Category Archives: travel

Berlin’s Templehof airport

And here’s one more NYT story worth noting, about Berlin’s Templehof airport.

The article notes the airport’s “magical” qualities; it definitely has an aura about it, but I’d say more eerie or uncanny. Definitely an unusual sense to have in an airport, which you expect to be more sterile, modern, and bland than a hospital.

Back in January we passed through Templehof on our way from Berlin to Nice, via Brussels on some weird Belgian airline. It was one of the only airlines running from that airport. We arrived for our 5pm flight at around 3pm, and it really seemed that the only other people in the airport were also there for that one flight. It was so eerily empty, it seemed photo-worthy:

Tempelhof, the quitest, smallest airport ever

The airport bar was called “The Airlift” commemorating that this was the West Berlin airport used for the Berlin Airlift.

Much of Templehof’s infrastructure was built up by the Americans for the airlift. The NYT article posits that this historic association links the city’s feelings toward the airport to the city’s feelings toward America. Which are on an individual level more complicated than what you’d guess from just reading the papers. I remember our cab driver on the way to the airport was very chatty and wanted to practice his English (which I don’t think anybody has ever explicity said to me before). Turned out, his sister married an American soldier and moved to Erie, PA (which is just about an hour or so away from where my sister Abby lives). He was also a big fan of country music, and played in a band that played James Taylor and Garth Brooks covers in bars.

Savannah highlights

We took a couple of days off bookending last weekend to visit Nora & Jim in Savannah. They’ve lived there four years, and we’d yet to visit them, and as they now have a sprout on the way, it seemed best to do it before they were preoccupied by parenting.

FlipSavannah was quite a shock, heat-wise. It was hot and muggy pretty much every day except Monday. The worst was Saturday, which reached 88; Nora, Terri, and I escaped to the beach while Jim was at work. We each got sunburned in unique ways, all related to slipshod sunblock application. While I’d been to southern beaches before, I got my first sighting of a confederate flag bikini top. Tres classy!

Moss, regulahThe trip was a much-needed bit of relaxing. The Southern pace of life is slower, as advertised, and Nora being preggers sort of set the pace: we did a whole lot of sitting around and eating and more sitting around and gabbing and a little walking and then a little more sitting around and talking. This was much needed.

Much of the lovely eating experiences were semi-improvised dinners at Chez Lewis courtesy of Jim. We also had some superfresh sushi. While we missed the boat on barbecue (through no fault of our own: the allied barbeque joints were either closed early for a catering gig or on vacation), we did manage to have a life-shorteningly decadent lunch of good Southern cooking at Mrs. Wilkes. The family-style dining there reminded me of some of the Pennsylvania Dutch places in Eastern Pennsylvania where you sit with a bunch of complete strangers and pass bowls of food around until you can’t stuff any more in.

One more thing about the Berlin Filmmuseum

Casablanca is on TCM tonight, and it just got to the scene in Rick’s Café where the German soldiers sing “Deutschland Über Alles”, and everybody else sings “La Marseillaise”, drowning out the Germans.

That reminded me about one more thing about the Berlin Filmmuseum, which I mentioned last week. That scene was playing on a loop in one of the rooms in the permanent exhibition near the Marlene Dietrich section that showed all the German actors who went into exile in Hollywood in the 30′s and 40′s. How weird must it be to see a fairly propagandistic film from a former enemy country playing on a loop in one of your museums.

Filmmuseum, Berlin

Sony Center atriumThe only time I’d seen Potsdamer Platz before seeing it in real life was in Wings of Desire, where the old poet is looking for the once-bustling plaza, and finds only a decimated square right on the border between East and West Berlin.

In 2007/8, it’s again a bustilng plaza, albeit with sparkling glass towers sporting the logos of mutinational corporations. Despite this, it still seems to actually be used as a viable public space. While we were there, a small Christmas market (with an artificially snow-covered intertube sledding hill!) was in operation, and less seasonally, it is also the site of a major U-bahn and train station, and the Sony Center, a gigantic pavillion housing many offices, restaurants, bars, shops, and museums.

Filmsmuseum basementOne of these is the excellent Filmmuseum, which houses rotating exibits and a permanent exhibit of the history of German film. Two special exhibits were on while we were there. There was one moderately interesting one about the introduction of sound to German film; several films were playing in little rooms, and these were mostly cute musical comedies. There was another one devoted to the work of Ray Harryhausen, the famous stop-motion animation special effects artist (of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans fame, among many many others (and as I write this, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is on TCM!)) which included many of his stop motion models. The coolest display in my opinion showed how live action was mixed with stop motion using a combination of projectors and cameras and models; a loop of Jason and the Argonauts was playing with a live actor fighting a stop-motion monster, and the setup showed how the loop had been filmed. Also, the model for Bubo was there!

marlene_dietrich.jpgIn the permanent museum, Marlene Dietrich had at least three rooms devoted to her. The collection included letters, her outfits (both dresses and tuxedos), costumes, photos of fellow stars, and other mementoes. The displays went into great detail, with a seemingly positive slant, about how she was fiercly anti-Nazi and discussed the many ways in which very actively supported the American war effort. Two rooms were devoted to the Nazi period. One room discussed Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, concentrating somewhat on the technical aspects of how it was filmed (with a model of the olympic stadium showing the different camera locations and scaffolding), and how well orchestrated / propagandistic the entire 1936 Olympics were. Another room had other Nazi-era films, from light comedies to out-and-out hateful propaganda (including the notorious Jud Süß); each film was playing in a morgue-like drawer. As you pulled out the drawer, the film clip was already playing, but the sound would become audible; as you pushed in the drawer, the sound would disappear. The message embedded in this presentation seemed to be “there is too much here for us to pretend it didn’t happen, but look at these for what they are, and leave them dead in their drawers”.

