The Berlin Series:
- Berlin Day 1: Travel & Copenhagen
- Berlin Day 2: Brandenburg Gate-Reichstag-Checkpoint Charlie
- Berlin Day 3: Food Tour, East Side Gallery, and the Hasselhoff “Museum”
- Berlin Day 4: Museum Island, River Cruise, and the Ice Bar
- Berlin Day 5: Trip to Barsinghausen
- Berlin Day 6: Tempelhof Airport and Adjusted Travel Plans
- Berlin Day 7: Bonus Day in Berlin and Travel Home
Berlin Day 5 (March 15, 2023)
March 15 took us out of Berlin. When she was in high school, Amy became friends with a German exchange student. I had heard about him from time to time over the years, but mainly I remembered that he really liked Taco Bell. Amy gave him rides to and from school with Taco Bell stops en route. Sometime in 1996 or thereabouts, Amy took a trip to Germany and visited. After that, I don’t think there was a great deal of contact over the years. But, we were going to be in Germany, so she reached out and made plans to visit him in Barsinghausen, a village close to Hanover.
Our train didn’t leave until a little later, so we slept in before getting breakfast at a restaurant called Ewig Freunde. It was a little fancy for my breakfast tastes, but not bad. The server was friendly. Honestly, for all I like about Europe, I think breakfast is something the U.S. tends to do a little better. Properly fortified, we made our way to the central train station. “Hauptbahnhof” (main train station) was one of the few German terms I actually picked up during our trip. Once again, train travel is something that America just doesn’t do very well. We covered the approximately 170 miles from Berlin to Barsinghausen in a couple of hours. I can’t imagine trying to get from Lafayette to, say, St. Louis, via public transport without a lot more time, hassle, and expense. Our trip was smooth and uneventful. Got on the train, settled in a bit, wandered up to the restaurant car, grabbed a couple of beers, and enjoyed the ride.
Amy’s friend picked us up at the station which was less than a mile from his house. I like the tourist places, but just hanging out with some new people was a nice change of pace. Amy delivered a gift of Girl Scout Cookies by way of greeting. She had spent a good bit of time trying to think of something that was portable, American, not easily available in Germany, and that our hosts (and their kids) would enjoy. Hit the nail on the head, I thought.
The friend’s wife’s native language is Russian and German is her second language. She was worried about her English, but it was fantastic. Their seven year old, who doesn’t speak any English, quickly adopted Cole and wrangled him into playing chess, some kind of train building set, and video games. Cole took four or five years of German in high school. He’s not at all fluent, but he knows a fair bit. Still, whenever he’d start a conversation in German, the kind and/or efficient German listener would immediately shift to English. Here was an audience who wasn’t going to short-circuit Cole’s German! Cole said there was a fair amount he didn’t understand, but they both seemed to communicate well; and it was fun to watch. There is some legitimate criticism about Americans not learning other languages. But, in fairness, it’s a whole different dynamic when you live in a country the size of a continent where you are unlikely to encounter very many people who speak other languages and in a world where your language has become one of the defaults. Learning new languages simply doesn’t have the same utility for most Americans as it often does for people living in other places. If people in Ohio spoke a different language, I might be apt to pick up a little Buckeye because it would be useful.
After hanging out a bit, chatting, and enjoying some baked goods, we took a walk around the neighborhood and paused for a good while at the local soccer field. Cole and Harper mostly took on the seven year old who stood in goal. The kid had some good keeper instincts! Just the way he’d go to ground for the ball was a lot more fluid and natural than what I ever saw in my rec soccer kids, particularly at that age. My guess is that’s the influence of starting the sport early and having it on TV in a big way. Kids in the U.S. probably have a more intuitive grasp of some of our big sports just from it permeating the culture. There was one moment where the ball kind of got away from Cole and he ripped a hard shot into the top of the net. If it had been a little lower, there might have been injuries. Rather than tragic, it ended up being funny. Cole big footing the seven year old to show dominance.
After our walk, it was time for dinner. They made us some spectacular goulash with German noodles. This was probably my favorite meal of the week. Amy’s friend had also laid in a nice selection of beer. I don’t think that’s normally what he had around the house, but they were putting on the dog for us as guests; which was really kind of them. He sent us home with a few of the beers which were nice to have at the Airbnb. After some dessert and a little more conversation, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the train station. Once again, the public transport was great. We navigated a combination of inter-city train, S-bahn, and tram, returning to the apartment at about 1 a.m. Without a lot of tourist stops, there maybe wasn’t as much to write about, but getting to visit with real people in a different country is a rare experience for us, and I’m glad we were able to do it.