It was the last night of a solo 8-day trip to Germany, and I was happy to be in my favorite city, Berlin. I had been storing a restaurant recommendation from sla019 in my head since June 2018, and this was the night to pull the trigger. My lovely B&B owner, Sabine, had made a reservation for me at the early hour of 17:00 so I would have plenty of time to make it to Brandenburg Gate by 19:00 to see part of the MarkK-recommended Berlin Festival of Lights.
It was a beautiful afternoon, so I decided to arrive at the restaurant by foot, taking a 30-minute walk. The jaunt took me down a street in Berlin I had previously taken in the morning a couple of years ago, and it seemed like a pretty typical street. As I walked down the street this day, a lady made eye contact and started talking.
Lady: [German, German, German]
Me: Ich spreche kein Deutsch.
Lady (calling my bluff a bit): Sie sprechen kein Deutsch? Welche Sprache sprechen Sie?
Me: Ich spreche Englisch
Lady: I speak English, too! (Pause). Would you like me make you very, very happy?
Well… I guess she didn’t say she spoke English well. Also… I suppose the short, bright red hair should have tipped me off, but, in my defense, I’m pretty naïve with respect to such things.
Me (smiling brightly because I wasn’t sure what else to do): No, thank you.
She walked away, and I started walking toward my destination again. In about 100 feet, another woman makes eye contact, smiles, and starts speaking in German. I throw a good solid “Nein!” her way and keep walking. A lady who watched that interaction and who, frankly, was much more attractive than the other two women, smiled and started moving toward me while saying something in German (apparently feeling she would be more successful?). I gave another curt “Nein!” and kept walking. In 50 feet, I saw a woman who was leaning against a building catch sight of me and start moving in my direction. I picked up my pace, deviated my path to move away from her, avoided eye contact, and ignored the German that came from her mouth. I reach the end of the street, passing a sex shop on the right (Figures!). I turn left onto Potsdamer Straße, leaving the Street o’ Propositions behind me.
Later reflection on this series of events left me with one big question… Was that one of those highly-regarded “local experiences” that everybody says they want to have?
The primary impetus for the trip was to catch the 30th anniversary of the Oct 9, 1989 Monday Demonstration in Leipzig. That demonstration drew 70,000 people and was secretly videotaped from the bell tower of Leipzig’s Reformed Church. The video was smuggled to West Berlin, where it was broadcast to East and West Germany, prompting additional Monday Demonstrations to pop up throughout East Germany. The Demonstration was preceded by Monday Prayers for Peace at Nikolaikirche, which had been happening since 1984.
The remembrance of the event included a Prayers for Peace service at Nikolaikirche. Dignitaries filled the church; chumps like me joined the crowd outside the church and watched the service on a screen. The streets around the church were jam-packed for the service. One guy tried to walk through the crowd holding an old DDR flag above his head; he was turned away by police. The service was excellent; it was moving to be a part of it. A light ceremony that I did not completely understand followed the prayer service; it was on Augustplatz. The ceremony involved real candles. A kid dropped one and started a significant fire that had to be stomped out by bystanders.