You are here graffiti
Photo by Roo Reynolds via Flickr

Are you asking me for directions?

After yesterday’s post, I fell into a five-hour slumber. This cold is kicking my butt, so all of my hoarding of the medicine cabinet’s goodies is at least being put to use. I could use those sleeping pills though, Vicki.

Sigh.

I did have a burst of energy on waking, so I decided to get out into the cold evening. I jumped in the shower, scrubbed, slipped into my jeans and a sweater and hit the street.

Marianne had warned me that much of the city shuts down on Sundays, so I walked into the first place I could for food…the bakery.

“Ein Schokolade Croissant, bitte.”

Mmmm. Chocolate is chocolate is chocolate. And after subsisting on tea and the one can of beans left in the place, that croissant went down like cream. I think I actually shivered.

I did find an open liquor store that was also selling groceries. Over-priced but very needed. Canned soups, eggs, cheese, bread, yogurt…

I still had energy after lugging them up into the apartment, so decided I would take a very long walk down Karl Marx Allee. It was a beautiful night, really, despite the chill. Besides, I was too thrilled to despair about winter.

Here I am walking on a broad Berlin avenue. Someone pinch me.

Some six blocks from home, I saw a McDonald’s and could hear my inner voice say, “in case I need real food…” LOL. McDonald’s? Real food? The cold virus must have worked quite a number on me.

I walked on and laughed with delight at the sight of my first thrift store. And after that, found my way into a Mexican restaurant where a big ol’ side of fried potato wedges came standard with the enchiladas. Lost in translation.

I walked about two and a half miles in the dark from Friedrichshain to Alexanderplatz in Mitte. I was happy to sit down at a coffee shop there and just read before heading back on the subway. A first! Exciting! …especially as I had no clue how to do it. I have a map…

I climbed the steps up to the trains and approached the first woman I saw on the platform. Middle-aged and in comfortable shoes.

“Bitte, wo ist tram für Friedrichshain?”

She answers me quickly in German, pointing across the platform. I nod as if I understand what she’s saying, but I don’t and I think she’s sending me off in the wrong direction. At least, my map seems to suggest otherwise. But I thank her, and head back down the stairs to cross to the other platform, just in case.

Below, I see a man and a woman getting tickets out of a machine. Duh. Yeah, a farecard would be a good idea. I am waiting behind them when another man approaches me. He’s a big guy with dirty blond hair. He asks me something in German, directions I think, so I apologize:

“Das tut mir leid, aber ich spreche Englisch. Ich verstehe nicht.”

He nods and backs away a few steps. But I see him then approach the woman who’s just bought her farecard. I don’t understand until I see her rifle through her pocket for change.

Insert a smack to the forehead here! He’s homeless and was asking me for money.

He lingers after they’ve gone and watches me struggle, confused, with the machine. In really bad English he asks:

“You British?”

“Nein. American.”

He points at his chest. “Pole.”

I’m thinking, okay, you’re Polish and I am alone with you in a now deserted area. Where are we going from here, buddy?

Bless him, this man decides to take me under his wing. With us both struggling through English, German and hand gestures, he shows me how to buy a card, talks to me about how he got on the street (the police threw him out of the place he was staying), asks me about the U.S., and eventually leads me through a series of tunnels to the very train I needed. It’s very unlikely I would have found it on my own.

I tip him for the trouble, and he seems surprised. He was doing it all just to be kind, not for compensation. I say thank you, with emphasis.

“Danke! Danke!” and I wave goodbye. He smiles, nods and makes his way back through the tunnels.

For all my walking, it’s just minutes back to my neighborhood on the train.

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