I was content with today around 2 in the afternoon. No, it wasn’t just sleeping in and having a buffet breakfast: I climbed over and took off a chunk of what remains of one of the Berlin Walls. Along a series of murals that beautify the longest remaining stretch known as the East Side Gallery, I boosted myself above a gate built into the wall, sat on top, and climbed over, a task now trivial but deadly not so many years ago. Testimony to the triumph of capitalism that’s as full of irony as kitsch: a hole in the wall is filled by the East Side Gallery Store. Consumerism = new barrier to people being free? And so much harder to take a hammer to…
Wandering through the Tiergarten, Britian’s equivalent of New York City’s Central Park, leads to quite a few sightings of animals of the genus Fat Ugly Nudists. We’d be walking a path through the woods, come upon a sunny meadow, and bam: half of my field of vision is occupied by people who need hit with a full-body liposuction. We’re talking mostly middle-aged men, probably captains of industry who, when wearing anything at all, sport ties and Rolexes. I bet they bring their nudism to their corner offices when the door’s locked and nobody’s looking; how can you limit nakedness to just a certain city park? Maybe Berlin needs to break entirely free, shedding the clothes from city streets and attractive women…
You don’t know awkward until you try meeting up with a distant relative, unannounced, who doesn’t speak your language and apparently isn’t too fond of being part of your family. This was my interaction with Gunter, who’s the dad of an uncle’s third wife if that makes any sense. Motivated by equal parts sense of familial duty, nagging from my mom, and desire for a free meal, I stopped by Gunter’s bar / restaurant on my way out of Berlin. The resulting few minutes was mostly me explaining the nature of our relation and him looking at me like I was a scam artist with skills far below par. After finally understanding that I was in some way related to his daughter’s new husband and several silences too tense to be considered merely awkward, Gunter looked at me over his reading glasses and asked “Do you want a beer?” with a stare that screamed “I’m definitely going to charge you for it.” I declined, commented that his bar was a nice place (“This? Ugh. Why?”), and said that we, with Riad being the poor soul to witness this “familial” weirdness, had better get going. He says goodbye with a “give my regards to Philip,” the audience of his buddies / the bar’s inhabitants stop staring at me, and he’s back to bullshitting with the other grumpy Germans before I’m out the door.
Our new intelligent mobility: Mikey. Named after a would-be cotraveler who got stuck with a real job instead, Mikey’s a Amart Car who we rented for the grand sum of 11 euros ($13) a day. Since his company just bought him, he came with all of 60-odd kilometres, meaning we were possibly the first renters. We fixed his inexperience right away, adding 400 kilometers by getting lost between Berlin and Prague. We broke the rental agreement by bringing Mikey into the Czech Republic, but he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, his spaceship-styled interior and odd manualmatic shifting seemed quite pleased with the journey. Even though we left Berlin around midnight, it took us until 6 in the morning to finally arrive in Prague. After an attempt to sleep downtown on a patch of grass entombed in my mummy sleeping bag was aborted due to excessive animal excrement odor and general discomfort, I settled for an awkward sleeping position without the smell in the too-small driver’s seat, sleeping after the sun’s awake.