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Adventuring since 1986.

Posts tagged with ‘vacation’

catching my breath: 1 yr in Berlin

Lately I feel like I can’t breath. I feel like I am gasping for air and my heart pounds and thuds. Too often I am walking in the rain and the water is sliding down my face and my eyelids are fluttering trying to shoo the liquid downpour away. It has not been sunny in a long time and I keep thinking it will stay this way forever. Grey and cold and dreary. Like last summer, my first summer here. It was so hard then but it is better now and I am getting used to this place that is still so new. 

I think about how much I have changed since I arrived over a year ago and the best way to describe that is “a lot”. I am still very much a kid. I will always feel that way but now I feel a bit different, like I sprouted another inch or my skin got a bit thicker surrounded by the concrete jungle filled with trams, bikes, smokey clubs, thumping music and so many foreign tongues entangled in the air fighting each other in verbal fisticuffs. There is still a wall for me here. The wall is big and grey and it is a wall separating me from the rest of the inhabitants of this place and it is language. A language barrier and just communication in general. It might not be completely obvious but I am shy here when I speak, my confidence has waned and my words escape my lips fumbling around until they land halfway diminished. It is painful, especially for someone who gets paid to communicate.

I think it is important to say that I love Berlin. I am so lucky to be here. Berlin is magnificent and it has brought out the best of me, as well as the worst of me but I can’t deny the magic that this city holds. A cigarette butt in a UBahn station can easily be transferred into art here and I am not joking. The graffiti on the walls, the construction, the scaffolding of tall buildings that block the sun, the concrete, the dirt, the art, the music, the sounds, the smells, all of it — it is all beautiful and it is all what makes this place so special. The darkness is there, it is everywhere but it is a sorta lovely, dirty, raw magnificence that can’t be replicated. It is a tender darkness that brings out hidden emotions and heavy thoughts that otherwise might be kept behind closed doors. Berlin illuminates even the darkest crevasses and makes them shine. Maybe that applies to people as well.

In a week I am going home for a while. The homeland, good ole America, with her shiny gates and fast food restaurants. I am taking a break. Three weeks to clear my head, relax, say bye bye to the inter-webs and hello to nature. Three weeks to catch my breath. I am packing a field recorder and one suitcase plus some amazing friends that will accompany me on a trip up the California coast to Yosemite and beyond. I like nothing more than a long road-trip and this is just what the doctor ordered.  

When I come back I will have been in Berlin for over a year and a half. That is crazy. I have been so lucky and thankful for my time in this city and I think even a moment, worlds away will make me appreciate it even more. See you soon again.

London Calling

5 days in London.

Landing.

London greeted me with a friendly blanket of white clouds stretching for miles. My plane descended into the fluff, bounced a bit and then landed softly at Stansted Airport, about 45 minutes east of Liverpool street station. Gavin had called me about 10-15 times making sure that I had landed (it is in his nature to be a worrier) and as I gathered my things to exit the flamboyant yellow and blue cigar shaped contraption, I felt at ease and I cannot say why exactly but a delightful wave of solace washed over me. Hurtling towards London town on the Stansted Express I drank a box of Ribina and ate a stale croissant purchased on the little cart that passed by me along the narrow aisle of the train. I smiled at the attendant and spoke in English without feeling embarrassed for the first time since visiting America back in November. I was happy not having to think whilst talking - even though that might seem lazy, it was delightful just speaking effortlessly and I was comforted by the fact that I was in a Country where my native language (or at least a version of it) was natural and shared. It was nice.

The Tate & the girl.

On Friday Gavin and I drank cider at a pub near his work by the Thames and then ventured to the Tate Modern to have a look and perhaps get lost for a few hours in the hallways that held art, poetry and various installations. 

Museums: People standing around looking at beautiful things.

I always wonder what people are thinking. What are they feeling? I sat down on a bench and took out my notebook and wrote down everything I saw, heard and sensed: young girls in Ugg boots, so many different languages being spoken - it was like a melting pot filled with Spanish, English, American, French, Italian and more, but so many different accents, people that looked like they knew what they wanted to see and then many that looked like they were on a sole mission to wander the museum halls just like me, not knowing what they were looking for exactly. I guess it is easy to tell what kinda people are like you when you know what to look for. I guess it is in the eyes.

The enjoyment of art is such an incredibly personal experience. At least I think so. I cannot necessarily go to a gallery with someone else and experience it as fully as I can on my own. I feel rushed and pressured to move along when my partner is ready and it leaves no time for thinking or even really taking a long look at the piece of art in front of me. Gavin and I held the same feelings about that and so he took off in one direction and I in the other. I got lost in the Cubist labyrinth on the third floor and hid out behind the interactive zone dedicated to children and their playful parents. I watched a handsome bespectacled man and his young daughter play with an exhibition. They were French and it was so easy to tell how much the man loved his girl and he did not hide that fact, nor did he even notice his surroundings. All of his attention was on his little blond child who I could easily tell was spunky and sassy already at four or five years old. It was so nice to sit and think and watch the man interact with her. Her laughter was boisterous, high pitched, wonderful and utterly contagious - I could not help but to mimic it (in a much more subdued manner). The man was so happy to show his daughter new things and to explore with her and that was so beautiful and so natural and so real.

Camden.

Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Dripping in cool, steamy with sex, littered with cigarette butts and espresso cups. I fell in love with it immediately. I listened to Billie Holiday on my iPhone and bought “Lonesome Traveler” by Kerouac and felt like I could live in one of the boats along the canal and sell tacos or vinyls out of one of the market stalls. 

