“Germany unnerves me,” I tell him, “but this is Berlin. Berlin’s different.”
“Are you sure about that?” he asks.
“Let me show you,” I say, before taking him to the places I witnessed by myself from the close quarters of a sightseeing van. There’s the sculpture garden near graffiti-splattered tenements that were home to many of the city’s pre-war Jews. And the silver-and-gold dome of Berlin’s rebuilt Neue Synagogue, shining like a luminous pearl in the night sky. And a series of shops and sidewalk cafés that lines the interior of a courtyard once occupied by Jewish laborers, who lived just steps above the textile and paper mills where they worked.
“It’s so alive,” my friend observes, as we wander through the Hof, where young and old are sipping double espressos or slaking their thirsts with pints of local beer. “That’s what I like . . . all these people.”
I realize then how much I’ve grown to care for this small, eccentric man whose company I’ve kept for a few short days.
Berlinerstrasse . . .
flowering linden trees fill
the night air