“I don’t exist on the surface.”
Well, my intention was to post this before I left Berlin – at the airport during my layover to be more specific – but poor timing prevented this. So I’m home now. My trip is over. It feels strange to be writing at home (feels strange to be “home”), traveling was my entire motivation for writing, but this deserves to finished and hopefully I’ll be able to catapult off this project anyway. I’ve definitely enjoyed the process of writing these posts, but normal life seems to have a way of stealing your desires. Who knows though? Maybe I’ll finally start my book. Maybe I’ll write a second season of this blog. Maybe I’ll do a lot of things. Maybe I won’t. I did actually pitch my book idea to one of the Irish guy’s I was chatting with at the bar two nights ago and he seemed to think it had great potential. Not sure why I chose him to be the only other person on this planet to know about the plot, but we were talking about our similar science fiction interests and it just came out.
My last two days in Berlin were pretty great – I’ll just combine them together though as they were pretty similar. The days were spent walking and sightseeing and the nights were spent drinking with my three female Australian roommates and shooting pool. I walked to the East Side Gallery, Tempehofer Field, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and The Topography of Terrors Museum. The East Side Gallery is a huge preserved section of the Berlin Wall that is now a public art gallery. I expected to see mostly graffiti, but it was actually very well-organized and some of the pieces displayed there were better art then I’ve seen in museums. Behind all the beautiful art though, I think it’s important to remember the wall itself. I couldn’t imagine having something like that running through the middle of my city. For us in Los Angeles, what if we woke up one day and we had a wall separating Hollywood from the Valley? The entire stretch of land now blocked off by a wall and you weren’t allowed to cross. And they lived like that for 30 years. Berlin has only been a unified city again since 1989 and it’s still finding itself as a city. Paris will always be Paris, London will always be London, but Berlin is still growing and evolving. Tempehofer Field is a former airport in Berlin that is now a public park. It was used historically during the cold war to deliver supplies into East Berlin. It’s actually very well kept though so it was interesting to see people just hanging out on these giant runways. They even had areas to grill food and have picnics. That’s the great thing about Berlin, even the public parks have a history like we’ve never experienced.
Berlin has this strange attraction to it that I haven’t been able to shake. If I sat down and listed out the pros and cons comparing Berlin to Munich, I’d probably end up choosing Munich. But still, there is something about Berlin. It feels like it’s stuck in the early 90’s. Most of it is alternative and punk rock. It’s a little bit dirty, covered in graffiti, and yeah occasionally it is kind of smelly (the city was built on swampland after all). It’s very rough around the edges. If I didn’t look so German or European (the words of many fellow travelers, not mine), I probably would have had to look over my shoulder for pickpockets or hustlers all the time. But I felt safe, probably because I looked like I belonged. Maybe because I felt like I belonged. If you’ve ever been through security at an airport in the US, then you know the people doing it aren’t the nicest. They yell at you, demand crazy things, but I get it, security is important. When I was leaving Berlin, the security agents were like old buddies to me. The one saw my German flag tattoo and said, “Oh, your German? Lets see your name.”, so he opened my passport, saw my last name, and nodded his head and gave me a fist bump. Then the other guy saw my hat, which is supporting the Munich Soccer team, and started giving me shit about that. These are the same guys that in America would have been yelling at me to take of my shoes. I’m sure not everyone feels like this when they are in Germany, but I did – and I kind of miss it already.
And then there is Munich. Munich is very well put together. They have tons of strange rules, but all of the rules help keep the city the way it is. I’m fine with rules if they lead to a better way of life. For example, during Oktoberfest, all beer brewed must be over 6% alcohol content. That’s an actual law. Also, all residential buildings must be a certain distance from a public park. These are extra rules to follow, but they make perfect sense. Munich, like much of the state of Bavaria, does tend to be a little bit more…upper class. The people there are proud and probably aren’t as welcoming towards outsiders. The guy from India I was hanging out with said that Munich was the first city in his travels where he felt any sort of prejudice. That may or may not have been true, it’s hard for me to say because I was never judged as an outsider. If I had spoken fluent German, I think I would have easily passed as a local. It’s much cleaner than Berlin and it felt much more safe. I remember one morning I was walking through the central square and I noticed this group of elderly women finishing their brunch. One finished off her stein of beer in one big swig, let out a sigh of satisfaction, and slammed it down in the center of the table as if she were Thor finishing a feast.
Both cities did have things about them that I didn’t like as well, but I’m home now and we only seem to linger on the positives. It’s only when we are in the moment that we recognize the things we don’t like. A few days ago, when it was raining in Berlin and I was trapped in my boring hostel with no friends, I thought about how much I missed Los Angeles. But now I’m back and I’m wondering where my future lies. The more I travel the more I leave pieces of myself behind. I’m Voldemort and each city I fall in love with becomes another Horcrux. How many times can I split my soul? Will I ever be satisfied with one place, or will I need to continue constantly moving?
My last day in Berlin I walked to a few free museums, but by this point I was so tired of walking I didn’t spend much time out. The evening was quite nice though – spent it at the hostel bar drinking beer and playing pool. Started with just my roommates, but our group quickly added two Irish guys and two Swedish guys. The Swedes were only 17 and 18 years old and they were traveling Europe by train and drinking at bars. That would be unimaginable here in America. We are so sheltered and unprepared for life. They even told me they were excited to try their favorite beer once they reached Prague. 17 years old and they have a favorite beer already. My younger brother is 17 and he is barely starting his first job. The Irish guys seemed to be older, but we never bothered exchanging ages. I actually had a great game of pool with one of them and after I beat him he gave me the middle finger and called me a fucking piece of shite. Life doesn’t get any better than that. Once we closed down the bar we headed around the block for some schawarma as it was the closest restaurant still open. I normally wouldn’t trust street meat like that, but I was starving and it was actually quite delicious. We all sat and exchanged tales of our different countries and cultures until it was finally time for me to say my farewells. I wanted to nap for a few hours before boarding my plane home. I think I’ve met more people traveling these two weeks then I’ve met the past two years. I’ll probably never see or hear from any of them ever again, but it’s not always about that. Sometimes it’s just about enjoying the company you have in the moment.
It’s weird when you plan something for so long and then it’s over. This trip has been my whole existence for almost a year. Now I feel sort of empty. Sure I have things to fill that gap, like moving to a new apartment, possibly getting a new car, my trip home in a month for one of my best friends weddings, but nothing can really ever replace this. I wrote 12 blog posts during this trip and I still didn’t cover everything that happened or everything that I felt. There was more I wanted to write about, more I still want to write about, more I hopefully still will write about, but I don’t want to force everything in here. I know there are things in here that I wouldn’t have remembered a year from now had I not written it down, so I’m looking forward to that. I’ve given myself a souvenir more valuable than anything that I could have bought at the gift shop.
Final Trip Step Count – 294,440 (124.6 miles)