I can’t say I was terribly taken with Berlin. Of course, I’m willing to acknowledge my extreme tiredness by the time I arrived there, coupled with my distress about the laptop death, and it’s perfectly plausible that I am just associating Berlin with these feelings now. Also, I didn’t actually see much other than, erm, the airport. However, I did think that the people I encountered were a little… abrupt. They weren’t exactly rude, but I didn’t feel very welcome, as a foreigner – the opposite of how I’ve felt in Estonia and France.
In Estonia, most people speak English to some extent, and are happy to do so. In France, fewer people speak English, but they appreciate you making the effort to speak their language, and are very pleasant, patient and helpful as you stumble around in your faded memories of auxiliary verbs and the imperfect tense. Conversations take much longer, and can be quite embarrassing, but all my exchanges thus far have been friendly and punctuated with jokes and smiles. In Germany, I felt a bit stupid and snubbed every time I tried to ask for help or directions. Sad and weary, I finally retreated to a quiet corner of the airport and sat down to read my book.
An elderly gentleman approached with his luggage, indicating the space beside me and asking something in German. I nodded politely, indicating that the seat was free, and he sat down, arranging at his feet two battered leather bags and, quite inexplicably, a tightly sealed crate of bananas. I continued to read. The man fidgeted for quite a while, and then said something else, clearly hoping to have a conversation. This was impossible, because of my tiredness and the fact that I didn’t have a clue what he was saying. Ich spreche kein deutsch I said haltingly, shaking my head with an apologetic smile. He rolled his eyes and gave an annoyed grunt, muttering something under his breath. I chose to ignore this, and continued to read.
Eventually, he got up and just sort of shuffled off out of sight, leaving his luggage behind. I eyed the crate of bananas somewhat suspiciously, and decided to take advantage of his absence to move to a free bench at the other side of the lounge, where, exhausted, I curled up underneath my coat and tried to get some sleep.
I woke up to find myself staring at a gun.
This was a little unexpected. I blinked several times as I emerged from my doze, and let my eyes travel upwards to take in the uniform and face of the gun-wearer: an airport policeman who had apparently been told that I was seen talking to the Possible Terrorist who had abandoned his banana crate/box of explosives. Good grief. More than a little nervous, I explained my non-involvement, feeling the disapproval in his voice and expression, and hoping that he wasn’t going to arrest me. He looked at me with what I can only describe as a sneer, and nodded tersely before turning and walking away to deal with the bananas. Sleep was impossible from then on.
And that was Berlin. It was… an experience.
I note from my blog stats that I have some readers in Germany. I wish to make it clear that I have nothing against Germans – especially the ones who read my blog! Please don’t hate me. I’m simply reporting an experience. For all I know, they thought I was the rude one…