October 20 – I write to you this week from Berlin, Germany, a city which I once called home from 1981 to 1993. They were the happiest twelve years of my life, played out against the background …
October 20 – I write to you this week from Berlin, Germany, a city which I once called home from 1981 to 1993. They were the happiest twelve years of my life, played out against the background of a divided, walled-in, trashed city. All that division and seclusion came to a crashing halt with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989 and the reunification of the city and the two Germanys the following year. Right now Berlin continues in its hundred-year long project of recreating itself as a European capital after the debacles of the last century. This is no small undertaking. The number of cranes in the center of the city has decreased considerably; the completely-rebuilt Berlin “Schloss” (royal castle) stands, compact, high and mighty in muted golds, over the sparkling Spree River. The castle is a metaphor for the miracle of resurrected Berlin risen from ashes. And beyond it, new and spacious green spaces have opened up over former fields of rubble. Right now, around most of the squares and along the Spree, trees are hitting maximum color, shimmering gold and orange in the late afternoon sun. Tourists and inhabitants are delighted.
While here, and as a restauranteur myself, I was curious to see if food has improved in Berlin. It has! Back in the day, when I first moved here as a student in the early 1980’s, food in general in the then walled-in enclave of West Berlin was atrocious. Everything was old, wilted, stale (except the excellent bread and the curry wursts). I remember once going out for Chinese food and discovering most everything colorful on the plate had been dumped out of a can into a pot and heated for a time in hopes of concocting some kind of ‘sauce’ for the noodles over which this potage was eventually dumped. Since arriving here on this trip, I have eaten a different country’s cuisine every single evening. Indian/Pakistani, Moroccan, Georgian, Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese. Most of the ingredients are fresh and tasty, and the cost for even a large dinner with multiple courses comes in at about two-thirds of what one might pay in New York (a large Moroccan dinner of lamb with couscous following a simply delicious dish of fresh hummus and olives plus a drink cost me all of $18). So, whilst in the German capital, I have visited six different nations culinarily in my first six days here! A pretty amazing transformation from earlier times … I’m home again soon in Smallwood but I can say, for the moment, I am one very happy man visiting and glorying in the center of what suddenly feels like a new center of the Western world.
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