Monday, April 09, 2007


Last summer I was walking down Tautienzestrasse near the Kaufhaus des Westens. It was late in the afternoon and very hot, even though the buildings provided shade. I was wearing lime green top with spaghetti straps and a putty coloured lightweight cotton skirt. I had bought the skirt a few days earlier at a shop in the Lehrter Hauptbahnhof. Although it cost only 13 euros, it was a lifesaver, just about the only thing I had that was cool enough for Berlin's blistering heat last July. As I passed two middleaged women I heard the one with dyed blonde hair say to her companion "Als wir junge ware" (the last a should have an umlaut) which means "as if we were young." From her disapproving glance at my bare shoulders I gathered she was talking about me, and I felt angry. True, I had been younger, but did that mean I was supposed to swelter in 33 degree Centigrade heat in long sleeves?

Continuing along the street I entered Hugendubel, (both u's should have unlauts) a bookstore with a good selection of English books. I took the escalator to the second floor, found a book to peruse and took it to the reading pit, a padded almost circular seating area down a couple of steps and near the escalators. After I had read my fill I walked back to my room on Nurembergerstrasse, stopping to pick up cheese, fizzy fruit drink, mineral water and crackers at Aldi, stuffing everything in the black and shite wool bag from Mexico that hung from my shoulder. I passed a restaurant and a shop that sold wedding dresses before reaching the black heavy wooden door to my place. There were a couple of bicycles parked in the courtyard inside, and heavy green foliage nearly obscured the different types of garbage and recycling containers near the big linden tree whose branches stretched far above my fifth floor window.

Entering my dim stairway, I began the long climb up 86 stairs to my shared apartment. My Russian roommate, Maria from Novosibirsk, was not home. I put my food away in the narrow kitchen and walked down the long hallway to the large square room at the back. Even though the window was wide open it was stifling. I could almost touch the leaves of the linden tree outside, and a few minutes later I heard the peal of the bells from the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtnis Church, the bombed out ruin beside a modern church with beautiful blue stained glass soaring windows.


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