Last Valentine’s Day, in Berlin

Last year on Valentine’s Day we left Berlin by train in the late morning, and though we had great weather our time there, that Sunday it was gray and wet (like how you’d picture Berlin in mid-February), but it made for good photos with the thin fog and overall feeling of gloom I imagined. It took several hours for the train to make its way back to my mom’s small village where we were staying, having returned from three months in the UK. On the train I would have gone to the bistro car for a beer and a hot sausage; Dawn and I would have read, dozed, looked out the windows and gathered our ticket for the conductor. And when we got into Besigheim it was dark but felt like home, and the kids coordinated a Valentine’s dinner with my mom, but something had gone awry and mom clearly needed time to herself in the kitchen with a glass of wine. And we settled in for multiple courses, starting with Sekt and the Bufala mozzarella from Italy, with tomatoes and fresh basil…and though we had a full nine months in Europe, a real indulgence, we could see its end with just a couple months left and many weekends accounted for with visitors or trips we’d already planned.

I got out in the mornings for walks and started driving every day to a trail head near the Häckselplatz and each time listened to the same CD. I tried different routes but always spent a good couple hours along some ridge lines and farms, in and out of the woods, imagining what I’d do when we got back, but still trying to be present, there.

My grandmother had a massive stroke and it was unclear if or when she’d recover, so I flew into Newark and the first thing I saw in the airport was a flat screen by Customs with Donald Trump on it, in the news. My dad met me and we drove the hour and a half back to my home town; we went to the local diner where he and my step mom go, and I slept on a blowup mattress in the basement where dad practices his putting, and they turned up the heat for me and I lay down there with my laptop, the old familiar patterns of friends and bloggers, in foreign places, and strange the States would feel that way, I’d never been away so long before, I didn’t feel American anymore or European, but somewhere in the middle.

When I flew back, Dawn met me in Frankfurt and in a couple hours we were home again in Besigheim, and I went back to the trails, and the birds and buds were coming out, and soon Eberhard and I would be going to the spring beer festival in Stuttgart, and Dawn and I, celebrating our wedding anniversary in Vienna.

I thought of it all out with Ginger this morning on our walk around our neighborhood, remembering the times I tried to learn German listening to audio tapes on an iPod shuffle, how the light was the same, this time of year: but how gray and dense it was a year ago today, leaving Berlin.

Bertolt Brecht, Berlin '16

Bertolt Brecht, Berlin ’16

Categories: travel

Tags: , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. So beautiful. What a journey. Sending you thoughts of light, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey that’s lovely thank you, and may the surface of my device here reflect back on you the same, with warmth…despite its “deviceness.” Cheers, Bill


  2. Your writing is so interesting, like Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness fiction in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. It feels comfortable. I like how you describe not feeling American or European but something in between. Only been abroad once but dream about an extended stay in Europe someday.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the idea of learning German on an iPod Shuffle. You jump from simple vocabulary to advanced verb conjugations and back again. Then maybe to a Kraftwerk song.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. all of your memories of your time spent in europe evoke such an other-world feel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool you think that Beth, they sure do to me and that’s what I’m going for. Happy you’ve been along for the ride and blog so long now, thanks… things develop a patina with age and distance I think, that “patina” is the feel I try to evoke. Glad you noted it. Bill


  5. Valentine’s Day in Berlin – not most people’s first choice of romantic venue, but you made it sound like the right place to be, at least from a writer’s perspective!
    How long did it take to feel fully American again after your return? And do you find yourself slipping back to that feeling if you meet Europeans now? It’s an interesting and fluid identity you’ve created for yourself and it clearly helps you write

    Liked by 1 person

    • You asked about the American identity thing: probably took a good couple months to flip back to that, maybe longer. I itch to go back now, but we’re settling into a really good lifestyle here. Sadly we don’t meet a bunch of Europeans. I am really happy though the people I work with are mostly from outside the States. I love hearing French spoken at the office, for example. I’d love hearing French spoken anywhere.

      Liked by 1 person

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