All of the romance melted away upon stepping in a pile of dog excrement. Then we walked along to Regents park and I cleaned off my shoe on a cleet cleaner.

Europe: 1800 − 1900 / British Museum

I found a semi quiet spot to write on the third floor of the British Museum. It was raining outside. The chair that I found to sit on was right next to the heater in a room showing off decadent jewelry from the early 19th century. I sat and waited and wrote, not looking for anything in particular except for a little bit of silence. As much as I love the hustle and bustle of day to day living and the sounds that come along with that, I much more enjoy, appreciate and revel in quiet moments spent alone and I was determined to get a a piece of that kind of moment near the jewelry and the delicately cracked vases that adorned the room around me. The jewelry in front of me in a large glass case seemed so perfect except tiny flaws that most likely had to do with age. Not many people stopped to look at them but passed by instead to admire the gold pieces just on the other side of the room. I could not stop staring at the cracked pendents and vases they were not interested in. I thought they were quite beautiful. Do you ever feel like vulnerability is the most beautiful thing in the world? I do. There aren’t so many things as pretty as a crack in a vase, a blemish on otherwise perfect skin or a bruise. 

I looked up and a woman with a very nice camera standing across the room from me snapped a photo in my direction and then she aimed her lens at the sullen looking woman who blankly stared at the coral jewelry in a small case in front of her. A man with a small black camera was also taking photos in a vigorous fashion, seemingly of all the jewelry he saw. I assumed he did this throughout the whole of the museum as well. He had a hat on, was wearing a fanny pack and looked like he was on a mission to document his entire visit at the Museum. I wondered “will he ever look at those pictures again?” I chewed on my pen (as is my habit) as I rolled my ankles and waited for Gavin to find me.

Annie Hall & The Artist & Leaving

We watched The Artist on my last day in London. Before that I shopped quickly at Oxford Circus and Gavin prepared a picnic of Scotch Eggs, Pork Pies and sandwiches from Pret that we ate happily inside the Odeon theatre somewhere near Notting Hill. It was a perfect movie and we were one of six in the theatre. The chairs were old and soft and the pair of older women behind us were speaking Spanish and eating popcorn. They laughed delicately and it made me smile. 

The rest of the day we explored the city without a compass and ended up back at Mile End exhausted and ready to relax. We sat down to Annie Hall and it made me want to move to New York and I related to Annie Hall and Gavin sunk down deep into the couch getting completely comfortable. I was to fly back to Berlin in the morning so I went to sleep early and dreamt of Woody Allen and then was off by 4am back to Germany. London had been amazing and was the perfect break.

cais do sodre. sonho do dia.

On my second day in Portugal, it rained; lightly and unenthusiastically at first. I waited for Alberto to pick me up under the shelter of a bus stop overhang near Cais do Sodre on the left bank of the River Tagus that was usually the deepest blue but was grey and foreboding on that day because of the weather. 

A few worn out looking, tanned older men were fishing by the shore and didn’t even seem to notice the rain. They were speaking fast tongued tied Portuguese to each other and laughing infectiously. They continued to cast their lines out to the sea.

A cloud quickly swallowed us up and the rain started coming down faster and in buckets. The air was warm and tropical and I felt completely comfortable wearing next to no clothing as my shorts and tiny tank top still clung to my skin and I was sweating despite the rain storm.

A dark and beautiful cocoa kissed woman in high heels rushed by the bus stop along the cobblestone sidewalk that lead to the train station. She slipped dramatically and landed straight onto her elbow as she fell to the ground next to an old cement bird-feeder — she swore in Portuguese and a little blonde girl of 10, with the help of her grandpa, picked her up off of the wet ground.

As the rain fell harder, the fishermen finally pulled in their line and left slowly, drenched from head to toe. One remained — he seemed to be the oldest and most tanned — he looked like a character from an Ernest Hemingway novel come to life. I liked watching him fish because he looked so powerful and everything he did seemed so effortless. He looked so sure of what he was doing because it was so clear that fishing was in his blood. He could have been half fish for all I knew.

A white pigeon landed in the middle of a group of regular pigeons that had congregated around a knocked over trash can by the old bird-feeder where the woman fell. It was almost beautiful, this lone white pigeon — as beautiful as a pigeon can be. All white feathers, unmarred by a lifetime of scavenging. This pigeon strutted past the others and delicately picked at the soggy bread that spilled out the side of the garbage bin.

My stomach growled, I had not eaten since 8:30 am and it was now 1:30 in the afternoon. My breakfast consisted of toast, jelly, butter and two cups of stale coffee — devoured in 5 minutes. I had slept for a sporadic at best four hours the night before due to a snoring dorm mate at my hostel and because of a late night of wandering the streets of Lisbon with Alberto. I was tired and hungry but I was not even that bothered because of how relaxed I was feeling. My life seemed slowed down in Lisbon; the brakes were on and they came screeching to a halt when I landed the day before, but it was needed and it felt good to be totally at ease. I didn’t even mind that it was raining.

The rain finally let up and I noticed Alberto’s car in the distance, he was late but I expected it and anyway he was doing me a big favor by driving me to the beach across the bridge so I had no reason to complain. He smiled and I hopped in the car and we drove to the other side of the Tagus quickly leaving the old man fishing behind as I began my ten day day-dream in Portugal.