Tuesday, April 10, 2012

East Berlin

My sister's apartment is two blocks from where the wall once stood. To memorialize it, they've put up a long row of steel framing poles that replicates its original interior scaffolding. The architectural differences between the city's two halves remain, in spite of almost a quarter-century's worth of colorful renovations on both sides. My sister is taking the day off work tomorrow in order to show us around. I look forward to expanding my acquaintance with Berlin beyond the insides of a couple of apartments and trams.

To get here we rode a long-distance train—no private compartment for us, though; in a show of solidarity we opted for "proletariat class" seating, and were even blessed with access to the bar car for our good-faith gesture. Prices were a little steep for our humble tastes, I should say. Without major nourishment but also without major exertion, we passed the time by reading and playing cards. The fields that rolled by us were beautiful, full of cows and small brick houses that faded into the evening until we could only see our own bright reflections in the window. During the ride I finished Self-Consciousness: Memoirs by Updike, and thought a lot about death.

Rewinding further, my aunt's house was delightful during our weeklong visit. I bled out around five thousand words for my thesis, visited Amsterdam, and spent a lot of time drinking tea while staring out the window at falling rain in the garden. The town of Bussum, where my aunt lives, is stylish and small, allotting a generous (by European standards) plot of land to each freestanding house; most conform to the aesthetic of traditional Dutch architecture, orange roof tiling and all. In the afternoons we would eat cheese cubes off a wooden board and sip wine in anticipation of an hours-long wait for dinner, usually served at 10pm. A good vacation rhythm until Easter ushered us out. The tomb is empty; my aunt's house is also no longer full.

On Saturday Jeremy and I will be returning to Belgium and a frantic race to the end of our program. Strange to think that I'll be back in the states in less than three months. Time flies.

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