Friday, October 16, 2015

Day 64: East Side Gallery 2 and Shopping

Chris is not feeling up to going into the office today. But, I had already gotten up and dressed for our walk before I found this out. Well, I'm already prepared to walk, I might as well go anyway. I decided to head for the East Side Gallery to see if I could find "The Fraternal Kiss" that I missed out on before. I leave after breakfast with the family.

As I'm running through town, I look into a store and see umbrellas at the entrance. People have left them on the welcome mat just inside the store, presumably to keep them from dripping all over the store. I think to myself, would this happen in any big city in the U.S.? I think about my own mistrust of other people and how I'm reading about car thefts in our neighbourhood (via a neighbourhood online community feed I subscribe to). I don't think I could ever leave my umbrella at the door. I'd be afraid it would get stolen. Here, they just leave them at the door.

I realise people in Berlin still lock up their bikes. But, these umbrellas on the floor seem to symbolise something else to me. The Berliner's optimism. It's not something I have discussed or read about, just something I feel while I've been here. A vibe.

All these mornings I walk through the city, I feel safe. There are plenty of worker crews I walk by. And, perhaps, if you aren't a woman you can't understand this. But if I were in the U.S. walking by a bunch of men sitting around, I'd feel "on alert". I be wary of my surroundings, other people around, and consciously thinking about what I would do if approached. Not once have I felt leered at. Not once have I heard any cat-calls. And before you think, "She's a 44 year old blah blah," (believe me, I thought that too) I have seen plenty of young-pretty women walking by on their way to work, and they too walk without being objectified. It's a freeing feeling.

I sidetracked. My point is that the feeling I get in Berlin is a feeling of optimism. Not disillusionment that the world is perfect, but that we're going to be alright. Anyway, this is what went through my head as I see people trusting that their umbrellas are going to be there when they leave the store.

Wet sidewalks (left), TV Tower (middle), River walk (right)
Well, something else I'm feeling as I jog along the streets... wet. It's raining. I'm wearing, what I thought was waterproof, but seems to only be water resistant and the rain is starting to seep through to my lower layers. My shoes allow the puddles' splashes in and my toes are slushing in my wet socks. I must avoid the larger puddles and mud.

I also pass by a few Buddy Bears. I miss my own buddies for these photos, but I take them anyway, for posterity.

Buddy Bears near the Furnsehturm (TV Tower)

Ok, back to the subject of bicycles. There are renting stations all over town. Many are for visitors and offer guided tours with them. However, there are also many self-help renting areas. You put in your money and you rent a bicycle. I haven't investigated much more than this. But these self-renting stations are readily available if you need a bicycle and don't own one.

The renting station is the red sign at the
back of the row of bicycles.

I finally make it to the East Side Gallery. There are lots of people touring about, even in the rain (although, by the time I arrive, it's not really raining anymore). I get to see the small portion of the wall we skipped the other day. I get to see "The Fraternal Kiss"! Mission complete. And bonus, I take a photo of the Japanese mural, "Detour to the Japanese Sector", I didn't capture the other day and I saw the "New York, BerlYn, TokYo" mural as well (a popular one on many postcards and t-shirts). Most of the viewers moved on and I was able to take my photos. But "The Fraternal Kiss" definitely had the most crowds and it was hard to get a photo with no one standing in front of it. EVERYONE wanted their photo in front of this one. I even took a photo of a couple for them, who then offered to take my photo (I declined). Definitely the most popular mural here.

I've been gone an hour, which I had anticipated. I brought along my Bahn ticket so I could ride home. I caught an M10 tram, which I see everyday on my morning walks, so I know it'll get me close to home... after 16 stops! It's about a 25 minute ride! But, I get to sit and look out the window, which is nice.

In the photo to the right, you can see how one sits when sharing facing seats. Curl those toes in so as not to touch toes with a stranger!

After lunch, I take Venice to the Galleria at Alexanderplatz to find socks. Now that she owns boots, she needs socks (she didn't bring but two pairs of socks since she wears flip-flops most of the time). As we came up from the Bahn station, we saw a lot of people looking up. So, of course, we look up. But we don't really see anything. Just some cranes at the top of a building that seems to be pulling an empty rig up to the top. Why is everyone looking up? Why are we looking up? And now, are others looking up because they see us looking up and it is a phenomenon that will go one forever? All of us looking up but not knowing why we're all looking up?

And then we see it. There are people up on the ledge, well above a sign that says, "Kuck mal Alex, ich kann fliegen!" (Take a look Alex, I can fly!) They are getting hooked up to the "rig". And... they're jumping! They free fall 35 floors (about what we counted) to the roof of the shopping centre below. Incredible! I was able to capture it in a photo (see below) but I thought I was taking video. Dang it! I'm bummed. Would there be another? Could I capture it on video? We waited awhile, but no movement. From below, you can't see anything that's happening up top, so there's no way to know if someone is about to jump or if everyone went to lunch and you're just staring at a building. We decided it was too cold to continue waiting, so we went into the Galleria to hunt for socks.

Side note: I have to say, I was thrilled and appalled by the jumper. Thrilled for obvious reasons, but the visual (I think mostly because the jumper was silhouetted on what looks like an office building)... brought flashbacks of images of 9-11. I don't know what else to say here other than it was a mixture of feelings and thoughts.

Socks. We're looking for socks. We found them! Venice asked to take a photo of one wall of painted socks that reminded her of Granny (who loves to wear fun-decorated socks).

But, we can't find wool socks or winter socks. Everything seems to be cotton. Well, cotton socks will have to do and maybe we can find warmer, wool socks at a specialty store another day.

As we are heading back down, we see a Halloween section, near the toy section. We've been asked if the Germans celebrate Halloween. We still don't know the extent of the answer to that question. For the most part, there are NO signs of Halloween anywhere. This display is only the second of such displays I've seen. Like the other one I saw, it seems to be small in comparison to what we see in the U.S. And this particular set of Halloween items seems to lean heavily to the scary and gore (think Zombies or witches) and very little "cute" or "fun" items or costumes (no cute bears or kitties).

However, Christmas stuff is already showing up! Chris hears that the Christmas season is serious business here too. His coworkers talk about it being less about "lots of gifts" and more about the season (although, the department stores seem to be wanting it to be about gifts?)

One of two Halloween displays I've seen thus far (left)
Venice wonders, "Why?" at the Christmas tree (right)
Before we leave, we look for Ricola for Chris (he texted asking for some throat drops). We find a small box (so we buy two) at the checkout lines. Then, because she missed it yesterday, we stop at Venice's favourite Bubble Tea place (ComeBuy).

The family heads to Ha'an Sushi (our third time, but Chris' first time) for dinner.

It's no longer raining, but has that fresh, crisp feeling that comes after a fall rain. A nice end to the week.

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