The next day was the last we would spend in Berlin. It had been a short, rather tiring, but nevertheless fun trip. Mom and I were both excited to be going back to Edinburgh though, but we didn’t say as much to Peter. Shhh. (Now that this is about to go public, I could change this bit, but I won’t. Sorry, Peter! <3) Checkout for the flat wasn’t until noon but we weren’t going to wait around all morning until then to start the day, and we certainly weren’t going to go out that morning only to come back some few hours later to get our stuff. So we were up early to pack and tidy up the flat a bit before catching the U-bahn to Peter’s.
Both of us knew the night before that this morning was going to, well, be a bit of a trial. Remember, there is no elevator in Peter’s apartment building, and he’s on the top floor. I mean, we did leave our biggest suitcase back at Maya’s place but we still had bulging backpacks and a decent sized carry-on bag to lug up all those stairs. I may be wrong, but writing that sentence may be the first moment I’ve realized that’s why we call it luggage. I digress. Either way, we still had a lot of heavy shit to carry up a lot of stairs.
A fine layer of sweat had formed over most of my face and gathered along my hairline by the time we reached the top. I, being the strong young one, got to carry the suitcase up. I lifted a trembling arm to knock on the door. I was slightly bent over to try and displace the weight pulling on my shoulders. It took a few seconds for the door to open but once it did Mom and I wobbled into the apartment and immediately slipped our packs from our backs.
We all but dragged our things into Peter’s room to store them while we were out for the day. From there we staggered to the kitchen for a sit and a much needed glass of water. Peter continued to get ready while we hydrated and regained normal oxygen levels, feeling the sweat cool on our brows. I was half lying when Peter asked if we were ready to go and I said yes. But he was taking us to a vegan-friendly buffet place. And food also sounded pretty good.
We descended the stairs to the U-bahn once more and traveled a few stops before climbing back to the street level. From there it was only a few minutes walk. The restaurant hadn’t quite opened when we arrived so we joined the crowd already milling about outside. Luckily it was rather warm outside, and the sun was shining so we didn’t much mind the wait. Well, I didn’t, but Mom was feeling pretty hungry. Once the doors were opened, we grabbed a table in the front corner of the room where Peter and I left Mom to go join the line for food. I’m not sure why we let Mom be the one to hold the table since she was likely the hungriest of all of us.
Anyway, Peter and I order drinks for the three of us and waited patiently as the line inched forward, bringing us closer to a spread of bowls, plates and baskets of many tasty looking items. It may seem silly to someone with a broader dietary intake but when I’m at a place where I can eat more than two things of the menu I get really excited, like, maybe irrationally so. At that little buffet in Berlin, the number of things I could eat outnumbered the things I couldn’t. And every single one of them was delicious.
Once we had our food, Peter and I hurried back to the table so Mom could go and get her plateful of food. We didn’t dig in right away. We tried to do the polite thing and wait for Mom to get back. I did nibble one or two things I had been curious about though. I passed the time by blowing on my tea and watching people pass by outside. Peter and I didn’t say much, both I think still needing to wake up a bit. Mom returned at last and breakfast properly began.
We all spent the first few bites uttering lots of “Mmm”s and “Ooh”s and the occasional “This is really good” which would always prompt the other two to sample whatever it was, whether it was on their plate or not. Around half way through the first plate, actual conversation started, punctuated by chewing and one or two trips back for seconds. It’s been too long now for me to recall in any detail what we talked about but I do remember that it was very good conversation, the kind that teaches you about yourself and the people you were with; the kind that gave me plenty to think about later on.
When we were all full up, we cleaned up our table and went to pay. This place was pretty cool since you pay what you think is fair or whatever you can spare. It’s nice because if you are a little short on cash you can still get a meal for a couple bucks and hopefully, in the future, you’ll pay it forward when you can. Anyway, after we were all paid up, we left the restaurant and walked to the nearest tram station. From there we rode through a few stops before getting off to traverse the streets on foot once more.
Since we didn’t have much time that day before we needed to head to the airport, we didn’t have anything planned except to check out this massive flea market which could take as little or as much time as we wanted. And boy, was it massive. I’ve been to flea markets before, both indoor and outdoor. And I thought I had seen big ones but this one in Berlin seemed to just keep sprawling, lining walkways and going around corners, branching into completely separate sections. There was no way I saw everything.
We passed stalls selling handmade bags and wallets, stalls with creative assortments of shirts and scarves and hats. There were food vendors and jewelry vendors, racks and racks of eclectic clothing and tables filled with rows of shoes. We walked through a pavilion with trays of dishes and glassware set up in lines underneath the pointed roof. We stopped to admire the wares in a few shops but all we ended up buying were a collection of postcards with various images from around Berlin.
Going to this flea market gave me some perspective. It made me realize just how much junk we have created over our time on earth. Humans, I mean. There were things ranging from old to new at this market but either way, it was all going to be around for the next however many years. It’s insane. And this was just one flea market in Berlin, and Berlin is just one city in one country in one continent. It worries me and makes me a little sad. Someone could surely reuse a lot of that stuff but a lot of it will always be junk.
Bringing the mood back up, when we had finished browsing the flea market we ducked through the crowd and took an exit along a wall that divided the flea market from a park. It was a long greenbelt full of people walking, playing frisbee, playing with their dogs or just lounging in the sun. The three of us took our time walking towards a rectangular space of gravel, dotted with trees and line with a low cement wall. At the far end, the wall was covered with people sitting and watching a man sing and play acoustic guitar.
