This is (if I remember correctly) the first night I slept the WHOLE night without waking up at all; morning came gradually, a dim light through the drawn yet translucent curtains. Temperature was perfect & I probably could have slept longer except for the call of nature & the siren’s call of morning kaffee. Which we didn’t know how we would get, as we hadn’t really seen the coffee set up.
The set up was professional; a pro grade Italian machine, the kind that takes an apprenticeship & lots of practice to master. Fortunately, Nu, our host, offered to make us each a coffee (#FTW) & we savored each & every sip as we stood around the island in her kitchen, getting a chance to get to know a bit about her. She & her husband are professionals who are doing a few ‘start-up’ businesses including solar, Air Bnb, & a couple more I didn’t catch; one of her aspirations is to open her own coffee shop featuring the coffee of her homeland, VietNam. She wants to use the proceeds to support the women of a couple remote Vietnamese villages, much the same way we (& Hillside) support the women of Compassion First. She described the different hand-made goods they create for sale, from handkerchiefs to shawls to scarfs to… who knows what else. She described herself as ‘Christian” & when she found out we are pastors, she said, “My mom would be so happy that you are in my home. She is VERY Christian.”
We connected via text with Alex; he’s working during the days this week, so he gave us some options for local cafes & grocery stores to explore. Decided to take a walk along the Spree River which rolls through & around entire sections of Berlin, especially the Neukölln section where our flat is located. Chose La Maison & walked the mile or so to get there; navigated the drink & brunch menu pretty easily & found a spot facing the river where theBean could bask in the morning sun. We split the lunch special (onion quiche with salad & a ham & cheese baguette) & savored the coffee while enjoying the very full cafe atmosphere. Alex later told us this is one of the most popular cafes in Berlin, especially for the increasingly elusive creature known as the “hipster.” There’s another favorite cafe of his that attracts one variety of hipster, known as the “very motivated entrepreneur hipsters” who are often involved in several start-up businesses. The other kind of hipster hangs out here, at La Maison: they are the “hipsters who live in their mom’s basement hipsters.” Yep. True story. That’s all you need to know to have a good insight to Alex’s sense of humor.
Found the Ekeda grocery story to pick up some necessities that will make the next few days easier to navigate & made our way back to Alex & Linda’s flat to meet them for a walk on their work-breaks. So good to see them! We walked in the opposite direction for about 20 minutes to another favorite spot of theirs, Nah am Wasser. THIS was even better than La Maison. If we lived here, we’d LIVE here. The 4 of us sat outside at a table near the entrance, in the sun(!) & enjoyed our talks about the day, Berlin, hipsters, Christianity, & myriad other topics.
Alex had to head back towards his flat for another work meeting, so we crossed over the river with them & began the walk ‘home.’ They parted ways & we went back to our flat to read, rest, & recharge. I’m so glad we built these days into our schedule; days of rest & recharging after a pretty full time of travel, people, & ministry stuff. Even though we built in Sabbath rest days to the trip in each spot, I can feel that the time has been draining at times, probably because we’ve had to be “ON” (alert, being fully attentive at all times) pretty much the whole time. This has become more evident today as, when offered the opportunity, both theBean & I chose rest, naps, & quiet.
Alex & Linda made reservations for us at a Turkish restaurant called Adana Grillhaus at 6:30 p.m., a place about 1 1/2 miles by foot or 5 minutes by Uber. We’d planned to walk there & Uber back, but the rain was coming down hard, so Uber both ways. They couldn’t join us, so we navigated the interesting Uber ‘pickup spot’ procedures mostly seamlessly. For some reason, the app keeps telling us to go somewhere else to get picked up/to meet the car… usually its not far away, but it is very confusing trying to find the elusive pickup spot using the readout on the phone. But we managed.
Didn’t get any pictures of dinner, but I can tell you, we ate like kings. We got 2 entrees, which was probably 1 too many; the 18 inch long meat skewer (combos of pork, chicken, & beef) partnered with Turkish tortillas & toasted bread, with hummus & a good Turkish wine were so good. Didn’t eat too much, but not because I didn’t WANT to.
I’ve been a little adventurous with food on the trip & I’ve tried to eat (or at least taste) whatever comes out on the plate. The Kebabs came with a long, slender grilled & mostly anonymous red pepper. I looked it up & deduced it was 1 of 2 kinds of Turkish pepper. Either it would be mild & sweet or it would be hot, to the level above a habañero. 50/50 odds, right? So, against theBean’s admonishments, I cut a piece of the pepper, smelled it, & popped it into my mouth. Evidently, about 1/4 tsp of the innards (seeds etc) came with it.
Not sweet. Hot. Hot. Hot. First thing, my lips went numb. Second, my tongue turned to lava. I cried out to the Lord & the heavens seemed to be made of brass. I drank the water, the wine, shook copious amounts of salt onto the crispy Turkish bread & took big bites of it, all with the hopes that somehow, someway, the feeling would return to my mouth, that I would have at least the stub of a tongue… the salty bread helped. About 15 minutes later (might have been 30 seconds,) my numb lips began to regain feeling & my mouth felt functional enough to take another bite of the kebab. And wow. The already incredible taste of the meat was elevated to levels of “we might eat this in heaven” food. So much so that I was tempted (but didn’t give in) by the thought of taking ANOTHER bite of the pepper to enhance the taste of dinner.
As the rain poured, we caught an Uber back to our flat & I texted Alex our thanks for the reservations at the restaurant. Told him about the experience I had with the pepper. He texted me: “SPOILER ALERT. The chili might burn twice.”
We headed to bed after an NCIS: LA & I once again cried to the Lord with my voice, asking that He have mercy on me & my guts, especially for the morning. Ended up sleeping about 10 hours, & woke up close to 11 a.m. Feeling great.
Thank you Jesus.
We threw on some sweats & baseball hats & went to the “Cafe Bread” located directly across the street from the flat for coffee & pastry or 2. It’s operated by a Turkish guy who is super personable & makes killer pour-over coffees. We each had 2, along with sharing a savory croissant filled with cheese & a sweet one with chocolate & vanilla.
Plotting out the afternoon of Day #15 now… it’ll be a pizza dinner at Alex & Linda’s favorite place tonight.