Day 15 – the afternoon & evening
We met Alex & Linda in the courtyard of the building where our flats are located, & made our way through the maze to one of the adjoining streets to meet our Uber. They typically employ 1 of 4 modes of transportation: walking, riding a bike, hiring an Uber/taxia, or (rarely) taking the public transportation system (combo of buses/S & U-bahn trains.) The driver dropped us off & it was just a short walk to Parma Pizza. To say it was a hole in the wall makes it seem bigger than it was… there were 3 or 4 tables crammed into 2 rooms, & the ‘kitchen’ was literally 2 steps from our table. Alex stepped into the kitchen twice & was reprimanded each time for violating the ‘chef’s’ space, but it’s not like he could access his seat without stepping into the kitchen. Inside of the rooms looked like a half-finished construction site where the workers had gone home for the weekend, leaving a bunch of stuff half-done, with tools & supplies strewn around the room. There were two guys in the kitchen area; one, the owner/chef, the other, a guy who kept sampling the box of wine on the edge of the super tiny refrigerator. He reminded me of someone who was probably a buddy of the owner who comes to hang out at his buddy’s place in the hopes he’ll be able to sponge some free food & drink if he hangs out long enough. The chef guy looked as though he was an Italian photographer just returned from a taxing & oh-so-draining photoshoot somewhere & by the way he acted, it sure didn’t seem like he was happy to have customers. I dubbed him “Artist Guy” & the other guy was “the Leech.”
He finally got around to bringing us our menus & made a big show about the artistry of his pizzas… he took the time to explain several of the pizza options to us, in German & English, even though we already knew what we wanted to order. Once we ordered, he engaged in conversation with the Leech for about 15 minutes, seemingly forgetting we were there. Eventually our drink orders came, with our bottled water & the finest boxed red wine the kitchen had to offer placed hurriedly on the table so Artist guy could get back to his conversation.
He remembered we were there to EAT, so he frantically began to assemble the ingredients for the pizzas we’d ordered on his prep counter & then painstakingly made the pizzas, popping them 1 by 1 into the pizza oven on the far side of the kitchen. Good thing they only had to bake for about 90 seconds. Artist guy deposited the pizzas in front of us & stepped back into the kitchen.
About this time, a younger guy arrived, complete with a dark mullet of curls on his head (theBean said they were the size of the classic pink 1 1/2″ sponge hair roller that hadn’t been brushed out after removing the curlers); he spoke only broken English & his native Italian, & he seemed to be there to do all the jobs Artist guy didn’t want to do.
Pizza was ok – I got a Salamewurst & Tomato & Mozzarella & theBean had a ham pizza (ham put on after the pizza cooked, much to her chagrin & displeasure.) We ate our fill & laughed a lot around the tiny table in the bizarre pizza place/construction zone while the Leech drank more wine & the Mullet guy went through the motions of cleaning & puttering around looking for something.
We had a blast… time with Alex & Linda is always the BEST time. Good conversations on a variety of topics: Jesus, church life, health, exercise, conspiracy theories, Joe Rogan, specialty meal replacement shakes, work (Alex works in a start-up that does high end health supplements & Linda is a supervisor in the educational system, focusing much of her life on helping foreigners & others trying to make the best of school in Germany.)
Alex had us rolling with his active & quick sense of humor & Linda’s joy & love of life are evident in every conversation we had with her. Truly dear & much loved friends.
After our meal, since it wasn’t raining (YES) we decided to stretch our legs & walk home through the dark back streets of Berlin’s Kreuzberg & Neukölln neighborhoods; it only took about 30 minutes & it was really refreshing, esp. considering how much we had sat around with little activity the first week of our trip. Went up to their flat for more talks & a late night glass of wine… eventually made our way across the courtyard to our flat & were in our room a minute later. It was a good day.
DAY 16 – Templehof, Street Food, & Crazy Kim’s
Woke up late & headed to the Cafe Bread for coffee & a breakfast pastry… guy from yesterday wasn’t working (bummer) & but the new girl hooked us up & quickly as we settled into our spot to read, enjoy our coffee & people watch. Alex worked until 1 p.m. & Linda until 5, so theBean & I went for a walk through the neighborhood & picked up some supplies from the local grocery store. When Alex called us, we met him outside at an Uber & made our way downtown for some “on the go” site-seeing & a quick stop for a ‘snack’ at Goldie’s Smashburger &.I’ve had smashburgers in the US & they were ok… nothing compared to a good 3×3 animal style, protein style, w/extra grilled onions & cheese, no tomato, no spread, ketchup & mustard please @ In-N-Out burger, but ok.
This was > ok. This was incredible. Keep in mind, we stopped here for a snack… & also because we hadn’t had a burger our whole time in Germany. So of course, we ended up getting doubles, which were the size of my two fists together. We came at the perfect time, so no line. By the time we were done eating, the line had wandered down the block. We crushed our burgers (so good) & took turns sampling the fries until we couldn’t eat any more. This was, by far, the food highlight of our trip.
After eating waaaay too much for a snack, we wanted to do some walking, so we made our way through the streets til we finally got to the old Templehof Airport (check out the link for Templehof above), the site of the Berlin airdrops that saved Berlin in 1948 & 1949 (go USA). This massive former airport is now a recreation area, where miles of former taxi & runways have been turned into places for exercise, (bikes, roller blades, scooters, & foot power), with large grassy areas here & there for picnics, kid-friendly recreation, & a couple designated dog parks. Very cool, & lots of places to stop & read about the history of the place. Spent about 90 minutes walking & ended up on the far side of the airport, where we (thank the Lord) found bathrooms that were open & available for usage, without any fee. (NOTE: most of the time to use a toilet in a store/restaurant in Germany/Europe, it will cost you at least 1 Euro. Put that on your list of Even More Things to be thankful for at home.)
Caught an Uber home, with just enough time to rest, change clothes, & meet Linda to catch another Uber to our dinner place, Crazy Kim’s Korean. We got seated by Kim herself at a table in the entry way, & placed our orders. This restaurant was one they hadn’t been to before, but our coming to visit gave them an opportunity. Food was decent & there were 15 appetizer bites brought to our table (no choice in the matter) & it was fun to try different things. For our main dishes, I got bulgogi & theBean got Korean short-ribs.
But the highlight of the night, for me, was the 2 women who came in shortly after us. One of them HAD to be the owner’s daughter & the other seemed to be a beloved best friend, because Kim doted on the super fancy & chic ladies, dressed in what were probably pretty fashionable (definition: super weird clothes that real people don’t wear) all the while snapping photos of themselves, each other, & the little pocket sized dog the daughter brought in in her purse. If you’ve ever seen wanna-be IG ‘influencers’ in action, you have an idea of our entertainment for the duration of dinner. They helped themselves to all sorts of things behind the bar, often leaving their table to walk around the building, often retreating into the “private” & “Staff only”, only to emerge later & hit the bar again. So. Funny.
Finished dinner & made our way to our Uber outside. The drive home only took 5 minutes, so we had to be close, but it was raining & we’d already walked about 8 miles earlier in the day. As it was our last night, we made our way up to Alex & Linda’s flat again, & sat around their table trying to pack as many conversations as possible into the time we had left. So precious.
We sadly made our way back to our flat to sleep the short night’s sleep that comes before the departure flight home. We’d made plans to come to their flat in the morning for a cup of coffee & hugs goodbye, so we knew we’d get to see them at least one more time before we left.
Slept well, with dreams of home in our minds.