Thursday, August 05, 2010


Today was my last day in Berlin. There will be more details later, but the important thing for this moment is that today I splurged and rented a bike, which was one of the best ideas I've had in a while. As I rode around on my clunky cruiser--too short, crooked handlebars, no helmet, but wonderful nonetheless--I felt the sense of freedom that always comes with the wind in my hair and the ground whizzing by under me.

I spent my first two and a half days here walking absolutely everywhere, which served to orient me but also made me sore in ways I've never been before. Exploring a large urban area by foot is a fantastic form of control over your own movement, but it's also slow and incredibly gruelingly tiring. So today, the bike. This is a good bike city: lots of paths, and it's completely acceptable to ride the wrong way down the sidewalk when there aren't. It's an enjoyable place to get around.

But this was the best moment, and the one I'll end with today. There was a moment, a moment after I had correctly negotioted a tricky platz and ended up on the right street--the irritating things about being in a platz here is that all of the street signs disappear and simply say 'platz', which is an excellent way to get lost if you don't know your way around--and I was feeling pleased. As I rode down the avenue, I suddenly realized where I was.

That sounds so minimal. After all, I was on pretty much the major street in town (Unter den Linden), in an area I'd spent a lot of time in two days earlier. But that moment, where my mind said 'Museuminsel' and then a quarter of a second later I saw the dome of the Altes Museum, which is on the east side of Museuminsel, was tremendously gratifying. It felt triumphant. After days of only sometimes and somewhat knowing where I was, I suddenly had this sense of place that both took my breath away and made me laugh, if those things are simultaneously possible.

Tomorrow I leave for Paris. I don't know much french, I know little about the city, and I'm woefully underprepared for my visit. But I think that part of what I so desperately need from this trip is to let go, to give up and just be where I am. I haven't been doing a particularly good job of that. How could I? I just spent a highly-structured number of months in Chicago juggling an incredible number of obligations, followed by two weeks of rigorous music rehearsal and performance. I'm primed to control this journey and make it into something less than it can be. But I hope that in Paris I can just throw my hands up, wander and sit and exist and be happy with that. I need to let go, and what better way to do that than by going somewhere where I have nothing to hold onto?

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