The Berlin Way : As Gauged in Two Days

 It is 1 am on a Thursday night. You are only two people left in the pub. It is obviously closing time, as you can observe the staff signal to one another to prepare for closing. My host and I continue to enjoy our drink, as the pub now looks ready to close, as the bartender says to the server ( in German), these two are the only ones left. I expected, we would finally be asked to leave the bar. Instead two more people join the two workers and they begin to enjoy their own drink, while we leisurely finished ours. And even as we left, they showed no signs that we were pests on them for staying on almost an hour after closing time.

Later I asked my host as to why we were not asked to leave, as I would have expected this in most parts of the world. And I was told, “ They Don’t do that in Berlin”. Friendly, forthcoming, multicultural is how I would describe this amazing city, which despite its dark history, albeit recent, really seems to live it up. And this is how I was greeted by upon arrival:

I arrived by a flight from Rome, that arrived rather late at night, and finally it was 1 am when I started from the airport (Schonefled the distant one). I had to take the train, get out at a small station, transfer to a night bus, change to a tram and finally walk about 7 mins to reach my host’s house. The journey planner website proclaimed that I could do all that in a little over an hour, and I indeed managed in about that time. In those wee hours on a weeknight, there were people in the trains, buses and trams who I could ask for directions. And there were people on the streets, many food shops were open! In the bus, I noticed a guy speaking in fluent German with a girl and decided to ask him if I was on the right bus. He told me, I am from Budapest and today is my first day in Berlin as well, pointed to the girl and told me, she is from Berlin and will be happy to help you and she obliged. Later I learned that they did not know each other till 2 minutes ago, and he had in fact just turned to her, to ask if she could tell him more about the city. And her style and expression seemed to suggest as though she had known him for long!

In the following two days I gathered, thats just Berlin!

 

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Berlin: Did I fly in to Budapest instead?

 30 August 2011, Somewhere on the outskirts of Rome

I was to fly from Rome to Berlin. Instead of the airport shuttle from the central station ( 8 Euros), I decided to take a rather roundabout way that could get me there in about 3 Euros. But there was a catch, I had read about this cheaper bus route on the wikitravel page, but no one in the city seemed to have ever heard of it. But it does exist and you can read more about it here (coming soon). It basically involves going to a station at the far end of the line away from the center, and catching the bus.

There were two other people waiting for the bus who spoke in a language that I didn’t understand and wasn’t Italian either. This and their two large bags, suggested to me that they were indeed foreigners and waiting for the same bus. I decided to make conversation (in the hope that if the bus did not arrive, I will find 2 more people to split a taxi). So I learned that they were mother and son, traveling to Italy from Budapest and the only the son spoke English, and the mother perhaps Hungarian and some German. They were flying to Budapest. Finally the bus arrived and for 15 minutes before the airport stop, we were two the only three, apart from the driver of course ( They don’t have driver-less buses in Italy!). I did take the flight to Berlin!

 4 hrs later…N65 to Hackershmarkt, Berlin

It was 1 am when I started from the airport. After the train I transferred into a night bus where there were exactly 4 people. The two of them who I had a conversation with, told me it was their first few hours in Berlin as well, and they were from, yes, of course Budapest. They just arrived in Berlin for a few months on an internship in some Ministry. The Budapest story doesn’t end there.

My two lovely Berlin guides happened to be from Budapest as well, who I had randomly met two weeks ago , at the Amsterdam airport , where they decided, for whatever reason, to ask me for directions. Maybe they watched me gaze at the train map for 3 full minutes, which perhaps gave them confidence in me. I did manage to tell them that they were to take the same train as me, and by now sure that they weren’t dutch, asked , “Where are you from?” . Off they went, we live in Berlin, but we are from Budapest. We talked for some time and before leaving the lady handed me her card saying if you come to Berlin, we will be happy to show you around. I said in fact, I arrive there in two weeks. And they said before disembarking, do email, I did and my two days in Berlin were special because of Alida and Joseph ,originally from Budapest, but now true Berliners! And did I forget to mention that through them, I met another Hungarian filmmaker, though she grew up in Romania. I would say that’s almost Budapest!

Hola America – Here I arrive!

A prologue to writing from America and covering a multitude of aspects about the recent transitions that my life is currently going through

I like telling stories.Though not an interesting storyteller, yet I always have a lot of stories to tell!

During my last few weeks in India ,the frequency at which this blog was being updated was quite high, at least by my own standards. I was confident that I had overcome the writers block that had killed my first blog jhola . That made it only natural that the handful of followers, that this blog has (perhaps this group is restricted to a circle of friends), did expect stories and anecdotes from me.

In that context,does it not just seem strange that in 21 days, not one story has been narrated ?

I just hope that the past three weeks of silence have not killed those expectations. And that there are no thoughts that like ‘Jhola’ this journal of mine is dying a premature death. Without going into the reasons of why I never posted anything so far, I would instead attempt to start posting with some regularity.( That’s being forward looking indeed!)

Well,this transition for me has a multitude of dimensions. It is not only moving into a new, remarkably different country and culture, but also moving from a comfortable and rewarding work life back to university, and that too for what I hope to be a not too long and yet successful haul at attaching a doctor of philosophy against my name.

Will these be tales about being struck by the awe and wonders that a transition to a posh neighborhood of a metropolis in a first world country brings with it? Will they be accounts of utter disgust at some of the realities that a transition as significant as this one has in store for most people? Will they be pedantic accounts of what Indian higher education institutions can learn from some rich upmarket universities that have succeeded in marketing themselves?

My stories should cover all this and much more as I begin my explorations into another part of this planet. While the subjects I may talk about are cliched, but I am sure my perspectives on them should be unique or at least interesting to the followers of my blog.
I shall end this ‘prologue’ with fond hope that the chapters of the main text would start appearing soon