocked out, limbs lolling off of our double-seats that we tried to lay in like beds. When we got to our place, we were a little out of it. We made a few cups of coffee in our room while we changed out of our comfy bus clothes and got ready for the day. I snapped out of my sleepy delusions after the second time I accidentally put instant coffee into my already made cup of Nespresso. We got going at that point, because we had an itinerary, and damn it if we weren’t going to see every single thing on that list and then some.
Besides the JFK anecdote, there were so many things about Berlin that amazed me. For one thing, it’s really not that old. It’s still up and coming, so it’s quite trendy and chic. There’s a ton of stuff to do there, but of course, we began with a walking tour of the city, which never disappoints. Our tour guide was the quirkiest, coolest little man we’ve ever met. We saw some amazing and humbling sites, and stopped for some hot mulled wine in the middle. He told some strange anecdotes, and when the tour was over, he let my friends and I know that he played the saxophone at underground clubs at night. He then proceeded to give us his opinions on our itinerary, which were actually quite helpful.
We went to an open air market afterwards for dinner, and the journey took quite a while, because the bus we were instructed to take only took us two stops before retiring for the rest of the evening and kicking everyone off. So, we found other means of transportation, and by the time we arrived at the market we were pretty starving. It looked exactly like the kind of indoor food market you’d find in downtown Los Angeles, or at the Anaheim Packing District— like I said, Berlin is way stylish. We found some curry worst, which is Berlin’s speciality, and a wine booth, and then settled down at the top deck of a wooden set of bleachers. We met some cutie British men, and hung out with them there for a few hours. One was an MD, one was a PhD, and the other one was like, some type of farm-to-fork pioneer. So basically, the whole package for a group, right? Make sure you can check these three things off your list next time you are making friends— otherwise, they don’t make the cut.
After the market, we all made our way to a bar called Madame Claude that some friends from our program and our interesting tour guide had told us about. Apparently, the Brits had been on the same tour as us earlier, which I still don’t fully believe because I don’t remember seeing them, but their story totally checks out. So, the seven of us went to Madame Claude, and I definitely approved of the recommendation. For one thing, everything was upside down. There were tables, chairs, and the works of a bar, on the ceiling. I mean, they were on the ground as well— it wasn’t a pointless bar. But it was definitely cool to look up and have the floor mirror the ceiling. We stayed there for another few hours, telling our best stories and finding out increasingly too much about each other as the night went on, but that's what made it so hysterical and fun.
The next morning, Stephanie rallied us all out of bed and out the door like a goddamn cattle wrangler, and we were back on track to complete our itinerary. We saw more of the Berlin Wall, walked through the Topography of Terror museum, and saw parts of museum island, which as it turns out, was not an island and did not have any German-history museums. But, we got some steps in for the day. We saw the East Side Gallery, which is a part of the Berlin Wall that artists were allowed to work on. They turned such an ugly concept into a beautiful canvas of art, which was one of the coolest parts of the city in my opinion. By the time we’d seen all the art, it was nearing dinner time, so we tried to go to the Turkish Markets. Tried. We took an uber to get there, but to our dismay, our driver dropped us off in front of a single tent with the words “Istanbul Supermarket” painted on it. There were some apples, bananas, and lettuce in the tent. It was not what we were looking for. So, we walked the rest of the way to the actual frickin’ Turkish Markets, which cover an entire street and look like a farmers market and flea market combined. It’s kind of a large attraction, so I’m still unclear as to why our driver thought we wanted to go to the little tent in an abandoned square, but we live and we learn!
We had some more moments of delirium and confusion before we finally made it back to Prague. One of them was that we stood in front of the wrong bus for a good five minutes, ready to board, even though it’s last stop was Berlin. The bus driver actually got out, smiled a little as he lit his cigarette, and asked if he could help us. We said, “No, we’re just going to get on your bus when you’re ready.” He told us that we weren’t going to do that, and explained why. We laughed and backed away in embarrassment. We did eventually make it back to Prague— correct bus and everything. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to make little mistakes like that in different cities, but when they happen, you just have to remember that JFK once told the people of Berlin that he was a donut.
This is a Berliner.