Mom, Peter and I walked around to the very end of the plaza and found an open spot on the wall to sit and watch. The guy was wearing an un-tucked, red plaid shirt with baggy blue jeans and had a sizable poof of black hair. He finished up a song just after we all sat down. The crowd applauded and he thanked them before he singled out a couple of guys sitting near us and asked one where he was from. They had a brief back and forth, the singer making a joke or two before he began another song.
The guy was very funny and had a really nice voice. We stayed until the end of the set, and when he had finished Mom and I went up to give him a tip and buy one of his CDs, which he signed for me. With another souvenir in hand, we wandered away from that end of the plaza towards the other where a full band had set up and was just about to start playing. I noticed instantly that they had a female bass player so I snapped a picture to show David when I got home.
We stayed in the park, enjoying the sunshine and listening to the music as long as we could. But soon it was time for us to head back to Peter’s to collect our things and set out for the airport. It still wasn’t much fun, but carrying the bags down the stairs wasn’t as bad as it had been carrying them up the stairs. This time Mom didn’t even bother going all the way back to the top. She sent Peter and I up for everything while she waited below.
Peter went with us as far as the bahnhof that would put us on the S-bahn back to the airport. In Edinburgh our goodbye had been a short one, but this time we wouldn’t be seeing Peter again until he came home for Christmas. Mom and I each gave him a good hug and thanked him for the wonderful time before climbing onto the train.
I waddled down the aisle, our bag stuck between my legs, looking for a seat. I took one next to a girl about my age while Mom took one across the way from me. It was a tight fit with no where to really put your luggage besides your lap, but I managed to get comfortable enough for the short jaunt out of the city. The day so far had been very enjoyable but what we didn’t know was that the end of the train ride would be the end of the fun times, too.
Mom and I and several other people exited the train when it stopped at the airport. I recognized the platform; it was the same one we had left from. We descended the stairs before climbing back up the long, sloping ramp and following the gently curving sidewalk to the terminal. Our first pass through this building on our arrival had been short, and I had been oblivious to its very poor layout. We spent a minute or two looking around, past crowds of milling people, trying to find where the check in counter was.
Eventually we joined a long, very poorly queued lined of people, thinking only a line this long would be for something like check in. After a while, however, it got back to us that what we were actually in was the line for security. We weren’t cutting it that close to our flight time, but a giant clusterfuck of a security line still doesn’t instill much confidence for an on time departure. So we fought our way through the crowd, around the corner and over to the actual check in line.
There weren’t actually many people in this line. Probably because most of them were still stuck in the security line thinking they were in the check in line. So we got our bag checked fairly quickly and then had the joy of going back to the giant clusterfuck of a security line. By this time though it had made it out of the rather bottlenecked section it had been in before. But there was still a lot of line to go and it didn’t seem to be moving very fast.
Inch by inch we shuffled forward. I spent most of the time shifting anxiously from foot to foot. I noticed after a while that some people were being let to the front of the line, and I gathered it was because their flights were leaving very soon. When my nerves finally got the better of me I went over to inform the attendant when our flight left and if we should be cutting to the front. She told me if it came within a half hour of departure that I should say something. So I turned and went back to Mom, not feeling any better about our position.
At last we did make it through security only to be held up again before we even left the metal detectors behind. My laptop, for whatever reason, was taken aside into a nearby room and wiped down and scanned for alien technology or something. I was getting so nervous by that point that I was having even more trouble understanding the questions I was asked with a German accent. The security officers finished their tests and I got my laptop back, and from their we were back to rushing to the gate. The Berlin airport isn’t that big but a place always feels bigger when you’ve never been there and don’t know where you’re going and all your neurons are slowly frying under stress.
After a few minutes of following signs and turning corner after corner and briskly walking past slow people and kind of hoping you accidentally-on-purpose hit them with your roller bag to teach them a lesson for being slow and in your way, we made it to the immigration booth. I went up first and was checked through no problem. I walked through the doorway and stepped aside to wait for Mom. And waited. And waited. And wai—Mom! Did you get sucked into an alternate dimension? Where are you?
At last she appeared in the doorway and told me, when I commented on the length of time, that she had gotten the newbie that took his sweet time just figuring how to open her passport. Frustrating as that might be, we had made it through the worst. Our gate was only a few short feet away. Sure, we may have to go straight from sprinting through the airport to being squished into a plane but we made it! And that’s what matters.
To our annoyance, though, the plane had not even made it to the gate by the time we arrived. Really, plane? Really? Talk about the biggest, yet most irritated, sighs of relief. I only felt like a bit of an idiot for obviously being the only person who had half sprinted all the way down to the gate. I was still too irked at the airline to care much, so Mom and I stomped off (at a much slower pace) to find a place to sit and let the sweat dry.
I was comforted by the fact the plane did show up only a few minutes after we busted through the door. Once on board, Mom and I turned our thoughts to the substance to cure all ills. Yes, I’m talking about booze. We had 20 Euro left from our stay so we did what any fiscally responsible travelers would do: we pulled out the food and beverage menu, and order just the right combination of items to spend our 20 Euro. Two gin and tonics, two bags of pretzels, and a pastry trio later, we were both buzzed and laughing about what a great story this will make later (and see how right we were?).
Once we landed in Glasgow, we made our way out to the street where we caught a bus to the train station. We boarded with no problem and sat back to relax for the journey back to Edinburgh. We stopped at the station shop in Edinburgh to pick up something for dinner before catching the bus back to the flat. There was no food there and no energy in us to cook anyway.
Maya and Malc, true to their word, had placed our bag back in our room. We tossed our carry on and back packs into the room so we could sit in the kitchen and eat our dinner. The meal wasn’t much, but at this point we were both more tired than hungry and having something in our bellies was better then naught. Once fed, we prepared ourselves for bed and promptly fell asleep.