January 21st, 2015
Alexanderplatz, Berlin, Germany
It’s my last full day in Berlin. Vero is out for the morning at her German classes so I decide to walk about a bit for a few more photos of the city. It’s cold and grey as usual. I walk by the Berlin TV Tower, looming over me as its globe slowly fades into the misty haze above. It’s a quiet weekday morning, most people are already at work and the streets are now mostly populated with small groups of artists sucking down unfiltered cigarettes and groups of tourists like me. The morning is largely meditative, something about the way the fog and cloud cover seem to round out the edges of everything and surround me gives the effect that I’m isolated. Everything is just a bit more quiet. I trace streets that are becoming a bit more familiar, and grab photos of the architecture that I hadn’t yet snapped. Tonight, I’ll be cooking dinner for some of the Berlin couch surfing community that Vero is a part of as a thank you for hosting me and to participate in the community of sharing.
Vero and I head to the store to grab the ingredients for dinner. I’ve decided to make burgers since the ingredients are pretty universal and easy to feed the crowd of 10 we’re expecting. Besides that, the ingredients are easily identifiable even with every package labeled in German. We quickly wind through the large, well-lit supermarket and procure everything we need. Arriving at the cash register, I recognize the most jarring sight for an American abroad, the cashier is comfortably sitting on a tall chair. I point this out to Vero and she laughs a bit and tells me “What? Should they be expected to stand for a whole shift?”. To which the answer is obviously, no, it is just as easy and effective to ring groceries while standing or sitting. There’s just no need to create an illusion of more “focused” work.
Vero and Alexander’s Flat
The flat is buzzing with conversation as I work away at the burgers in the kitchen. Guests pop in and out of the tiny kitchen to chat with me as I work or offer help, which is lovely. Everyone is a bit of an oddball; travelers, musicians, artists, ex-pats. All people who are far from “home” but hammering out a community where they’ve decided to hang their hat for a time. The stories are wild and varied. I’m feeling anxious, it’s been a while since I’ve cooked for more than one and the limited ingredients I picked up make me feel as though I’m not making it “special” enough. But everyone is hungry and I press forward, shaping out the patties and pan-cooking them on the stove. Once they’re all cooked, we pass them around and everyone digs in. There is a warmth here that is so familiar, like being back home with my closest friends. I may not know everyone, but it doesn’t matter. We all eat together, one of the most intimate acts, I believe, in the world. It creates immediate closeness and shared experience to share food. After a few hours, dinner is over and everyone says their goodbyes. It’s a perfect close to my time in Germany, and as I settle in for the night, my heart races with the anticipation of the next leg of my journey: Italy.