November 9th marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I will be going. I will be drinking to it and to my own Cold War childhood. The fall of the Berlin wall had profound meaning to me as a uber-politicized teen who raged through the Reagan years, plagued by nightmares of nuclear winters.
I’m learning German from mp3s– something my teen self would have marveled at; I didn’t even have a computer. My many visits to Germany have been complex emotionally– as if I’ve arrived there suddenly and not by choice. Like a misguided time traveler, I seem to end up there a lot. My Grandmother could speak German, but I never asked her why (family stories of a mysterious German man are unconfirmed). My uncle, a war veteran, only shared with me once his horrific story of survival at sea during WWII. He could speak German, too, and do a hilarious imitation of Hitler which employed the use of a black comb for a mustache. I asked him to do that a lot, but I never asked him why he knew German.
The Turkish grocer on the corner near me speaks to me in German and I have to remind him, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch.” Then he laughs and confesses he misses speaking it. I miss it too, in that lost-time-traveler way, language as a past once removed. All the people in my family who once spoke German are now dead and I never practiced with them.
I’m trying out key phrases: Ich nehme ein shwartz bier. Ich mochte ein rauchbeir, bitte. Haben sie ein Berliner Weisse? Have I got it right? Not sure.
Ron, of Shut up about Barclay Perkins, has written fascinatingly about the place on his blog. He’s given me many tips and I look forward to plotting with his pub guide. I hear the beer isn’t that great, real Berliner Weiss being a thing of the past. But if anyone’s been and has any suggestions I’m all ears!