Entries in travel (6)
It started beautifully. A saturday with a wonderfully refreshing weather in Brussels (waking up at 5 in the morning on Saturday to catch my flight). Arriving in London city centre before 9 was a gorgeous experience - don't you just love the city (any city) in the early mornings on the weekend before it has fully woken up? When people in the streets are still collecting themselves - their trash, their stories, their pride. First stop: a very charming neighborhood in East Putney (and with that name, it already felt as British as it gets). I kept repeating to myself "right, left, right, left" (when crossing the roads). Of course arriving that early meant, I actually woke my hosts up. But they were fine with that - admiring my fresh looks, my london hipster style (or so they said about my white shirt, my blue flannel trousers, and my vellum safari green leather jacket (enough self-shoulder tapping)). I told them we don't have time to linger - London was waiting to be explored. And so they dressed up quickly and we went out - to, of all places, first Notting Hill. But I was for the first time to see that London as charming as it was, has nothing of the solidity, stability, or millennia-propensity for aging as Rome did. Apparently the Brits are fond of bricks but the type of bricks that do not last for centuries but for A century, piping that is better left outside just in case something happened, and rooftops that better leak inside, than to delegate the water-allocation to the street canals. But it is perhaps one of those cities, like Paris and Venice, where a person should live once in their lifetime for several years. And then move on. Will see when my time for this might come.
I continued walking the afternoon (mostly in the area of king's cross station - beautiful area). The sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were jogging, others were smoking (after all it was the hipster area), and I was just absorbing trying not to behave like a foreigner (although, to an extent, in London everyone is a foreigner). I walked and walked and then went to the old city walking along the Thames, enjoying the tourists making fools of themselves, taking pictures (to document attendance) and enjoying the odd buildings (like the infamous "pe#is building" [censored for the kids]).
In the evening I went to a housewarming party of a friend bringing cornflakes (so that she never goes hungry), a beer (so that the house is always spirited), and garlic (to keep the evil spirits away). It quickly turned into a full-house party but I also needed to get to the other end of London for a commemorative anniversary celebration. We celebrated with a floating cheese cake (they say they didn't have enough time to freeze it properly). I had the strawberries that select over from the decoration, we all had a glass of red wine and went to bed early.
Day 2: Weather had turned Londoner but it was necessary - a whole weekend of sunshine would not have showed London in its true colors. I took the underground, observing people, guessing who came from where and who was doing their walk of shame, laughing at the tourists with their funny umbrellas (true Londoners aren't afraid of the drizzle), figuring out the physics of double-deckers. and picturing Dickensian characters. And that's when I felt like a character from a book myself. Isn't this the point of tourism - to lose yourself in the city, to become someone else for a while, to see the people around through a new pair of glasses, to drink that love potion that gets you high. And that's how I felt walking along a friend - high.
Last weekend I paid a visit to one of my most favorite cities again - Berlin. With a much more cultural program this time ..., well, ok, with about 3 hours more of culture time this time around, I saw the city from above and the city from the past. The marvel of the Bundestag is there, certainly. I think I was more fascinated by the technology (you know, those audio guides which are smart enough to know where exactly along the long spiral you are), or by the architectural ingenuity (the mirrors adjust their position according to the position of the sun in order to reduce glare and at the same time to make sure that the German decision-makers get enough light not to strain their eyes). The Saturday was cold, light was diffused and every step along the long spiral felt like a new needle pressing in on my lungs. The cold doesn't last, however - it is only psychological - the vapours coming out of my mouth are the serpentiles that feed my visual system with signals that my brain primitively misappropriates. The texture of the streets that still remember the heaviness of tanks and the lightheartedness of freedom. The fresh smell of the ice crystals in the air raise the bar - the expectations and preparation for the stale smell of the old buildings - the smell that has permeated the walls and the pain for half a century of conversations about and against ... walls. And the hugs - because no matter where you are, they always mean the same - "thank you"!