After work this evening I went for a bit of a walk – the original intention had been to find a Japanese restaurant I’ve eaten at before, but discovering a number of roadworks in my way, and a gorgeous bridge over the river appearing around a street corner, I thought “what the hell”.
I’ve been to the other side of the river before. It’s lined with various museums – the biggest is showcasing a huge Kunst exhibition at the moment. A little further along the river, another celebrates German cinema, and even further along you can find both art and design exhibitions. I’ve never set foot in any of them.
I called home while wandering the tree lined avenue alongside the river, and tried to catch up with my daughters – one was asleep, one was outside with friends, and the other was too busy to talk. Wonderful.
Finally I picked my way along the Schweizer Strasse (the Swiss Road), which is lined with bakeries, restaurants, and numerous street-side cafes. After a little while I came upon a tree lined road junction, and spied a small restaurant called “Bareburger” – moments later a waitress had met my gaze, and beckoned me in.
Afterwards I picked a small table in the corner of the outdoor seating area – the weather has been wonderful, so it seemed only natural to sit outside. What I didn’t think about was people smoking. Back at home, smoking is banned in all public areas – if people want to smoke in a restaurant they basically have to go stand in the street outside. Not true in Germany. I wouldn’t say my meal was ruined, but my clothes now smell of smoke – and I have no easy way of washing them unless I pay the hotel.
Thankfully the food was wonderful. I ordered a wheat beer, and a burger that appeared to be one step up from the “standard” burger and fries. The mountainous burger, sweet potato fries, and onion rings that came out would probably have fed two people quite easily – and it tasted amazing (helped no doubt by me being really very hungry indeed – it turns out software development is hungry work).
I paid the waitress, left a tip, and uncomfortably started the journey back across the city – taking photos of the now dark skies, and glittering lights as I went. Crossing back over the river, I met several people doing the same – stopping every so often to take photos of the river, and city surrounding us.
Wandering back along the street to the hotel, I passed a huge gathering on the pavement – people congregating outside what appeared to be an off-license, drinking beer from bottles and cans. I wondered if this is some kind of loophole in the law over here – that people are allowed to drink on the street, and a shop selling beer is therefore not hit with the same business rates as a cafe, bar, or restaurant. I’m still not sure why. There must have been fifty or sixty people standing around – laughing, joking, and telling the stories of their day to each other. It made me feel somewhat lonely as I quietly made my way through them.
Back at the hotel I let myself in the front door, and said hello to the concierge. He seems to work every evening, and is very neat and tidy – perhaps sixty years old, with a shock of grey hair, and a gaunt but friendly face. I say hello every time I enter or leave the building, and he now smiles when I appear – greeting me in return.
So. Here I am. Back in the room. One more day, one more night, and then I get back on a plane to return home once more. One more day to pretend to be clever without being found out. Let’s see if I can make it in one piece.