Where shall we go now?
You can never really know a country until you’ve gotten lost in it, stumbled upon tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafes with peeling exteriors and strong coffee, sidewalk storytellers, the lives of the people. On our first weekend in Berlin, this is exactly what we seek to do. With a scavenger hunt list in hand and SIM cards for our phones, we are off! Alice, Bailey, Becca and I, with hot pastries in our stomachs, set out to Kunsthaus Tascheles, an abandoned department store refurbished into a grungy space for local artists.
Due to (my) poor navigation skills, our group takes a few wrong turns and wanders upon a little playground. Like the toddlers we are at heart, we play on the swing set and goof around.
Marveling at the art plastered on sides of buildings - the kind of art that was never part of a city plan or blueprint, but grew slowly, an urban evolution - we continue on. The walls of a small art shop, dimly lit, are spread with an intriguingly abundant number of Kermit the Frog paintings (in somewhat compromising positions, I might add).
Soon after, we came upon the dark narrow building of Kunsthaus Tascheles, though we do not realize it until much after. A staircase, winding four stories up, lead us to floors filled with statement art. Some are confusing, others disturbing; they are all beautiful, and very Berlin, espresso-shot strong, politically-edged and thick with meaning.
The time for our checkpoint at the Pergamon nearing, we find our way to the bridge on Museum Island and encounter a crinkly-smiling woman, who filled the area with gentle, swaying music from her accordion. We attempt to speak to the accordion-lady in German - unsuccessful because we do not speak the language, and neither does she. Laughing at our bumbling syllables, we use the universal code of Charade to ask: May we dance to your music? Take photos as well?
She gestures to her bowl filled meagerly with coins, and we eagerly oblige. Becca and Alice waltz around in front of the dear old busker, gathering the attention and good-natured chuckles of passersby. Soon after, the woman startles us with an offer to let us play her accordion! Becca gives it a go, and I do as well; though, I feel quite stupid furiously pressing buttons and keys to no avail - I realize I have to stretch and compress the instrument simultaneously to make any sound!
We sit outside a café, sunlight shining on our backs and the U-Bahn roaring above, astonished at the sight of a trail of segways rolling by!
What a day! Travel, I am beginning to understand, is not about the destination, it’s about the course of way and the stumbles it takes to get there.
So...where shall we go now?