Where is Tall Man?

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Driving into Berlin was exciting. There was something special about driving just like I do at home, to a place I heard so much about while growing up, yet seemed so far away. I remembered watching the Wall come down on TV when I was little and later talking to my Uncle who had brought a piece back from his travels in Europe. My German history knowledge is weak, but I obviously know the basics, which also made entering the city in fifth gear while listening to my iPod seem a bit surreal.

I met my German friend Desiree in Berlin on Tuesday. She insisted on showing me the city if I was to go and I’m glad she did. We stayed at one of her friend’s houses, a boy named Eka (Eye-kuh), who is studying for his final exams and is not fully awake in the morning until a few cups of coffee and his sixth or seventh cigarette. His roommate Michele was as friendly and accommodating as a southern Baptist housewife. He fed me, did my laundry and then left town and lent me his bed. The third roommate was a girl named, um…I don’t remember her name. We didn’t talk very much. She is French, a philosophy student and quite uncomfortable to talk to. But not as uncomfortable as her skinny, thin black haired boyfriend from Moscow whose name I also can not remember. The couple of times I did talk to him, he squinted his eyes so tightly that I imagined the social interaction was causing him physical pain. He reminded me of the cartoon character Mr. McGee; only taller, thinner and Russian.

On day-one Desiree and I attempted her hand written list of things to see. By late afternoon we had passed up going inside four or five museums and skipped a few sights on account of the lines being too long. I told her I just enjoyed walking around and didn’t really need to go in anywhere, which she was glad to hear. We scrapped the list and did the locals thing for the rest of the week. I got a feel for the different areas in Berlin and to liken it to NYC I especially enjoyed Kreuzberg with is’ trendy but classy upper east side feel and Friedrichsberg which had more of a punk rock SoHo vibe.

One night we hung out an open bar on the river and I drank gasey juice. Most young Germans, especially in Berlin, speak fluent English. However I often found myself fiddling with my cards and imagining what the heck everyone was saying. Not that I mind it. I actually prefer it that way, because I’m starting to pick up some of the language. I can even make that German throat clearing sound now. I’ve got a really good pronunciation of the phrase “Entschuldigung aber ich spreche leider noch kein Deustch” (“Sorry, but I don’t speak German yet.”) The positive attitude has been helpful.

Another night we went to meet some other people at a music festival near the river. We entered through a large door cut into the remains of the Berlin Wall, now a legal canvas for graffiti. The place was a collection of kegs, coolers, strung lighting, tiki torches and booming sound systems, set up in and around abandoned buildings looming between the old wall and the dark river. It’s a very Mohawk and black denim scene. Punk and Goth seem to be a pretty big deal in Berlin. The entrance fee was $25, so we actually ended up skipping the show and went to sit on a bridge where we watched the Berlin skyline glitter and trains grow in size as they left the station and slithered underneath us.

In the mornings I jogged along the Elbe and in the afternoons it rained. I ate Thai, Indian and a couple nights had veggie burgers and fries at the cleverly named Kurtzburger.

This past spring a girl named Katharina stumbled onto my website and sent me a note recommending a book, so while I was in Berlin I met with her and her friend for some falafel. They told me how their fathers were American, but they have both lived their whole lives in Germany and met at an American school there. After lunch we went to Storytime Books where Katharina works so we could watch the four year olds learn English in a sing-along. Most of them sucked their thumbs in a daze and one kid lay on his back and kicked the spinning postcard round and round, while a tall English bloke waving his middle finger in the air and then hiding it behind his lower back, sang “Where is tall man? Where is tall man?” to the ferishaka…ferishaka.. tune.

2 Thoughts on “Where is Tall Man?”

  1. UT Says:

    I love being referenced. As you know, I was there the week the wall was coming down. Very cool. At some point I was pissed off and spit through a hole in the wall from Berlin side into the no-mans land side. Some lady was looking at me with “what the ????” look on her face. It was pretty accurate b/c I was pissed at East Berlin for not letting me into the country b/c I didn’t have enough E. German Marks. Stupid. Anyway, Berlin is pretty historic. If you played or even cared for soccer I would suggest you check out a Bundesleaga game. Travel well.

  2. kris Says:

    It’s Frera Jacques tune. not whatever you wrote.

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