One of the saddest things for me was to find out that Emil Jannings appeared in Nazi films; there was a photo of him smiling with Hitler and Göbbels. He had come to Hollywood in 1926, but went back to Germany in 1930 or so, realizing that, like many non-Anglophones who had enjoyed fame in the silent films, he had no future in the Hollywood talkies. He was so unbelieveably good in Murnau’s The Last Laugh, it’s just hard to stomach that he was a Nazi collaborator.

After we went through the Filmmuseum, we had a drink at the nearby bar in the Sony Center, Billy Wilder’s. And watched people curling on a refrigerated indoor ice rink.

Currywurst at Zoo Bahnhof

achewood clipSo, we’re now back safely in Boston.

We did not keep a trip blog this time, but I plan to post little snippets as I remember them as a way of prolonging the fun.

Editrix pointed out an excellent Achewood plot thread about currywurst which mentions Bono, which reminded me that Berlin really has a thing for U2, which I guess is reciprocal since I dimly recall them having had some kind of Berlin thing in the 90′s. There’s some kind of diagram that probably should be drawn linking U2, Berlin, Wim Wenders, Zoo Station, and the year 1992.

Hier GlühweinAnyway, on our first evening in Berlin, when we went to the Christmas market near the Zoo Bahnhof itself, we heard probably no less than 3 U2 songs. The Christmas markets are sort of like the Topsfield Fair here in Massachusetts, with rides, carney games, food stalls, and such, but also with booths with more artsy craftsy Christmas gift kind of stuff, different cookies and foods, and alcoholic drinks, like Glühwein, which is a hot and somewhat stanky mulled wine. Many cheap meals involving sausage (or various vegetarian options) were had. This is the currywurst I had at a fast food type joint in the Zoo Bahnhof on our last day in Berlin:

Farmer’s Daughter photos

I feel like I only sort of conveyed in words how cute and cool the Farmer’s Daughter, the hotel we stayed at in LA, was. So here are a few more photos. Also, I feel like going to sleep tonight thinking more about our California vacation than about my NYC trips.

Farmer's Daughter

Farmer's Daughter exterior

Terri in front of Farmer's Daughter inner parking lot

Farmer's Daughter courtyard

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Somerville

Chrysler building in the hazeThere are times when I think Boston is too expensive, too crowded, too full of East Coast angst, too fast, and I feel like bagging it all for somewhere where there are hills where there are trees and space and things are cheap and pretty and you can smell trees.

But now I work at a company whose headquarters is in NYC. All the people I’ve been crammed in an office with, roughly three to a desk, all live in tiny upper west side apartments they basically can never hope to afford. As Terri and I were walking up the hill home from the Davis Square T stop last night, I remembered: I have a yard, I have hedges, I have trees. It puts things in perspective.

If I lived in New York, I don’t know where I would live. The village is crawling with stockbrokers: it just isn’t what it was 50 years ago. It isn’t even what it was 30 years ago. Brooklyn is the most like Somerville, but there’s just something more nauseating about Brooklyn hipsters than there is about Somerville hipsters. Maybe it’s just the sheer concentration of them.

I walked around Davis Square today while Terri was getting her prescriptions refilled just in case the transition to new healthcare leaves us without insurance for a couple of weeks. I got a burrito at Anna’s Taqueria and it felt like home.

The advantage of afternoon kindergarten

We took a jog the other morning along the waterfront from our motel toward Fort Mason. It was a beautiful, 65-degree, sunny San Francisco day. We stopped at the Safeway on the way back and bought some bottles of water and cereal. The marina district has a very slight seamy side (I’m thinking of some sketchy $39/night motels on Lombard), but mostly seems full of really posh, Architectural Digest-quality townhouses as you get closer to the water. We walked back down Chesnut street, where the occasional keepin-it-real taqueria is sandwiched between Williams Sonoma and a coffee shop (out of which is inevitably walking a woman in sunglasses and running shorts, carrying a latte like a torch).

Behind us was a mother and daughter, maybe 5.

“Mom, I want a manicure and pedicure”.

“Oh, I don’t know”


“I don’t think we have enough time before you have to get to school.”

Pause. Mom says nothing.

“Mom, please check what time it is.”

“Oh, ok, we do have enough time.”


Portsmouth jaunt

Ice patterns, brake lights We took our annual surprise-approximately- Valentine’s-day- getaway trip this weekend; this year, we went to Portsmouth, NH. It’s a frequent day-trip spot for us, but we’ve only stayed there once before. We stayed at a place called the Sise Inn, and our room had a bubbling tub which was very nice and made me feel like cooked spaghetti. Haven’t been that relaxed in a long time!

I bought a copy of the collection Jay Ryan’s posters, 100 Posters, 134 Squirrels at the Riverrun Book Store, and got into a brief conversation with the man and woman at the counter about Andrew Bird (Jay Ryan did the art for the Mysterious Production of Eggs, and I bought a poster from him at the Middle East show, and he complimented my coat). His posters are so much fun, and very inspiring.

Otherwise, we spent a lot of time sipping hot drinks, went to the Portsmouth Brewery (twice), and tried to stay out of the unbelievably frigid winds.